With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Ryan Griffin.
Griffin is a 29-year old tight end who was a sixth round pick out of UConn in 2013. He is 6’6” and 255 pounds and has spent all six of his NFL season with the Houston Texans, catching 136 passes for 1,491 yards and seven touchdowns, plus another seven catches for 64 yards in postseason action.
Griffin redshirted his freshman year at UConn but contributed well over the next four seasons. He ended his career with 116 catches for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a two-time all-Big East second teamer.
Having set career marks with 33 catches and 499 yards as a junior, Griffin’s production was down in his senior year. However, he had a career-high in both touchdowns (six) and yards per catch average (16.7) and was awarded with the team’s offensive player of the year award.
Griffin was not invited to the combine but was still drafted in the sixth round by the Texans. He started off his rookie year as the third-string tight end but still started eight games and caught 19 passes. In 2014, he started just four games and caught 10 passes. His third season was more productive, as he exceeded his career-highs for catches (20), receiving yards (251) and touchdowns (two), despite missing seven games.
2016 was a breakout year for Griffin who caught 50 passes, although he averaged a career-low 8.8 yards per catch. Since then, his production has dropped back down, although his average has gone up.
Last year, Griffin entered the season as the number one tight end for the first time and started a career-high 11 games. However, he was held to just 24 catches.
He was released in May, shortly after an offseason arrest. The Texans had reportedly been looking to trade him and drafted a tight end in the third round, presumably as his replacement.
The Jets showed interest in June, then signed him last week after the news of Chris Herndon’s suspension was confirmed.
Now let’s take a look at what Griffin brings to the table, divided into categories.
Griffin isn’t particularly fast but has nice size and length. His 40-time at his pro day was only 4.87 but his strength, speed and agility numbers were all about average.
Griffin has played and produced a lot out of the slot, although this is often in formations where he’s bunched close to the offensive line and will stay in to block or chip, so it may be that he just prefers to operate out of a receiver stance.
In 2016, 33 of his 50 catches came when lined up in the slot and that also accounted more than half of his production last season.
While Griffin lacks the long speed to burn the defense over the top for a long ball, he can get down the seam and do some damage on downfield throws as you can see here.
A lot of Griffin’s production came from very basic quick outs and flat routes or underneath stuff. He is functionally adequate as a route runner but doesn’t necessarily stand out as being quick to change direction. He does a decent job of getting separation on a defensive back here though.
Generally speaking, he’s more likely to use his size to get open, by boxing out a defender on a stop route or gaining leverage for an out-breaking route or back shoulder throw.
Although he’s been used as a safety valve, Griffin’s catch rate has been down over the past few seasons. He only caught 53 percent of his targets last season, bringing his career average down to 62 percent.
Griffin can extend to go up and grab a high pass, can hang on when taking a hit and will go to ground to secure a low throw. However, he doesn’t adjust to badly thrown balls especially well and hasn’t showcased many spectacular catches. He’s only averaged two or three drops a year though.
Griffin’s size alone makes him a red zone threat and all seven of his career touchdowns have been from 12 yards or less. He’s also had one two-point conversion.
As you can see, his size and physicality is a lot for defensive backs to handle so he can be a match-up nightmare.
Yards after the catch
Griffin doesn’t break a lot of tackles, but will turn upfield and fall forward at the end of the play on most of his receptions. Here was a good play where he slipped a tackle to turn a short pass into a 12-yard gain.
The longest play of his career was this 47-yarder last season, which shows that he’s tough to bring down once he gets a head of steam.
Blocking has been regarded as Griffin’s main role for most of his career but he’s only graded out as an average blocker although he told the media he felt he had made some improvements in 2018 as he moved into a full time role.
On this play, Griffin does a good job of locking onto his man and driving him downhill to create a running lane off-tackle.
However, on this one, he’s not quick enough to get in front of his man and comes off second best as they engage at the point of attack.
He seems to be capable of making blocks in space and has a good understanding of angles and positioning.
Griffin has plenty of experience as a pass blocker, although he’s had mixed results in that role. He’s given up five sacks, including this one, in regular season action.
Griffin is physical in how he runs his routes, mixes it up as a blocker and will fight for yardage as a ball carrier.
For his career, he’s had 21 penalties in six years. 11 of these were for illegal blocks, including nine holding penalties. He also had five false starts and five offensive pass interference calls.
Over the past few years, Griffin has only really contributed as a blocker on the kick return unit, although he does a pretty solid job in that role.
As a rookie he also made a few tackles in kick coverage, but he didn’t fare as well in that role in his second season and hasn’t been called upon to do it much since then.
Griffin seems to have a good ability to find open spots in the other team’s zone defense or to come back to the ball when a play gets extended.
Here’s a play where he is initially tasked with picking up a blitz, but then the play gets extended so he gets open in the flat for a score.
Griffin developed into a good leader in Houston, especially last season, when he became the number one tight end but still took time and pride in developing the youngsters below him.
Off-the-field, his arrest was seemingly out of character. Having initially been charged with vandalism after apparently punching a window in a drunken incident, Griffin eventually saw all charges dropped and isn’t expected to be suspended.
Griffin has had some injury issues over the course of his career, including at least three concussions. That led to him being placed on injured reserve in 2017. He also had a sprained MCL in 2015 and missed two games due to illness last year.
Griffin’s experience and ability to produce in volume along with his competence as a blocker makes him the ideal type of player for the Jets to add into their tight end competition. If Herndon’s suspension remains at four games, he could be a candidate to see reps both as a blocker and in the passing game.
Griffin is a low-upside type of player at this stage of his career, but that’s an ideal fallback position to have when you’re also seeking to work some youngsters into the mix.
It remains to be seen how soon he’ll be able to climb up to the top of the depth chart, but he’s at worst a replacement level player, which should be good competition for the likes of Daniel Brown and Trevon Wesco as they look to earn a role.