The Jets recently signed wide receiver Tarik Black to a futures deal. Today we break him down in detail.
The 23-year old Black is listed at 6’3” and 213 pounds and was undrafted out of Texas in 2021, having previously played at Michigan. He made his NFL debut in the last game of the season for the Jets, catching one pass for 10 yards.
Black was a four-star recruit out of high school and headed to Michigan where he was leading them in receiving yards early in his freshman season. However, he suffered an injury that meant he missed the rest of the year, ending up with 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
He had more injuries in his sophomore year and was limited to four catches. However, he got more opportunities in his junior year, catching 25 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown.
At the end of his junior year, Black opted to transfer to Texas and actually had two years of eligibility left having graduated and been granted a medical redshirt. However, he lasted only one year with Texas, catching just 10 passes and opting out of the last few games.
Black entered the draft in 2021 but wasn’t invited to the scouting combine and ended up going undrafted. However, he signed for the Colts in May and, having made some good plays in preseason, he ended up on their practice squad after final cuts.
The Colts did not elevate Black for a game in 2021 and he was released from their practice squad in November. The Jets signed him to their practice squad a few weeks later and elevated him for the final game of the season, then signed him to a futures deal after the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Black brings to the table, divided into categories.
At 6’3” with a 79-inch wingspan, Black brings good size, a big catch radius and an above average hand size.
At his pro day, he ran a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash and posted outstanding explosiveness numbers with a 40-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump. His agility numbers and bench press were about average for the position.
Black primarily lines up on the outside but has had some snaps and production out of the slot both at the collegiate level and in preseason action. In his lone game with the Jets, he only lined up in the slot three times but that did include the play where he made his only catch.
Black showed he has the ability to get behind the defense with several deep catches in college and also flashed these abilities in preseason.
His 40-yard dash time of 4.54 may not seem that fast but for a player his size, it’s often adequate to get deep at the pro level.
Black has some route running ability but he’s not a natural separator. Instead he relies on his combination of speed on vertical routes and size on shorter routes.
He clearly worked on refining his route running abilities in camp, as he releases well off the line and breaks down well on stop routes.
On this play, he runs a pretty good whip route to get away from the defender, but the ball is thrown behind him so he can’t break upfield to get to the marker.
Black already showcased his hands with the Jets, as he pulled in this spectacular diving catch in the season finale.
However, on the next drive, Black had a good chance to add to this and was unable to bring in the catch.
His catch rates in college weren’t particularly good, especially at Texas where he only caught five of his last 18 targets, including only one catch on six contested targets.
Prior to that, Black had caught five passes on six targets in the first game. A lot of this drop-off was due to the fact he got some underneath targets in that first game but then was mostly targeted on low-percentage downfield throws thereafter.
He had a spectacular one-handed catch posted on social media by a teammate that went viral while he was at Michigan.
You’d expect Black to be a good red zone weapon with his size and skill-set. However, at Michigan, he had three touchdowns and all of them were on longer downfield throws. (One of these was negated by a penalty). He did score on a two-point conversion and also had a red zone touchdown on a fade route in the team’s spring game one year.
At Texas, Black did manage to score the first red zone touchdown of his career as he got open on this play.
After the catch
Black didn’t get many opportunities to show off his abilities after the catch in preseason, but did turn upfield to get to the marker on this play.
In college, he didn’t break a lot of tackles and actually tripped in the open field a few times at Texas. He also had some ball protection issues with a couple of fumbles.
Despite his size advantage against most defensive backs, Black had inconsistent results as a blocker in college, although he did make some positive contributions.
He didn’t impress much in preseason, failing to make this block which led to a run getting stuffed.
Black was called for one holding penalty during the 2020 season while he was with the Longhorns.
As noted, Black has an ability to use his size when running routes and at the catchpoint. He can box out defenders, fight them off at the catchpoint and go over the top of a defensive player to make a catch. He showcased his physicality on this route.
Scouting reports indicate that he can sometimes fail to prevent a defensive back from getting a clean jam on him in press coverage but this is probably more to do with technique than strength or effort, so could be fixable.
Black didn’t play special teams at Michigan but volunteered to at Texas where he blocked on return units, rushed punts and covered kicks. He didn’t make much of an impact though.
In preseason with the Colts, he reprised these roles and also contributed as a blocker on the punt protection unit. He was credited with one special teams tackle and was in on another that was negated by a penalty.
Instincts and Intelligence
Black is a player who always did well academically, graduating in three years, and impressed the Texas coaches by assimilating quickly into their offense after transferring.
On this play, he finds an open spot in coverage and sits down beyond the first down marker.
Black is regarded as a player with good character and work ethic. He’s humble and loyal, but competitive on the field with a good attitude. When injured at Michigan, he continued to attend team meetings and his attitude at Texas was described as selfless.
His college career was beset with frustrations so he has shown good resilience to make it to the NFL level.
He only had four penalties in his college career, one of which made headlines as he was flagged for taunting when he flexed his muscles after making a big catch, which got Jim Harbaugh angry at the officials.
Michigan is obviously a program where they’d have a lot of talent at the wide receiver positions but Black only fell behind some of these talented players - most of whom are or will be in the NFL - due to injuries.
He broke his left foot in 2017 and then his right foot in 2018, limiting him to just 15 catches over those two seasons.
Black already got to practice for a month with the Jets and played one game, so he’s had a head start on some of the receivers he’ll be at camp with.
At 6’3” with an ability to get deep and box out defensive players for catches without being much of a separator his skill-set sounds pretty similar to that of Denzel Mims. Perhaps the Jets view him as someone who can replace Mims or at least push him for opportunities. The pair profile extremely similarly other than the fact that Mims ran a much faster 40-yard dash at 4.38.
He was a teammate of Greg Senat and Eddy Piniero, two pending Jets free agents, while with the Colts.
Black is an interesting prospect who was much-heralded coming out of high school but had poor production in his college career for various reasons. In three of his four college seasons, he got off to a great start and looked set to have a big year, only to either get injured or just fade as the season went along.
However, his preseason film with the Colts shows some legitimate promise and he definitely earned a shot at a futures deal with that great catch in Buffalo. The Jets have decisions to make on a few free agents and may add to this position, but Black will hope he can again prove himself in preseason to earn a longer look.