How Jesper Horsted Can Still Fit in Crowded Bears Tight End Picture
When Jesper Horsted checked in with the Bears last year as record-setting wide receiver from Princeton and set about trying to become a tight end, it seemed a difficult assignment.
He never had played the position, but definitely possessed the required receiving talent. He needed one more thing to be a serious candidate.
At 216 pounds, he didn't exactly fill out an NFL uniform like a tight end.
So after a season of trying to add weight, Horsted left Halas Hall last year knowing he had work to do in the offseason. Horsted had a brief summation of his goal for the start of this training camp.
"Actually it's probably less about weight gain," Horsted said. 'It's just about getting more strength I would say. I think muscle mass is probably a bigger deal. Maybe I'd like to add 5 pounds. But more than that it's just about adding strength."
The Bears have him listed at 237 pounds now, so apparently he's where he needs to be. That's only a pound lighter than the weight Trey Burton had last year as the U tight end, except Burton was an inch shorter at 6-foot-2.
The hard part now comes for Horsted in trying to learn how to block like a tight end. It's entirely foreign, considering he was always outside and rarely blocked bigger players one on one in the running game in college.
The remainder of the equation is opportunity and this is something beyond Horsted's control.
After the Bears drafted tight end Cole Kmet and signed free agents Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris, it seemed they had set their course at tight end.
However, the interesting part from Horsted's perspective is an opening does appear to exist for him in Chicago if he can beat out Ben Braunecker. Horsted could be the backup "U" tight end behind Jimmy Graham, with Cole Kmet being the starter and tight end of the future at the "Y" position ahead of Harris. Since Graham's deal is just 2 years and he's 33 years old, perhaps long term Horsted has a future.
The ideal U tight end can get downfield, much like a wide receiver. So Horsted would seem ideally suited as long as he can adapt to playing physical like a tight end.
His shot all depends on how many players the Bears retain. Horsted's preseason and camp effort can guide them in a particular way.
Players never hurt themselves by knowing how to play more than one position, and in Horsted the Bears could have this with someone who could go between wide receiver and tight end. The late Ryan Wetnight did this for the Bears in the 1990s and was roughly the same size as Horsted.
So becoming a blocker both on runs and passes, and learning how to run routes specifically suited for tight ends are objectives for Horsted.
There is no doubt what his strength is. He showed this in a Thanksgiving Day game last year with a diving touchdown catch against the Detroit Lions in a 24-20 win at Ford Field, one of his eight receptions on the season.
Another thing Horsted can do to ensure he has a roster spot or, at the very least, a spot on the expanded practice squad, is play special teams effectively in as many phases as possible. He was only on the field for 29 special teams snaps last year and has to increase his percentages at contributing in this way.
Then he would be maximizing his chances at a position where the crowd vying for roster spots makes it a necessity to grab any available advantage and use it.
Jesper Horsted at a Glance
Tight End Princeton
Key Numbers: Horsted's 8.7 yards per time targeted last season was second on the team behind J.P. Holtz's 11.4 yards and he had one of the Bears' only two touchdown catches by tight ends.
Chances of Making the Roster: 2 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest.
2020 Roster Projection: Cut victim and practice squad player who occasionally makes it onto the expanded game-day roster and makes five receptions for 55 yards.