Way-Too-Early Depth Charts: Projecting the Jaguars' Tight End Group
For now, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the other 31 NFL clubs are restricted to a virtual world and have yet to take any fields together for offseason team activities. Competitions for starting roles have yet to be had but rest assured, they will still eventually be battled.
But with the season still scheduled as of today to begin on time, it can still be a worthwhile exercise to project how certain position groups may shape up come the regular season. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are set to trot out one of the league's youngest rosters in 2020, there are a number of positions that still needed to be sorted out from top to bottom, whether it be at the starting role or along the depth.
As this offseason progresses, we will take a look at each position and give our best guess as to what the depth chart will look like come September, or whenever the season does start.
Jacksonville's tight end position has struggled to consistently produce for several seasons now, but the Jaguars are hoping a mix of veteran and young talent will reverse the trend in 2020.
Several tight ends who made appearances for the Jaguars last season are no longer on the team, such as Geoff Swaim, Seth DeValve, and Nick O'Leary. Replacing them will be a few returning players, a key free agent signing, and a late-round rookie looking to make an impact.
Which tight ends are most likely to be atop of the team's pecking order next season? Here is our way-too-early projection.
No. 1 TE: Tyler Eifert
The biggest free agent addition the Jaguars made on the offensive side of the ball this offseason was eighth-year veteran Tyler Eifert, a former first-round pick who spent the first seven years of his career with Cincinnati. Last year, Eifert caught 43 receptions for 436 yards and three touchdowns, better figures than the Jaguars' entire group of tight ends combined for last season.
In his seven seasons with the Bengals, Eifert caught 185 passes for 2,152 yards and 24 touchdowns, proving himself to be a dangerous pass-catching target and red zone weapon as long as hell remained healthy. For the Jaguars, there is no other tight end who pales in comparison in terms of career accomplishments.
Eifert also has experience under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden thanks to Gruden orchestrating the Bengals' offense only Eifert's rookie year. His knowledge of the scheme and ability to help the rest of the roster pick up the nuances of the offense will be key moving forward.
No. 2 TE: Josh Oliver
Jacksonville had high hopes for Josh Oliver in 2019. The third-round pick (No. 69 overall) from last season gave the Jaguars a young and athletic option at tight end, something they had lacked for years, but the Jaguars weren't able to get much return on their investment in year one.
Oliver initially suffered a hamstring injury in training camp that was serious enough to sideline him for the first six games of the year. Once Oliver returned, he failed to make much of an impact, catching just three passes for 15 yards in four games. Eventually, a back injury would end his season, giving him a rookie season to forget.
In 2020, the Jaguars will clearly be hoping for Oliver to take that second-year step while ensuring he is able to stay on the field. Gruden is adept at using multiple tight ends in his offense and Oliver has the skill set to thrive as an athletic mismatch, but he still needs to prove it after a rookie season in which he saw little playing time.
No. 3 TE: James O'Shaughnessy
Despite appearing in only five games, and completing just four of those games, James O'Shaughnessy was far and away the Jaguars' most productive tight end last season. On his way to his productive season as a pro, O'Shaughnessy caught 14 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns before a ACL injury in Week 5 ended his season.
If not for the injury, O'Shaughnessy would have been the Jaguars' top tight end for the entirety of 2019 and there is a chance the Jaguars could have gone through this past offseason without a significant addition at the position. But with O'Shaguhnessy's health now a situation that bears watching, the Jaguars' hand was essentially forced.
Look for the Jaguars to slowly work O'Shaughnessy into the offense whenever he is healthy enough to return to the field. Before his injury, he was the top dog and would not have lost any snaps to Oliver, but that may change due to the circumstances this year.
TE No. 4: Tyler Davis
A sixth-round (No. 206 overall) selection in April's draft, Tyler Davis beats out Charles Jones for us in this final tight end slot. The big reason why? Davis has the ability to block as a fullback or H-back while still having the athleticism to threaten the second level of the defense.
As a senior, Davis (6-foot-4, 250-pounds) recorded 17 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown on the season. He served primarily as a run and pass blocker, while also serving on the specials teams units.
Davis' time with UConn was a bit more prolific than his one season with Georgia Tech. In three seasons, Davis caught 47 passes for 500 yards and seven touchdowns, including six touchdowns in 2018, which was tied for the second-most by a tight end in UConn history. Davis will likely not be relied on early, but he is able to get the edge over Jones here due to his versatility.