Chris Herndon was born in Norcross, Georgia, in 1996 and is 22 years old. He spent three years at the University of Miami, playing in 34 games with 86 receptions for 1,048 yards and 7 TDs. He tore his MCL in November of 2017 which made him miss the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. He has great size at 6’ 4” and 255 lbs with long arms and a chiseled powerful frame.
Scouting him the last two years, his positives were:
1) He appears to have above average speed, he never run a 40 because of his injury.
2) He is a former high school wide receiver, showing plus athletic ability for the position.
3) He is a powerful runner when he has the ball but not very elusive. He is a tough tackle for a DB when he is squared up on the defender. He will break arm tackles, and safeties will bounce off of him if they do not wrap tackle.
4) He is a poor but willing blocker. He lacks good technique and leverage but has the raw tools to be an effective blocker even though he probably will never be a great blocker.
5) He is quick for his size and gets into his routes quickly.
6) He is fearless when crossing the field as a receiver and will make catches all over the field if asked to do so.
7) He has a large wingspan and is a large target for a QB when he squares himself to the QB.
8) He is capable of a massive workload and can be a chain mover if given the opportunity.
9) Has the ability to run the seam although he was rarely asked to do this in college.
10) His college stats were negatively affected by poor QB play, and he was behind David Njoku (1st round pick of the Browns) on the depth chart until his senior year.
11) He was a team captain his senior year.
His scouting negatives were:
1) He is not a natural catcher of the football and will struggle with drops in his career unless he works on technique and concentration.
2) He is a poor route runner who will give away his routes to savvy safeties, which could result in interceptions if not corrected. He also will round off his cuts and doesn’t always come back the the QB on curls and hitches.
3) He wastes steps when is trying to get into his route, which could make him to arrive late in a rhythm scheme.
4) He was mostly a move TE and in the slot so he may struggle against press coverage, although he has the power to make this a non factor if he is trained properly.
5) The MCL injury he suffered late in his college career could make him slower as a pro and may in time be a lingering injury; medicals will need to be checked by he in house doctor.
For all his faults, Herndon has a chance to be an excellent TE for the Jets for the next decade if he can be coached up correctly. I would immediately get him with the TE coach and practice the correct technique to catch a football. He should then spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day catching the ball in a variety of positions. He needs to learn how to turn speed into power and make himself a potent force as soon as he catches the ball.
In this clip he does a decent job.
The ball is poorly thrown. The QB waits too long, and the throw is behind Herndon. Still he makes the catch and immediately dips his shoulder to give the safety little to hit and also sends his momentum towards the end zone which becomes a TD.
Here he does a poor job in almost the same situation, just from the opposite side...
Here he is uncovered with the entire play in front of him. He should see where the safeties are and where they will attack him from. He should gauge the throw and catch the ball in front of him so he can maintain the most forward momentum possible. Instead he slightly leaves his feet to catch the ball and actually tries to turn back, away from his positive inertia. By leaving his feet, even slightly he loses all power and is knocked off course by the collision. Herndon is 6’ 4” 255 lbs; he has to learn to use all his power, especially that close to the end zone. He should have caught that ball like a tank glued to the ground, waited to absorb the inevitable impact, and powered through it. He should always find a way to score in that situation but especially when the clock is running out.
One thing that Herndon was very proficient at in Miami was the bubble screen. I would say that 30 to 35% of his catches were bubble screens, and the Jets could use that to their advantage. Here is an example.
You can see here that he is very comfortable and confident in this route, gets all his power going forward, and punishes the DB on the play. This is a chain moving type play and one the Jets use quite often with Quincy Enunwa. The Jets could put Herndon wide to one side and Enunwa wide to the other side and run bubble screens to each. This will widen the defense to stop these and open up the middle of the field for someone to run the seam or on a “9” route down the sideline. Running successful plays to set up bigger successful plays is something OC Bates needs to do more.
Here is something that Herndon did very little of in college but I believe he has the skill set to do with the Jets. He runs the seam and is actually converged on by three defenders who all fail to stop him.
He is in the slot so he gets a clean break off the line and blows past the defender who ends up in chase mode. Herndon extends his arms above his head and brings the ball in quickly, dipping his shoulder for impact and giving the DB very little to hit.
From another angle...
The safety goes high for some reason and has little effect on the powerful Herndon. He should have gone low for the tackle but a 6’ 4” 255 lbs rhino is something few players want to take on full force. The safety made (as Deion Sanders would say) a career decision. You can’t play football if you are in the hospital with broken ribs.
Here he works the middle of the field again on a shorter route with a free release off the line.
You can see Herndon gets into his route nicely but to has slow down to wait on the ball that is late and behind him. The throw should have hit him as soon as he passed the RILB, and he could have taken that play much farther downfield. That was a missed opportunity for a big play but it was still a nice gain.
Here is a play that shows the ceiling that Herndon possesses as a playmaker. It is a simple out cut but done exceptionally well.
He is getting a free release again from the slot and he cuts nicely off the butt of the WR who is running a clearout/rub for Herndon. He makes a nice over the head catch on another poorly thrown ball. He eludes a would be tackler and shows speed, power and determination to split the defenders and get into the end zone.
I mentioned before how Herndon has needs to have better concentration when catching the ball. That problem reared it’s ugly head in a huge way against the Dolphins.
On this play Darnold does a super job of escaping the rush and keeping his eyes downfield to find a wide open Herndon between three defenders for a thirty yard gain and some positive momentum in the Jets comeback. Herndon appears to have good technique on the attempt but lost concentration and simply dropped the ball. This cannot happen if he wants to stay on the field and on the team. That one play was a game changer in the wrong direction and could have made the outcome quite different.
I actually like Herndon, Sterling and Tomlinson (Leggett not so much) and would use them more in our offense. It is clear that the Jets want the ball out of Darnold’s hands quickly and the TEs give him a big target to throw to. Herndon (IMO) has the highest upside of any of our TEs, and I would target him a lot more than the Jets do now. He seems to play better the more he is involved. Those bubble screens are easy to throw and are a positive play when run and blocked correctly. If the Jets use them to both sides of the field it would open up the middle of the field for deeper throws later in the game.
Remember, Herndon is only 22 years old and he and Darnold could become a nice tandem (dare I say like Rivers and Gates?) for years to come if they can get some chemistry going. Time will tell, but if we can develop Herndon he could actually be the 4th round draft steal that Maccagnan has been searching for.