Who could be a part of the New York Jets’ 2022 tight end duo?
It is clear that the New York Jets are going to be addressing their tight end position this offseason. The unit is probably their biggest concern right now offensively.
Tyler Kroft is set to be an unrestricted free agent and probably will not be back. Ryan Griffin is likely to be released. This leaves the group with Trevon Wesco and Kenny Yeboah as the only players likely to return in 2022.
For Zach Wilson to take a step forward in his second season, two tight ends will have to be acquired. Luckily for New York, there currently looks to be a solid group set to hit the free-agent market at the position. The draft also has some intriguing young prospects.
Some of the top tight-end options from both the pro and college sides will be discussed below. Let’s take a look at some possible tandems the Jets could form this offseason.
1. Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys) and Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State)
This is probably the dream scenario for most Jets fans.
If he ends up reaching the market, Dalton Schultz would likely be a prime target for the Jets. Over the last two years, Schultz has been a very productive receiver (141 receptions, 1,423 yards, and 12 touchdowns). He would be an immediate boost for Wilson in the passing game.
Jeremy Ruckert has a reputation for his blocking ability. What he can provide in-line makes him a fit in LaFleur’s offense. As a receiver, Ruckert did not get many opportunities at Ohio State (40 targets in 2021). However, he possesses good size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and also has athleticism which gives him upside.
At the Senior Bowl, Ruckert proved some good things in the passing game. For the Jets, he would likely be a third-round target in the draft.
Schultz and Ruckert would give the Jets an exciting duo. They complement one another well. Schultz has proven production as a pass-catcher and would help in the red zone. Ruckert has upside as a receiver and would likely provide an immediate impact as a blocker.
2. Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons) and Trey McBride (Colorado State)
Hayden Hurst is an intriguing free agent. He has always possessed great athleticism. Hurst has been in the league for four years and has not gotten many opportunities aside from the 2020 season, when he had 88 targets and showed upside as he turned them into 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns.
In the other three seasons of his career, Hurst only got 93 targets combined. He was buried behind first-round pick Kyle Pitts this past season.
Trey McBride is the top draft target at tight end for most Jets fans. He is not the biggest tight end (6-foot-3, 249 pounds) but still proved great things as a blocker in college. As a receiver, he just had a strong season, leading all FBS tight ends in receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,121).
McBride is probably the best tight end in this draft. He could be in play for the Jets with one of their second-round selections (35 and 38).
Hurst has athletic ability along with one recent year of good production. With a difference-making blocker in McBride who has a high ceiling as a receiver, the two would make for a solid tandem.
3. Durham Smythe (Miami Dolphins) and Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina)
Durham Smythe is a solid option for the Jets in free agency. He is a good blocker who would help in the running game. As a receiver, he could have some potential. Smythe just had his best year (34 catches on only 41 targets for 357 receiving yards). With more chances, Smythe could grow in the passing game.
Isaiah Likely just completed four years at Coastal Carolina and recorded great production. In 48 games, Likely had 133 receptions, 2,050 receiving yards, and 27 touchdowns.
Likely would be a great addition for Wilson in the passing game. His range in the draft is still difficult to project, but as of now, he will likely be selected in the mid-second to the early third round.
Smythe is a proven blocker with receiving upside. Likely is a good athlete and has a track record as a receiver. The two would bring good complementary skillsets to the tight end group for the Jets.
4. Tyler Conklin (Minnesota Vikings) and Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M)
Tyler Conklin just completed a good year for the Vikings as a receiver (61 catches, 593 receiving yards, and three touchdowns). It was his first season as a featured tight end (87 targets) in the passing game and he was effective.
Jalen Wydermyer would likely be a third-round target for the Jets in the draft. Only 21 years old, he is the youngest prospect out of the five listed here.
Wydermyer possesses a strong frame (6-foot-5, 255 pounds). His size allows him to be a good blocker. As a receiver, throughout his three college seasons, he had 118 receptions, 1,468 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Drops are a question mark as he led all tight ends with eight of them last season.
Conklin would bring credibility to the passing game. In the run game, he comes from a scheme similar to the Jets’. Wydermyer also has solid receiving production along with size that gives him upside as a blocker.
5. David Njoku (Cleveland Browns) and Cade Otton (Washington)
David Njoku is one of the more exciting free-agent tight ends. In 2021, he had 36 catches on 53 targets for 475 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Njoku is a good athlete who would help in the passing game. His blocking has improved throughout his career.
Similar to Conklin, the Browns offense has a lot in common with the Jets which could translate well for Njoku as a blocker in the running game.
Cade Otton is one of the more underrated tight ends in the 2022 NFL draft. He did not get many opportunities in the passing game at Washington (43 targets in eight games in 2021) but should be a more effective receiver as a pro.
Otton has decent size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and good athletic ability. The Washington product is a reliable blocker and should make an impact the running game right away.
These two would bring different strengths. Njoku can be a solid weapon in the passing game. Otton would help more in-line as a run blocker.
Needless to say, there is no excuse for the Jets to not give Wilson two new tight ends – preferably, one from each avenue. There are a ton of available players who are capable of providing the Jets with an upgrade in 2022.
Ideally, the two players who are acquired can complement one another with their skillsets. Adding a veteran also allows for a rookie to be eased in.
This should be the offseason where the Jets finally improve their tight end position.