In the 67th round (220nd overall pick) of the 2023 NFL draft, the New York Jets selected Old Dominion tight end Zach Kuntz. This article is intended to provide some extra context and information about this Jets’ selection by discussing his analytical profile.
Age: 23 (born June 6, 1999, so he will be 24 on opening day)
Relative Athletic Score: Any conversation with Kuntz basically has to start with his athletic profile... for which he is in the conversation for most athletic tight end ever. Indeed, his RAS was a perfect 10.00, which ranked #1 all time within the RAS calculation. In line with that score, Kuntz is above average for size, explosiveness, speed, and agility.
While fans may be most excited about his 4.55 40 yard dash time, data suggests they should be even more excited about his three-cone drill (score of 9.58 out of 10) and 10 yard split time (score of 9.81 out of 10) given their utility in predicting tight end performance at the NFL level.
For TEs, the 10-yard split more important for predicting NFL value than forty times, like many other positions. Mark Andrews had the best weight-adjusted 10-yard split of any combine TE since 2006.— Kevin Cole (@KevinCole___) March 1, 2022
Agility also significant, but most of the effects are modest pic.twitter.com/1g5NvBDgYr
Career stats through 21 games over last 5 seasons with data compiled from sportsreference.com (2022 stats in parentheses):
- 88 receptions (12)
- 836 yards (144)
- 9.8 yards per catch (12)
- 7 touchdowns (5)
The first thing to note with Kuntz is that he’s old for a prospect because he’s been rostered in a lot of NCAA seasons across two college teams Penn State (3 years) and Old Dominion (2 years). However, he hasn’t really played all too much in those seasons. Specifically, he largely played special teams during his three years at Penn State, seeing snaps as a tight end in only three total games and logging only 3 receptions for 26 yards. Following his third year at Penn State, Kuntz transferred to Old Dominion where he played 13 games in 2021 before getting hurt in the 5th game of the 2022 season. Because of this Kuntz has only played 21 games at tight end with most of tape his occurring in the 2021 season.
As one might guess from the writeup above, Kuntz did not produce much across his college year or within his most recent season. With that said, he did produce a lot during his 2021 year with 73 catches, 692 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Overall, this output suggests that Kuntz either has other deficiencies that Penn State would not work around or that he he improved rather suddenly between the 2020 and 2021 seasons when he transferred. I’m inclined to assume that it’s a little of both, which makes his PFF grades of particular interest for the sake of evaluating his performance.
2022 and 2021 Performance per ProFootballFocus:
- Overall grade: 69.5
- Receiving grade: 67.3
- Run block grade: 67.5
- Overall grade: 77.5
- Receiving grade: 78.1
- Run block grade: 60.7
Overall, PFF viewed Kuntz pretty favorably in his limited play time at Old Dominion. Specifically, they regarded him as a rather balanced tight end who was solid in both the pass and run game. Putting together his counting stats and his PFF grades, Kuntz seems like a talented player with significant upside even if he hasn’t played much.
Kuntz’ analytic screams “superstar.” He’s a super athlete with high potential in both the pass and run game. Additionally, his combine performance puts to rest any concerns about his current health following his injury, so we can rule out any short-term injury concerns. However, this profile should give us pause given that he was available in the 7th round because there’s pretty much no reason in this profile that explains why he was still there. This leaves us with two main lines of thought as to why he fell:
- There are long term injury risks. Just because Kuntz is healthy now does not mean he’s necessarily build to “hold up” over time, and a potential high likelihood of injury risk has caused guys to slide down the board before. We saw this recently with Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Trey Smith, who fell to the 7th round due to blood clots and then started at a high level as a rookie.
- There is something in his game that doesn’t translate to the NFL level. This might be a bit more likely given Penn State seemingly had no interest in letting him play. This is notable because teams typically err on the side of letting superathletes have too many changes, not too few like Kuntz did.
Given all of this, I’m tentatively optimistic on Kuntz long-term because of his upside is so large and the cost to acquire (7th round pick) is so low; I think he could very well be a steal in a few years, but I struggle to have too high of hopes for a superathlete that every team passed on repeatedly on just Day 3, including the Jets.