Now that the season is over, we’ll be looking at the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at offensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi.
The 26-year old is listed at 6’9” and 275 pounds and was an undrafted free agent signing for the Saints last season. Kaufusi did not make the Saints’ roster but was signed to the Jets’ practice squad in October and remained on there for the rest of the season.
Kaufusi entered the league as a 26-year old rookie, having undertaken a two-year mission to Korea while at Brigham Young. He initially went to BYU on a football scholarship, but red-shirted his first season and then grew three inches while on his mission so he initially opted to walk on and play for the basketball team instead on his return.
Kaufusi played three seasons for the basketball team, but re-joined the football program before his final season and played for both teams. He then opted to return to football full time.
In three seasons as a defensive end on the football team, Kaufusi racked up 16 sacks, including a career-high of 7.5 in his senior year.
Unfortunately, he was unable to work out for his pro day, which hurt his chances of getting drafted despite being a projected late round pick according to some experts.
The Saints signed him after the draft and he had four tackles and two passes defensed in preseason for them. However, he was released in final cuts and ended up on the Jets’ practice squad a month later. The Jets signed him to a futures deal at the end of the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Kaufusi brings to the table, divided into categories.
The first thing to point out about Kaufusi is his height and length. Kaufusi used to be listed at 6’10” when he was on the basketball team but actually measured at 6’8½” at his pro day. He has an 84-inch wingspan with his arms being longer than 36 inches.
Ideally, Kaufusi should be looking to add plenty of mass to his frame and hopefully already has over the last few months with the Jets. In college, when he was playing basketball and football at the same time, he often added or cut what he himself implied were unhealthy amounts of weight in between games.
While he wasn’t able to post any workout numbers during the pre-draft process, Kaufusi does move well for his size and his length gives him natural range in space. He also seems to have impressive balance and change of direction abilities for a man his size.
He also displayed his athleticism on the basketball court, where he was only a role player but was a shot blocking specialist and capable of finishing above the rim.
Although he played as a defensive end in college, Kaufusi is being listed as an offensive lineman with the Jets, which obviously makes it a challenge to try and project him.
Within that role at BYU, Kaufusi played primarily on the edge, both as a stand-up linebacker and with his hand (or hands) in the dirt. However, he was also sometimes employed as an off-ball linebacker in certain pass rush packages and in one particular game where he was tasked with spying Khalil Tate; a running quarterback.
Kaufusi was originally recruited to BYU as an offensive tackle, despite only being 6’6” and 240 at the time. However, he left for his mission before getting any game action in that role. He had only played on defense in high school, so playing on offense is extremely new to him.
You would expect the Jets to try Kaufusi out at tackle because someone as tall as him would probably struggle with pad level and leverage on the interior, but the Jets did put the 6’9” Conor McDermott at guard for the last couple of games, so this can’t be ruled out.
Kaufusi did a solid job as a run defender and pass rusher with BYU. While he didn’t create a ton of pressure, his sack numbers were solid over his last two seasons.
Although the book on him is that he had a high motor and made a lot of plays through pure effort, a review of Kaufusi’s college film shows that he displays some good technique on pass rush moves.
In particular, he would make good use of an arm-over move, use his length to free himself from the block off a bull rush and even showed some ability to dip and bend around the edge despite his height.
On this move, Kaufusi displays some of the power you’d hope to see from him as a blocker on offense, rocking his man off his spot, but still being under control enough to cleanly disengage.
How well he holds up at the point of attack could also be a good way of assessing how he might fare in the trenches having swapped sides. It could also be indicative of how he might hold up against a bull rush.
Here you can see Kaufusi (#69) holds up easily against a tight end and is able to throw him aside to make the stop.
However, when he encounters a double team he isn’t able to anchor himself as well and gets driven off his spot and walled off from being in on the play.
There isn’t much film to review if we’re going to get some idea of how Kaufusi will fare on offense, but here’s a rare play where he lines up as an H-back and contributes positively as a run blocker, albeit that he’s just using his size and bulk rather than doing anything too technical.
Could he see action as a jumbo package blocker and occasionally leak out for a pass? His basketball experience could give him some natural abilities to go after the ball and even box out a defender if he was covered. He flashed those skills on this fake field goal.
Otherwise, we’re left to peruse his defensive film and try and get examples of him dominating his man in the trenches as a possible projection of what he might be able to do as a blocker. For example, he drives the tight end back into the quarterback’s lap to bat this pass down.
Most of Kaufusi’s special teams work, other than the fake field goal noted above, has been on the kick block unit. As you might expect from someone with his height and penchant for basketball shot blocking, Kaufusi had a knack for blocking kicks with four in his career.
In college, he only had a few snaps in kick coverage or as a blocker on the return units, but did get some rare blocking experience on the placekicking units.
Kaufusi is regarded as a smart player and will have benefited by having experience on both sides of the ball. Other players who have switched sides have noted that it helps you to have a good understanding of how your opponent is trying to beat you.
Despite this, when playing defense there were concerns about his vision and reading of the game where he would sometimes be preoccupied with his blocker and would not see the ball carrier going past him. With the move to the other side of the ball, the concern would be that he might not anticipate where his target might be in space and would therefore not approach consistently from the correct angle.
Here’s an extreme example of Kaufusi misreading a play, as he attempts to tackle a player without the ball.
Kaufusi is a coach’s son and obviously brought a team-first attitude to his role at BYU with the various role changes.
The best example of this was the toughness he displayed at the end of the 2018 season when he delayed surgery on three injuries and played hurt in the big game against Utah. He still missed the team’s bowl game and this ultimately prevented him from being ready to work out for teams at his pro day, so he really made a sacrifice for his team.
Kaufusi was reportedly told by Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack to maintain the attacking attitude that he’ll have had as a defensive player when he moved to the offense.
The most serious of Kaufusi’s trio of injuries towards the end of the 2018 season was a high ankle sprain. However, he also required surgery on his triceps and pinky finger.
Kaufusi is the brother of Bronson Kaufusi, who was with the Jets last year and signed a futures deal to remain on the roster next season. The pair were in regular contact while the younger Kaufusi was in college, so it will no doubt be helpful to have the benefit of his brother’s experience.
His likely role with the team will obviously depend on how well this offensive line project experiment plays out.
Kaufusi is obviously going to be super-raw and a major long-shot to be a potential contributor on the offensive line, but his intangibles, physical attributes and some of the technique he displayed on the other side of the ball could make him an interesting player to watch.
If it doesn’t work out for him on the offensive line, it’s perhaps not entirely out of the question that the Jets will move him back to defensive end so that he can compete for a role with his brother because he showed a few good things on film during his preseason stint with the Saints. Depending on how much he’s bulked up, he might end up as a 5-technique.
Ultimately, he could just prove to be a camp body, but that could still produce a useful role if he brings a good attitude and provides a challenge for some of his teammates due to his unnatural size and ability.