This NFL regular season is winding down, and soon the majority of fans will be looking towards the draft. Were are in the midst of college bowl season, and a flurry of underclassmen have begun to announce their NFL draft intentions. For those of us who look forward to the draft season even during the NFL season, this is an exciting time. So now, every week, I will introduce 1 difference maker at the college level that Patriots fans should be aware of.
December 26th: The following are the current positions of need on the Patriot's roster at this time. (In tiers of importance):
Tier 1: Interior Offensive Line, Tight End
Tier 2: Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver Depth, Cornerback Depth, Pass Rusher
Tier 3: Quarterback, Kick return specialist, Inside Linebacker
1. Lets Talk about Tight Ends: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the Washington Huskies' 6'6 270 pound Junior Tight End. His freshman year ASJ caught 41 passes for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns, played in all 13 games while starting 10. He gained a little notoriety in 2011 by earning an honorable mention All-Pac 12. In 2012, during his sophomore year, ASJ caught 69 passes for 852 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was also named to the All-Pac 12 second team. In 2013, the Junior caught 33 passes for 413 yards and 7 touchdowns. ASJ won the 2013 John Mackey award, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding Tight End in FBS college football. The following quote is from the Mackey press release:
"In his three years playing at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins has established a reputation for his elite blocking ability and strong receiving prowess and 2013 was another outstanding year for him."
So, lets get down to business. I love seeing Mathew Mulligan try to hurdle Joe Haden as much as the next guy, but the Patriots need to make a serious effort to once again rebuild the grieving tight end position on the roster. Hoo-man, D.J. Williams, and Mulligan all become free agents after the season, leaving Gronk as the only TE under contract for 2014. To further complicate the issue, remember that Gronk's contract will become a major issue in the next couple years because of his health. The Patriots may want to sever ties with Gronkowski before his contract spikes in 2015. Check out this article for more on that:
With all that uncertainty, the Patriots have to do something. And fast. Besides enforcing the position in free agency, and through re-signing their own players, BB and company must look towards the draft->and that journey starts with Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Disclaimer: ASJ is a Junior, there is a possibility that he does not declare for the draft. But this would surprise me for a couple reasons. 1: Washington's coach jumped ship to USC 2: Senior QB Keith Price will make the jump to the NFL this year. Anyways, just to get it out there, Seferian-Jenkins is the most talented TE in the draft class. Bar none, not even close, land slide, whatever you want to say, ASJ reigns supreme. Now while electrifying pass catchers Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro, and known blocking specialists such as C.J. Fiedorowicz and Arthur Lynch offer a single (But very refined) trait, ASJ combines blocking ability and pass catching ability into a big package of beast-mode. ASJ's stat sheet is not stuffed, but turn on his tape, and any casual fan can see the impact he makes on the field. Jenkins has been paving the way for Bishop Sankey run's since 2011, and showing his ability to go up and catch contested passes since the moment he stepped onto the field. The following is a link to Draft Breakdown's page on ASJ, which will be updated with new game tapes throughout the draft process. I encourage you all to check out his play on the field, and I guarantee you will be impressed.
So now it is time to talk draft stock. The draft advisory board gave ASJ a second round grade, which will likely play into to his choice to forgo his senior season. I would say that evaluation is about right considering things that ASJ can not control. For example, factoring in Eric Ebron's intentions and the likelihood of Amaro declaring. ASJ's talent should warrant a top 20 selection, but will not. A recent DUI could scare some teams off, but many reports show his leadership on and off the field. His value hovers around where the Pat's will be picking (hopefully during the end of the 1st round). Check out this mock draft that projects ASJ to the Pats at the bottom of the first, then check out the other two rounds of projections!
UPDATE: Following Washington's bowl game against BYU, Jenkins declared for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Pros: Athleticism, size, run blocking, pass blocking, catches in traffic, hands
Cons: DUI Incident
Player Comparison: Rob Gronkowski
Weekly Pats Mock Draft
Round 1: Austin Seferian Jenkins TE Washington
Round 2: Zach Martin OG Notre Dame
Round 3: Dominque Easley DL Florida
Round 4: David Fales QB San Jose St.
Round 6: Shaquil Barrett LB Colorado St.
Round 6: Jeff Janis WR Saginaw St.
Round 7: Dexter McDougle CB Maryland