How Could the Addition of Tight End Tyler Eifert Impact the Jaguars During the 2020 Draft?

John Shipley

The question of how the Jacksonville Jaguars would address much-needed upgrades at the tight end position this offseason has been a question months in the making. Now, that question has been partially answered with the signing of veteran free agent Tyler Eifert. 

Eifert agreed to terms with the Jaguars for a two-year deal on Tuesday evening, giving Jacksonville a veteran with a track record of past success, something the current roster was lacking at the position. 

Eifert is set to join 2019 third-round selection Josh Oliver, veteran James O'Shaughnessy, and 2019 undrafted free agent Charles Jones as the current tight ends on the roster. Compared to those three players, Eifert has had quite a different career and even a vastly different 2019.

For context, here is how the Jaguars' tight ends produced in 2019 compared to Eifert, and then how each has produced in their career compared to the new Jaguar:

In 2019

  • Eifert: 43 receptions for 436 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Oliver: Three receptions for 15 yards.
  • O'Shaughnessy: 14 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Jones: One reception for five yards. 

Career totals:

  • Eifert: 185 receptions for 2,152 yards and 24 touchdowns.
  • Oliver: Three receptions for 15 yards.
  • O'Shaughnessy: 60 receptions for 602 yards and three touchdowns. 
  • Jones: One reception for five yards. 

So strictly from a production standpoint, Eifert is in a separate category than any other tight end on the Jaguars' roster. But does this mean the Jaguars' work should be done at the position, or should they add a rookie tight end through April's NFL Draft?

On the surface, the Eifert signing looks like it will certainly impact the Jaguars' draft plans for the position. Without signing the veteran, the Jaguars would have likely had their hand forced into adding a tight end with one of their first five to six picks due to the lack of depth at the position.

O'Shaughnessy sustained an ACL injury in Week 5 and any expectations for him in 2020 should be made with caution. Jones was a bottom of the roster player, and Oliver only played in a handful of games due to hamstring and back injuries as a rookie. The Jaguars could not have entered Week 1 with this as their tight end group, so without signing a tight end they would have been forced to draft one somewhat early. 

Now with Eifert in the picture, it appears much less likely that the Jaguars would target a tight end early in the draft, though not unlikely that they draft one at some point or another. There is still a need for some depth and youthful talent, specifically when it comes to blocking, but the Jaguars don't have as gaping of a hole at the position as they did a week ago.

Eifert has the experience with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, track record, and now a contract that makes him the favorite to be the team's starting tight end in 2020 as long as he is healthy. 

Behind Eifert, the Jaguars' staff is still extremely high on Oliver despite a rookie season that was largely a disappointment. Oliver needs to prove himself on the field from a health and production standpoint, but there is a reason to believe the Jaguars are willing to roll the dice on the 23-year-old considering he is the highest-drafted tight end of the Dave Caldwell era.

Due to the investments in Eifert and Oliver, these two should be the favorites to play the largest roles among any Jaguars' tight ends in 2020. Anyone but those two starting in Week 1, as long as they are healthy, would be relatively surprising. 

Eifert has too many durability concerns to be the long-term answer for the Jaguars at the position, but the hope is he can be at least serviceable and available in 2020 while Oliver continues to develop. 

Is there still a need for a tight end? Absolutely. Eifert has too many question marks around him to erase that need. But does it look like the Jaguars will make it a priority to add a tight end in April? At this point, it doesn't. The team could still add one in the later rounds, but Eifert and Oliver should be the expected starters.