Many teams utilize different types of players at this position. Those looking for Vernon Davis-like receivers would be more interested in North Carolina's overrated Eric Ebron. Others looking for strictly blockers might see some additional short-range pass catching ability in Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. Other teams might have an interest in a Rob Gronkowski "big man who plays small" and find Jace Amaro the player to fits their needs.
But, to find the complete tight end — pass catcher, lead blocker, pass protector and safety-valve short-range receiver all bundled up into one tidy package — will be more interested in a Pacific Northwest prospect like Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Yes, there are some concerns about the Huskies' foot fracture that was discovered during medical exams at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, but surgery went well and he's expected to be fully recovered by training camp.
Others might be concerned about his maturity factor, having been arrested this past summer on a DUI charge. Still, there are whispers that he might be a Kellen Winslow Jr.-like prima donna, but there is one thing that all agree on: He's an imposing physical specimen who proved in 2012 that, with a decent quarterback, he could be a viable weapon for any passing attack.
As a member of the selection committee for the John Mackey Award, an honor given annually to college football's best tight end, I was able to do my best "Perry Mason" and present my case for the award's 2012 finalist that eventually helped him secure the trophy after the 2013 season.
While Ebron and Amaro had superior receiving figures, evidence showed that there was no finer blocking performance and no better clutch receiving effort (see the touchdown-to-reception ration) than Seferian-Jenkins.
University of Washington Huskies
Seferian-Jenkins has an imposing frame, with long arms, big hands and excellent wingspan to easily secure the high tosses. He has a well-developed frame with good core structure — long limbs, V-shaped torso, good chest thickness, broad shoulders, very good arm length, good bubble and thick thighs and calves. His midsection is tight and even though he is an impressive athletic specimen at 262 pounds, his frame can carry even more bulk (ten pounds) without the added weight impacting his overall quickness. Seferian-Jenkins missed part of his offseason training program due to pinky surgery, but he managed to add almost 10 pounds to his frame while not only maintaining his impressive quickness but also improving his timed speed.
Seferian-Jenkins has very good foot work coming off the snap, showing quickness getting into his routes. He shows very good agility and balance navigating through a crowd and fluid flexibility, which allows him to make quick and decisive moves when changing direction. He demonstrates explosive acceleration throughout the route's progression and is a normal strider who has the body control and arm extension to catch away from his frame. He is constantly facing double- and triple-team coverage, but greatly utilizes one of the best stiff-arm techniques for any tight end in the game of football (see 2013 Arizona State and Colorado games). He has that sudden hip snap to get off the line in an instant and easily maintains stride and balance in and out of his cuts. He demonstrates excellent hand/eye coordination, running at a good pad level to redirect or come back to the quarterback when the pocket is pressured. He is taller than most tight ends and has impression explosion and burst to get to the top of the route. He has the frame to add more bulk without it affecting his quickness. He is a better receiver than New England's Rob Gronkowski (hard to believe, but evidence of his production backs that fact).
Seferian-Jenkins is very alert to sticks and boundaries. He lines up in the traditional tight end formation, but the coaches were smart to recognize his quickness, as he creates huge mismatches vs. smaller defenders when he is aligned wide. He has become very comfortable playing with his hand down, as he rises off the snap quickly with arms properly extended to get a clean release and easily beat the jam. He retains plays with normal reps, performing well on the field because of his keen knowledge and ability to take plays from the chalk board coming out of the meeting room. He is the type that is never complacent, and feels that he still has a lot to learn about the game, showing strong work ethic and a willingness to work at it. He is instinctive when it comes to recognizing defensive coverages (will rarely ever run into spots), and should have no issues when trying to handle the mental aspect of the game at the next level. The thing you see on game films is the way he is able to locate soft areas on the field and make proper adjustments on the run. For a player of his young age, he shows very good savvy when it comes to seeing defensive coverages and adapting to broken plays. No tight end in college plays with his "field smarts," reminding me of Kellen Winslow Sr. in his prime. He is no neophyte when it comes to playing the complete "tight end package," as he acts like a grizzled veteran in regards to the techniques he uses playing the position, proving to be a constant mismatch for secondary opponents, especially in jump ball situations. He is an alert route runner who has good ability to work back when he feels the quarterback is being pressured.
Seferian-Jenkins is a tough player and good contact seeker who enjoys his performance as a blocker almost as much as he does as a receiver. He could be more physical as a blocker, but will not hesitate to face up to a bigger opponent. What he does best is come up with clutch catches in pressure situations (see 2012 Portland State, California and Utah and 2011 Hawaii, California and Stanford games). He shows no hesitation going up and competing for the ball, possessing one of the best stiff-arm techniques in college at his position. He played through minor injuries in the past (foot in 2012), and has that strong desire to perform through pain, as he relishes being challenged and coming up with big plays in the clutch. When it comes to taking on double- and triple-team coverages, he is more than up for the challenge, almost daring opponents to "bring it on" (see the way he destroyed California's strong safety Sean Cattouse in 2011). For a player relied upon for his big plays as a pass catcher, he does not hesitate in doing the "grunt work" by looking for second level defenders to block for the ground game, sort of making the downfield block just as important as a touchdown catch, in his mind. He shows good nastiness after the catch, but his blocking skills are becoming almost as sensational as his receiving skills, especially when impacting the action with his edge- and backside blocks for the running game.
Seferian-Jenkins has very good quickness off the snap, but what earns him most of his success getting a clean release is that unlike most tall receivers, he knows how to keep his pads down and this helps him generate a better thrust off the snap. He has the strong hand usage to easily defeat the jam, along with the quick first step that coaches know that they can line him up at a variety of roles, whether aligned wide to create mismatches vs. the smaller defensive backs or when playing with his hand down, as he comes off the snap with power to jolt and surprise a lethargic first- or second-level defender. He is becoming explosive with his hand down and is one of the best in extending his long arms and striking with force to jar defenders when using his stiff-arm technique. His speed in the open field creates mismatches for second level defenders and he is the type that needs to be accounted for, as he can easily ride up on and get behind a safety. The thing you see on film (see 2013 Arizona, Stanford, California and Colorado games and 2012 San Diego State, LSU, Portland State, USC, Arizona, Utah, California and Boise State games) is his ability to generate a quick thrust off the snap. He has the long reach and strong punch to power through the chuck and if a linebacker tries to hold him up, he has a powerful enough punch (does a nice job of keeping his hands inside his frame) to put the man on the ground and get open. He can also lull a corner-back with his quickness and savvy, as he has loose hips and efficient head and shoulder fakes. With his hip snap, he can quickly elude and break free, as he gains most of his yardage after breaking the initial tackle (took multiple defenders to stop him on 29-of-97 non-touchdown receptions the last two years). He has no problem negotiating a clean release vs. smaller defenders, but what separates him from any other college tight end is his ability to consistently use his hands to push off and jerk down strong-side linebackers. He can line wide or play in a three-point stance, but he does get much better speed into his route progression when split wide than when he has to navigate through traffic.
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY
Seferian-Jenkins reminds me of Kellen Winslow (Senior), with the way he can ride up on a defender, execute a quick fake, plant-and-drive and break into the open. Like Kellen Winslow (Junior) before his rash of injuries, he is quite effective when lined out wide. When working in the short area, he does a nice job of dropping his weight and demonstrates proper foot work to gather, using his body well to box out. He is a nice target that has shown good agility when adjusting to the ball and is a pretty fluid runner on the move. He just seems to find ways to get open in time for the quarterback to deliver the ball to him. He is an especially effective target on the drag patterns. On short routes, he finds the ball in an instant and maintains "good eyes" on the pocket to work back when the quarterback is pressured. He knows how to use his size to shield the ball from defenders and displays and explosive get-off to find the soft areas over the middle of the field. He does a nice job of posting up and on deep patterns, he can find the open seam, never showing any concern for the tackle-impact when he sacrifices his body to make the catch in the open field. He has good eyes and keeps his head on a swivel to track the ball in flight and pull it in over his outside shoulder without breaking stride and has more than enough valid speed and acceleration to stretch linebackers working up field. He is simply a good-looking, smooth athlete who looks very good running vertical routes (see 2013 Idaho State, Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State and Colorado games).
Seferian-Jenkins shows very good quickness off the snap and into his routes. He is also a physical position blocker with the quick-twitch movement skills to sustain and mirror. He displays good foot speed at the top of the route to set defenders up and separate. He has that consistent ability to gain advantage on defenders, especially when matched vs. linebackers and safeties. His size creates mismatches when challenged by the quicker cornerbacks, but even they have problems mirroring him when he shows that explosive initial burst off the line. (see 2013 Idaho State, Stanford, Oregon and Colorado games). He is more than quick enough to make the backside cut-off when aligned in a two-point stance. He easily gains advantage over the defender getting into his routes, showing a sharp burst off the line.
Seferian-Jenkins can run a variety of routes, whether it is in the short area or getting into the deep secondary. He does a good job of changing direction and running tight routes in traffic. He easily fools second level defenders with his fakes and hip shake to elude after the catch and also is alert to soft areas on the field to settle under. He is a valid threat to take the ball up the seam and is adept at using his body to shield the ball from the defender. He has the quick feet to gather and get in and out of his cuts, thanks to savvy head fakes and ability to angle. The thing I like is the body control he shows when jabbing one direction and breaking off a route squarely. When navigating through traffic, he knows how to maintain balance and stride, lowering his body weight when making his cuts. He has the best ability to stay in control when breaking down among the college tight ends and it is very rare to see him take soft angle cuts (see 2013 Idaho State, Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, California and Colorado games). His best success has come on slants and comebacks, but he is also the type that has the sudden explosion and the timed speed to win open field foot races. He is very smooth and athletic for a big man, but even for a player of his size, he has that coveted quickness in and out of his breaks and superb body control to break down and make the quick cuts, much like a wide receiver.
Seferian-Jenkins brings both power and quickness into his route running regimen. He uses his long stride to gobble up the cushion and get behind the defender, even though most teams will put multiple defenders, including a speedy cornerback on him. When the cornerback is his assigned coverage, he has more than enough power to blast through arm tackles. He is one of those rare tight ends with the wide receiver's ability to stretch the field. He uses his hands well to push off or throw down a linebacker in attempts to get open. He shows a smooth running stride that allows him to readily separate. He has the foot quickness and balance to get in and out of his cuts cleanly and knows how to use his hip shake and head/shoulder fakes to set up the defenders when trying to separate. He gets most of his separation from precise cuts, but has also knows how to use his hands to push off and separate vs. tight coverage (see 2013 Idaho State, Arizona State, Colorado and California games).
Seferian-Jenkins has outstanding toughness, as he consistently is challenged by double- and triple-team coverage, yet, he willingly will extend and elevate to make the difficult catch in a crowd. He shows good ball security (just two fumbles) and natural hands (dropped just three of 145 passes targeted to him), as those rare miscues came when he was "looking up" the defender before catching the ball. He has a very high amount of success vs. contested balls, as he capitalizes on his leaping ability and body adjustments to take passes away from smaller defenders when reaching for the pigskin at its high point. He looks very natural catching the ball. He will consistently fight for the jump ball and shows good athleticism and elevation, looking very natural extending for the pass away from the body's frame. He is very aware when it comes to uncovering and good reactionary ability to separate after the catch. With his balance and low pad level, he is a nice safety valve outlet for his quarterbacks on short sticks and option routes.
Seferian-Jenkins sees the ball well in flight, doing a very good jog of tracking and adjusting to get under the throw. He has excellent hand/eye coordination and soft hands to finish. He almost never uses his body as a crutch when going for the ball in a crowd, as he has the natural feel to reach and pluck the ball in flight, along with "condor-like" wing span to easily get to off-target passes. He is very alert to the pocket pressure, working back to the quarterback with good urgency. He shows no hesitation sacrificing his body when he needs to get to the high tosses and excels at catching the ball outside his framework. He has ideal height to win most jump-ball battles and the athleticism to turn and run after the catch before the slower defenders have any chance to react. With his flexibility and leaping skills, he has provided UW quarterbacks with an inviting target when working in tight areas, as he has tremendous flexibility to catch in radius and come up with the contested ball (29.89% of his non-touchdown catches came with multiple defenders attacking him). He is a nice target when used on drag routes over the middle. His long reach lets him adjust to off-target throws (see 2013 Arizona State, California and Colorado games), showing great ease of movement when extending to catch away from the body. When he plays tall, it negates his ability to twist and swivel his body well enough to come up with throws outside his frame, but it is very rare to see this occur with him.
Seferian-Jenkins has solid leaping ability, along with good timing to high point the ball. He gets good elevation from a standing position and has the long reach and large mitts for hands to look the ball in. His basketball background is evident, as few tight ends at any level can "sky" as high as he can. Combine his leaping ability with his big wingspan, large, soft hands and timing, he will generally win the jump-ball battles.
The tight end will rarely use his body as a crutch, or short arm when working in a crowd. He will make most difficult catches going for off-target throws and then simply drop his pads and drive through the initial tackle to gain nice yardage after the snatch. He excels at adjusting and positioning when facing the quarterback and shows good urgency working back when the pocket is pressured. He has the hand/eye coordination to snap his head around and catch the ball delivered to his outside shoulder. He is not the type that loses concentration with defenders closing in on him, making sure he has the ball secured before turning and trying to head up field. With his soft hands, he appears very natural in his ability to pluck and snatch the ball in flight. He uses his reach well to catch outside the framework of his body. He has soft, large hands (10 1/8-inches, second biggest of all tight ends in college). He has good flexibility to reach high or go low for the tossed ball.
Run After the Catch
Seferian-Jenkins is a load for isolated defenders, especially safeties and cornerbacks, to bring down. Linebackers are too slow to mirror him through the route's progression. He shows good body lean moving forward in attempts to break arm tackles. He is a threat to stretch the seam and is best served when used on vertical patterns (see 2013 Idaho State, Oregon, Arizona State, California and Colorado games). He will make every effort to avoid, but when needed, he has the ability to power through an opponent, showing both quickness and a burst to escape. With his running stride, core strength and leg drive, he easily powers through the initial tackle and lowers his head to run hard and drive through when taking on contact. For a player his size, he also demonstrates very impressive elusiveness in the open field. Even with his timed speed, he appears very comfortable as a power runner, but he is also nimble enough that he can easily tip-toe around a defender. He is tough to bring down in isolated coverage due to his size and strength, reminding me of former Raiders standout, Dave Casper and Giants great Mark Bavaro for his drive-through-the-pack mentality.
Seferian-Jenkins has the reach to keep defenders at bay when blocking in-line, and even at close to 6:06, he rarely ever gets too upright in his stance. He does a very nice job of keeping his base wide and his strong anchor prevents even the much bigger down linemen from walking him back into the pocket when used in-line in pass protection. He does a very nice job of angling when blocking in space and perhaps due to his prep experience on the offensive and defensive lines, he is very determined in looking up and attacking when locating his assignment. He is a physical wall-off type who gives very good effort. When blocking in-line, he shows a good surge off the snap to make contact. He generates good pop and hand extension to sustain. When blocking down field, he has the ability to climb into the second level and make the cut-off block to neutralize the line-backers. He is also very alert, doing an excellent job of hitting moving targets. He excels at blocking linebackers in the open and shows good vision, keeping his head on a swivel when taking on defensive ends at the line of scrimmage (see 2013 Arizona, Stanford, California and Colorado games).
KELLEN WINSLOW SR.-ex-San Diego: Some say Seferian-Jenkins is like Tony Gonzalez, but the ex-Atlanta tight end is not as physical a route runner as the Husky, who can line wide and threaten a deep secondary like Gonzalez can. He has very good separation ability after the catch and the ideal frame you look for in a tight end. There is no question that his receiving skills are NFL ready, as he excels at securing the off-target balls and working free after coming up with the big grab in tight areas. He can play out on the flank and also has good success when playing with his hand down. He plays with good aggression and constantly creates challenges for second level defenders. Hands down, there is not a more impressive player in the college game and his work ethic and production are ideally suited for a team that features a medium-range passing game.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.