Today I continue unveiling my 21st Century Jets Wine Cellar Team. We move onto the tight ends.
Many of these positions have difficult choices because there are so many good players to choose from. The opposite is true at tight end. This was so difficult that I wondered to myself whether the team really needs any tight ends. Ultimately I decided to move forward with a few.
If you are new to this series, I am building a 53 man roster comprised of Jets players from the 21st century. The twist is that I’m picking each player from a specific year of their career the way you might pick a specific vintage of your favorite wine. Only seasons since 2000 are eligible for inclusion on this list.
Dustin Keller, 2011
The Jets had high expectations when they traded up to get Keller in 2008. I think they expected him to develop into a star. He was supposed to be a matchup nightmare at the tight end position.
Keller never quite lived up to those projections, but he ended up being a quality receiving threat. His best season came in 2011 when he set career highs with 65 catches and 815 yards.
Dustin Keller’s 2011 vintage isn’t just the runaway choice for starting tight end on this roster. You could make a credible argument this is the only above average tight end season the Jets have gotten since the turn of the century.
Chris Herndon, 2018
Herndon’s career cratered after a very solid rookie season. His second year was lost due to injuries and suspension. His third year he regressed into a sub-replacement level player after the Jets spent the offseason talking him up. He was traded prior to his fourth year.
This makes it easy to forget how promising he looked as a rookie. In the more than one century history of the NFL, there are only 36 tight ends who have registered more than 500 receiving yards in their first year. Herndon is one of them. He steadily improved through 2018 and gave the Jets a solid receiving threat.
What followed was frustrating, but the rookie version of Herndon belongs on this team.
Anthony Becht, 2003
An ideal third tight end is typically an excellent blocker and a functional receiving threat. That description suits Becht. He was never going to keep defensive coordinators up at night with worry, but he could contribute as a outlet in the short passing game. Combined with his prowess as a blocker, you have somebody who could help the team.
I always felt like Becht’s legacy benefitted greatly from being part of the 2000 Jets Draft class. He was the fourth and final of the team’s first round picks that year. If Becht was the headliner of your Draft class as most first rounders are, you probably would have been disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with a strong blocking tight end with moderate receiving production, but that isn’t the kind of impact you want from your top pick. When Becht is the fifth best player of your Draft class (after the three other first rounders and third round pick Lavernanues Coles), you’re going to be thrilled.
I went with the 2003 vintage of Becht for the team since that was the most productive receiving season of his Jets tenure.
I don’t know that there were any really tough omissions here. As I mentioned, it was a challenge finding enough players to have a full tight end room. Chris Baker had a couple of moderately productive seasons, but none were good enough to merit a ton of consideration. Where else would you look? Is 357 yards in 2017 enough to make Austin Sefarian-Jenkins an option? Should Ryan Griffin be considered because defenses kept busting coverages on him in the red zone in 2019?
I don’t see any legitimate snubs here.