If the New York Jets are looking to take a swing on a tight end late in the draft, Iowa’s Shaun Beyer is the guy to target.
Entering the draft as a redshirt senior who had just one touchdown catch in his career and is set to turn 25 years old in November, Shaun Beyer is not exactly the draft’s hottest name at the tight end position. He is ranked as the No. 249 overall prospect at The Draft Network and No. 279 at NFL Mock Draft Database.
However, when you dig beneath the standard box score numbers, you unearth a few reasons to believe that Beyer has the potential to become one of the greatest hidden gems to come out of the third day of the draft (or the undrafted free agent market). In particular, his skills and utilization project him as a strong fit with the Jets.
First off, Beyer is an excellent blocker. He posted an 81.4 run blocking grade at Pro Football Focus in 2020, ranking at the 97th percentile among qualified FBS tight ends. As evidenced by signings like Tyler Kroft, Corey Davis, and Keelan Cole, skill position blocking is a clear emphasis for offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. This takes after LaFleur’s 49ers days, where San Francisco placed a premium on high-quality blocking at the skill positions to power its outside running game.
Iowa ran a zone-blocking concept on 62.1% of Beyer’s run blocking plays, a ratio that sets him up as a good fit for LaFleur’s offense if LaFleur closely mirrors the utilization tendencies that the 49ers deployed during his tenure there. San Francisco’s top run blocking tight end in 2020 (in terms of total run blocking snaps), Ross Dwelley, had a very similar zone-blocking ratio of 61.2%.
Beyer is a solid pass protector as well, giving up zero pressures over 43 protection snaps in his career.
Despite his lackluster overall receiving totals (11 catches for 158 yards and 1 TD over 7 games in 2020), Beyer’s efficiency as a pass-catcher is a reason to be hopeful that he can be NFL-quality in this area.
Beyer was asked to run a route on only 13.3 plays per game, so he was not given enough opportunities to produce at a high-volume level. On a per-route basis, he was actually quite efficient. He averaged 1.70 yards per route run, ranking at the 70th percentile among qualified FBS tight ends.
In addition, Beyer’s catches were typically high-quality, as evidenced by his 80.5 PFF receiving grade that ranked at the position’s 89th percentile.
It’s a very small sample size, but Beyer has shown reliable hands thus far with only one drop against 18 career receptions (5.3% rate, slightly below 2020 NFL TE average of 6.2%).
Beyer has decent versatility as a receiver, lining up in the slot on 22.1% of his career receiving snaps. This is another area where his utilization closely mirrors that of Dwelley’s under LaFleur and the 49ers in 2020 – Dwelley lined up in the slot on 22.9% of his passing plays this past season.
Let’s take a look at some of what Beyer has to offer.
Beyer stands at 6-foot-5, but he is a bit on the lighter side for a tight end at 246 pounds (he had bulked up to 250 at his pro day), and he shows some flashes of fluidity at that size. Releasing wide-open into the flat on this naked bootleg, Beyer snags a high-and-outside pass and turns upfield, hurdling over a diving tackler.
Releasing up the seam from an in-line position, Beyer contorts back to the ball for a contested catch between two defenders.
Nothing special on the route here from Beyer as he releases up the seam and goes uncovered, but he makes a ridiculous one-handed grab as he tracks the ball into his right hand and then pulls it into his body as he falls to the ground.
Flexed out to the right, Beyer wins on a wheel route for the first and only touchdown of his career. Beyer uses a skip release off the line and then works outside. The DB is in good position initially, but Beyer wins using physicality. When the DB looks to jam, Beyer extends his inside arm and hits the DB in the upper body, creating separation. From there, Beyer makes a smooth turn upfield and then continues to keep his inside arm extended to fend the DB off. The throw is perfectly placed and Beyer pulls it into his body.
Not great catching technique from Beyer there. You would have preferred for him to attack that ball with two hands rather than allow it to come into his body – it nearly slipped straight through, as he just barely squeezed it on the nose. Regardless, great route.
Awesome pass blocking rep from Beyer on this play. On the right edge, Beyer takes an outside zone step to sell the play fake, but the edge defender rushes inside to the C-gap, putting Beyer in a disadvantageous position. Regardless, Beyer is able to recover. He gets low and digs his hands into the body of the defender to gain control. Beyer slides his feet inside and squares up the rusher, successfully keeping him far away from the quarterback despite being placed in a very tough spot off the snap.
On this wildcat play, Beyer is tasked with executing a reach block on the 5-technique. He stays low off the snap and attacks the chest of the defender to generate movement. Once he has the defender on the move, Beyer then works his hips around and plants his feet to seal the defender to the outside. Beyer maintains a strong grip to prevent the defender from shedding, and the ball carrier zooms straight by for a healthy gain.
The Hawkeyes trap the 3-technique on this play, leaving him unblocked for Beyer to pick up from the outside. Beyer drives down and pummels him into the earth.
Beyer takes on the outside linebacker here and drives him about 12 yards beyond the line of scrimmage by the end of the play. Beyer sets up inside with his hips pointed outside, toward the defender. He keeps his hands low and fires them arms upward into the upper body of the defender. Beyer gets his outside hand into the defender’s outside shoulder and uses that connection to control the block.
Nobody would argue he is going to be Iowa’s next George Kittle, but Beyer has enough tools to land on an NFL roster and contribute as a role player for a long time. His chances of succeeding would be even better on a Jets team where it appears his strengths are a perfect fit.