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Focusing in on Kenny Yeboah

Mississippi v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Yesterday I focused on offensive guard Tristen Hoge, and you can read that HERE. Today, I’m looking at another UDFA signing by Joe Douglas in TE Kenny Yeboah.

Kenny is another player that I had a draftable grade on (4th-6th) and as such, I’m excited to see him join the Jets as a free agent.

Yeboah grew up in Rhode Island before moving to Allentown Pa, a city renowned for its baseball roots and home to the Phillies AAA minor-league affiliate team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Enrolling at Parkland High School just before his junior season, Kenny lined up as a receiver, cornerback, and kicker. He immediately showed his catching ability on both sides of the ball. As a senior, he caught 72 passes for 1,160 yards and 14 touchdowns, which was then a school record. He also added 5 interceptions as a defensive back highlighting his hands.

Despite his success on the football field, Yeboah wasn’t as heavily recruited as he probably should have been. He was ranked as the #305 receiver in the class and rated as a 2* prospect by 247sports. Despite receiving interest from the likes of Penn State and Pittsburgh, Yeboah only received two FBS level offers and decided to enrol at Temple, where he was heavily recruited by Phil Snow and Marcus Satterfield to play for Matt Rhule.

After appearing in just one game as a freshman in 2016, Rhule convinced Yeboah to switch from wide receiver to tight end, and he redshirted the rest of the season to enable him to transition to his new position. It wasn’t always easy with Yeboah saying that at times he felt discouraged because he had no experience playing tight-end, but after adding 20 lb’s and maintaining his 4.5 speed, things started to fall into place and Yeboah embraced the change:

“I remember coach Rhule told me, ‘listen you can play tight end at the next level and be a good tight end.’ I just had to put on some weight and they’d teach me how to block. And honestly, I was fine with it,” Yeboah said. “I knew that if I did that, I was playing wide receiver in high school, I could use that aspect of my game.”

Despite his noticeable improvement, Yeboah only started 3 games over the next two years for Temple, although he did appear in 25 games in total. Over those two years he caught 27 passes for 290 yards and 1 touchdown. Matt Rhule left Temple after Yeboah’s freshman campaign and the tight end position wasn’t utilised under new head coach Geoff Collins. After Collins left for Georgia Tech and was replaced by Rod Carey in 2019, Yeboah enjoyed his best season at Temple, catching 19 passes for 233 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also continuing to improve his blocking technique significantly.

Those numbers from 2019 aren’t eye-catching but Kenny did the best with what he was given. He averaged 12.3 yards per reception and 26% of his catches were touchdown catches. He flashed that playmaking ability with good burst off the line and good long speed to trouble covering linebackers.

In 2019 Yeboah completed his degree in advertising, allowing him to enter the transfer portal. There were only two teams in for him, and Baylor were the heavy favourites due to Matt Rhule being the head coach, the man who had originally recruited him to play for Temple and convinced him to switch positions. However when Rhule left Baylor for the Carolina Panthers head coaching job, Yeboah decided to head to Ole Miss to play for first-year head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Knowing how Lane Kiffin operates his tight-ends, all the work that Yeboah put into his blocking would stand him in good stead, and it’s an aspect of his game that was surely attractive to new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur

“I think of myself as a pass-catcher and a blocker. I know a lot of people say it, but if you turn on the film, I block. I actually enjoy blocking. I enjoy pancaking people,” Yeboah said. “I take pride in my blocking. If I miss a block, I’m going to get pissed off. It’s something that a lot of people don’t know about me, but it was part of the Ole Miss pitch to me.”

For years at Temple, Yeboah had had to sit and bide his time. He wasn’t heavily featured in the offense, none of the TE’s were heavily featured. Jeff Lebby who ran the Ole Miss offense in 2020 was with UCF between 2017 and 2019, UCF play in the same conference as Temple and that played a part in his decision to commit to Ole Miss, with him having seen the offensive principles up close and personal:

“I’ve watched our defense play against that offense,” Yeboah said. “I knew that in their offense, I’d be getting the ball, getting it more. I’d have an opportunity to shine and do it at the highest level.”

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

2020 was by far the most productive season for Kenny Yeboah, having finally been given the opportunity for a bigger role. He started 8 games for Ole Miss before deciding to opt-out of the rest of the season along with Elijah Moore, another new Jet. With the COVID situation worsening, both players decided that it was time to focus their attention on the NFL draft.

Yeboah finished the 2020 season with 27 receptions for 524 yards and 6 touchdowns, which equates to 19.4 yards per catch. Yeboah’s most notable game came against the best team in college football and the team that would go on to win the college football championship in Alabama. He posted 7 catches for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, threatening the seam and showcasing his pure athletic ability at every opportunity.

He came down with 75% of his contested catches in 2020 and showcased his + route-running ability, transferring from catcher to runner seemlessly.

Following a positive season in Oxford for Ole Miss, and knowing the context of his numbers at Temple, I found it hard to believe that a team wouldn’t take a chance on a player who’s 6-5, 250lb’s, with good speed and an appetite to block. However here we are, Kenny went undrafted and the Jets jumped to the front of the queue to secure his signing. A signing that I believe could end up being an absolute steal.

If you follow Kenny on Twitter, you’ll know that he’s ready to prove the doubters wrong and prove to the NFL that they made a mistake in passing him up

The Jets tight-end position is a big question mark heading into the 2021 season, The expectation is that Chris Herndon finds some consistency and recovers from the yips he experienced in 2019. Tyler Kroft has been brought in and Ryan Griffin is still with the team, but there is a real opportunity for Yeboah to come in and make the position his own.

Zach Wilson showed a consistent ability to get the ball to his tight ends in college, throwing 12 touchdowns to Isaac Rex last season, and while he’ll be operating in a different system in New York, it is a system that heavily utilises the tight end position, just look at George Kittle’s use in San Francisco.

The opportunity is there and there’s a good chance that Yeboah can take advantage.