Everybody is wondering how Chip Kelly is going to replace the production of DeSean Jackson. I’ll tell you how. He’s going to do it by taking his use of the tight end position to another level. Kelly is already very good at utilizing his tight ends but you’re going to see more of it with second-year tight Zach Ertz ready to take a big jump in production. Brent Celek will be the number one tight end from a run standpoint, but Ertz will be lined up all over the place and he will be featured in the passing attack this year.
Kelly is one of the best ever at getting players in one-on-one situations because his offense always presents both a pass and a run threat to the defense. Big athletic tight ends create more of a dual run and pass threat because they’re big enough to be good run blockers and they’re also athletic enough to be good pass receivers. They’re also very hard to match up against.
I think you’re going to see the Eagles draft more athletic-type tight ends, who are tremendous match-up problems for defenses. Linebackers and safeties are going to be worrying about LeSean McCoy getting the football, while trying to cover three athletic-type tight ends in man-to-man coverage. That’s nearly an impossible assignment and it’s especially tough to stop on 3rd down and in the red zone.
NFL games are won and lost on 3rd down and in the red zone. The Eagles will be potent in both of those areas as long as Kelly is the head coach. Going into a game with a bevy of athletic-type tight ends will make it impossible to deal with all the options Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will have in 3rd downs and in the red zone.
When you have an athletic tight end type, you have defensive coordinators pulling their hair out because they don’t have enough big athletes on defense to match up with them. Who do you match up with a guy 6’5″ or 6’6″ and 250 with the ability to run. Do you put a 6-foot safety on them? Do you put a 6’4″ linebacker on him who isn’t very good in pass coverage?
Safeties are too small to cover them and linebackers are too slow. If you put the safety on them near the line of scrimmage, these guys will be able to block him on run plays all day long. Kelly likes the matchup advantage in size or speed.
Imagine three Ertz-type players on the offense. These guys can be had all through the draft and you may be able to bring in a couple as free agents. These are the guys the Eagles are looking for in this year’s draft. The Eagles will be flat out headaches on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Think about third downs with the option to either throw or run. It puts the defense in a no-win situation.
This draft is rich tight ends, so I expect the Birds to pick at least one and maybe two.
Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins is an athletic-freak who is listed by some at 6’9″. I think he’s more like 6’7″, but regardless, he’s going to be headaches for defensive coaches. The youngster played on the basketball team in his freshman year at Washington. He could be a target of the Birds in the second or third round.
Tennessee State’s A.C. Leonard is the kind of guy I could see Kelly falling in love with. He played some receiver in college, so he’ll be comfortable moving out in the slot or all the way outside. He could be had in the fourth or fifth round.
USC’s Xavier Grimble was the highest rated tight end in the nation when he came out of high school, but he didn’t live up to the promise, but this kids has a tremendous upside and will be there in the third or fourth round.
Richard Rodgers of Cal is another guy with good size and athleticism to make the Birds take notice. He’ll be there in the third or fourth round.
Kelly knows about Oregon’s Colt Lyerla because he brought him to the school. The kid has second round talent, but questions about his work ethic and possible drug usage have hurt his stock. He will still on the board late in the draft, so I expect the Birds to grab him.