JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If the Jacksonville Jaguars are targeting a tight end in the early rounds of the NFL draft, expect it to be one that can make a significant impact in the run game.
Being able to block is a major requirement for a tight end in the Jaguars’ run-oriented offense, though finding one that’s capable at blocking as well as a good receiver isn’t easy in the age of college spread offenses and specialization.
“You can find some guys that are a little bit on the lighter side that can do the pass aspect of the game and do some of the blocking aspect,” executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin said. “In that case you would hope the guy would fill in as you would in pass protection roles like a back does. But to be able to say that this guy’s at the point [of attack on the line of scrimmage] and he’s coming off the ball and you can play him in those situations and eventually into even third down, that’s tough.”
There are only two tight ends that fit that bill: South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert. Hurst (6-foot-3, 250 pounds), who attended high school in Jacksonville, caught 100 passes for 1,281 yards and three touchdowns in three seasons with the Gamecocks after playing two seasons of minor league baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Goedert (6-5, 256 pounds) caught 198 passes -- including 92 in 2016 -- for 2,988 yards and 21 touchdowns in four seasons with the Jackrabbits.
Hurst was used more as a blocker than Goedert, who was moved all over the field as the Jackrabbits’ best offensive player, but he has shown that he can be effective on the second level.
The Jaguars added Niles Paul and Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency -- though Paul was signed as more of a special teams player -- but cut 12-year veteran Marcedes Lewis, who was always a better blocker than receiver. The Jaguars believe Seferian-Jenkins can be a solid blocker but Ben Koyack, James O'Shaughnessy, and David Grinnage are young players that haven’t proven they can help significantly there.
It’s not out of the question for the Jaguars to use the 29th overall pick on either Hurst or Goedert. It’s certainly not a definitive indication that the Jaguars are leaning that way, but Coughlin was the most animated during his pre-draft media availability when talking about the tight ends.
“We want to run the ball, so to run the ball we need a little bit more power in the back pocket, to come off the ball, do all the combination work, spend time doing it, just practice doing it rather than being involved [primarily] in the pass game,” Coughlin said. “Not easy to find but they’re out there. You may have to give a little it because sometimes it’s going to be a kid that’s a bigger kid, for example, and not quite as fast so you’ve got to make a call on exactly what his role would be, how much you’re going to be in that personnel combination, and that determines the value of where you take the guy.”