Well, I did not plan on addressing Austin Seferian-Jenkins in a ‘Rewind’ report this year…in a ‘Rehab’ report, maybe, but I did not expect to be taking him seriously for fantasy football 2017+.
You probably know what’s happened since the disastrous end to his 2016 season, A season where he was cut by his original draft team, Tampa Bay, two games into the 2016 season and then picked up by the Jets, only to play/be active for seven unimpressive games. He was cut by Tampa for run-ins with the coaches and sloppy practice/play overall, and obviously, off-field issues (DUI) were a part of the problem.
In the last few months, stories have leaked out about how Austin Seferian-Jenkins has re-committed himself to football – getting sober and getting into the best shape of his life. If that’s not true, then Seferian-Jenkins is going to end up like Michael Floyd. But for the sake of this discussion, I want to assume this ‘turnaround’ is true – and consider what happens for fantasy if ASJ really is focused on football and in the best shape of his life?
When I ask myself that question, I’ve then had a follow-up thought – how good was Seferian-Jenkins anyway? I remember him being an exciting thing for the 2014 NFL Draft, but he lost draft momentum with a poor final college season and off the field dustups with the coaches. Seferian-Jenkins was probably a top 20 overall prospect but fell to pick #38 because of the known issues…issues that manifested themselves quickly in the NFL and put his career in jeopardy.
I didn’t want to rely on my memories of scouting Seferian-Jenkins for the NFL Draft alone. I remember that guy quite vividly – I have often described 2012 ASJ as the love child of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. An athlete like Graham with that WR/TE vibe as a receiver, but the physically imposing size/power of Gronkowski. When you describe a tight end prospect like that – you’re talking about one of the five best tight end talents roaming around the NFL/earth. No one, today, thinks ASJ is a top-five tight end talent. No one thinks much of him at all.
College Austin Seferian-Jenkins was impressive – physically dominating defenders and coverage. He had terrific receiving numbers for a pure, classic NFL-style tight end prospect in college. His measurables confirmed a potential star – probably needed to shave about 10–15+ pounds to become that star. I have these great memories and notes on college ASJ, but I don’t remember much of his NFL work fulfilling the prophecy. Was it because he wasn’t as good as my scouting models said or tape watching foretold…or was it all the off-field/attitude issues?
Before I assumed Seferian-Jenkins had a poor NFL run to date, I wanted to go back/rewind the tape and look at his 2014–2015–2016 seasons looking for clues on whether any of us should care about a cleaned up ASJ.
Before I describe what I saw on tape, a quick review of the numbers…to kind of prime the pump for this…
— The first 16 games of his career: 42 catches, 559 yards, and 6 TDs…not bad from a young TE on bad teams.
— His 2015 season, 7 games, extrapolated into a 16-game season: 48 catches, 772 yards, 9 TDs…not bad, considering it was with erratic rookie year Jameis Winston.
Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t been empty in the NFL. He’s done solid work but faded off in 2016 with all the issues.
What I saw on tape was, at times, a physically imposing tight end. I mean that more than just a cliché statement. There’s something about Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Between his massive size and his attitude, I think defensive players are afraid of him…in a sense. Seferian-Jenkins plays football like he’s pissed off at the world. He seems like a guy who could snap at any moment – and I think that’s why he fell in the NFL Draft, but also why he’s had a decent run in the NFL when he’s played – he has ‘an edge’. That ‘edge’ has hurt him in the NFL, on the field, as well, with penalties for throwing the ball in anger, etc.
Consider Seferian-Jenkins has been stuck with the Tampa Bay Bucs for most of his career. The past two seasons mostly with Jameis Winston – Seferian-Jenkins’ best NFL season was with rookie Winston, which was an awful Jameis Winston circa 2015. Seferian-Jenkins still put up numbers working with the erratic rookie QB. As I watch the tape, Seferian-Jenkins could’ve caught 5+ passes a game with Winston in 2015…if Winston were a meticulous passing QB and not a crazed gunslinger. Seferian-Jenkins is almost always open a la Antonio Gates. ASJ is just so physically imposing, with nice athleticism, that he just runs simple inside routes and either beat linebackers in coverage or puts the coverage on his back and boxes them out for an easy target…a physically gigantic target to throw to.
I walk away from the table watching thinking that Seferian-Jenkins is more Antonio Gates than the Rob Gronkowski–Jimmy Graham love child. However, the ‘love child’ is on the table – if he gets into shape and drops down to around 260+ pounds (as apparently, he has). He’s played as high as 280+ pounds. Seferian-Jenkins has the size, hands, awareness to be a dominant NFL tight end…if he works with a quarterback that can help make it happen. That’s where the dilemma comes in – is Josh McCownthat QB? Those two worked together some in Tampa Bay in ASJ’s rookie season.
Perhaps, Seferian-Jenkins will work fine with McCown, but what if McCown is benched in another disastrous Jets season, one where they want to take a look at the Christian Hackenberg partway into the season? If Hackenberg takes over, it might not matter how glowing my scouting of Seferian-Jenkins is — that won’t matter for fantasy because Hackenberg is the worst.
You have to assume, eventually, the Jets will upgrade their QB play in some way, shape, or form. When they do, they have an all-Pro talent waiting to get lit.
If you trust Austin Seferian-Jenkins getting/staying mentally and physically healthy, then you have to love his outlook for Dynasty 2018 and beyond. As far as 2017 goes, I’m cautious and very intrigued. No matter how bad the QB play is – in ‘tip top shape’ Seferian-Jenkins is going to be of some fantasy value as the hands-down starter getting all the TE targets for the Jets team that will likely be down often and throwing the ball a bunch. If it was not for the two games suspension to start this 2017 season, you could make the argument that ASJ could be a back-end TE1 ranking for 2017. However, considering you lose two games right off the bat…then you’re potentially two games closer to Christian Hackenberg. Plus, the fact that we only hear Seferian-Jenkins is all cleaned up – we haven’t seen it yet – so we can only rank him TE2 with upside.
I like the investment in Seferian-Jenkins as a TE 2/TE3 in the 2017 fantasy preseason because the moment people see and in-shape ASJ making plays in August…the media is going to run wild with the story and his fantasy value is going to skyrocket. People tend to believe that Seferian-Jenkins is a top 10 TE talent, they just need the skids greased a little bit to buy it for fantasy. Training camp videos/rumors and/or a Week 1 preseason touchdown could be that ‘grease’
Seferian-Jenkins could work for fantasy 2017…and this could really be big in another year/under different management with the Jets. The investment today, for dynasty, is worth it to sit on him and see how this all plays out. It’s not going to cost you much.