When people think of some of the Colts’ major needs this offseason, you usually will not hear tight end mentioned. Running back, defensive line, offensive line, linebacker, and even sometimes wide receiver are all positions you will hear more often. Those are more pressing needs than tight end, but the fact that the media completely ignores tight end is baffling.
Frank Reich’s Eagles offense put a large emphasis on the tight end position. Their two primary tight ends, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, were both prolific last season. They combined for 1072 yards and 13 touchdowns. This accounts for 27% of their total passing yards, and 34% of their total passing touchdowns. This is a huge percent of their offense and something that Reich will undoubtedly look to incorporate into the Colts offense in 2018. In 2016, Andrew Luck targeted his feature tight end, Jack Doyle, 75 times, good for second on the team. Assuming Luck is healthy by the start of the season, tight ends will be a large facet of the Colts’ offense.
On the Colts’ current roster, the tight ends include Doyle, Erik Swoope, Brandon Williams, Darrell Daniels, Jason Vander Laan, and Ross Travis. This may seem like decent depth, but when you dig deeper, it is quite lacking. Vander Laan and Travis are both practice squad players who had roles last season due to injuries. Daniels is a player with a lot of potential as a receiver, but a very low floor as well. Williams is a free agent who may never be the same after his gruesome injury last season.
Erik Swoope has all of the tools to be an excellent receiving tight end. His 6’5, 246-pound frame combined with his good speed, agility, and quickness makes for a great player. But, Swoope cannot seem to stay healthy. He has only played one full season and played fairly well. Doyle made the Pro Bowl this season as an injury replacement, with 690 yards and four touchdowns. Doyle is a great run blocker with good hands, but will never be the elite receiving option that Andrew Luck needs. Even if Doyle is good enough, Reich loves to run two tight end sets. All of this being said, the Colts need to address the tight end spot this offseason. Let’s look at the tight end options in free agency and the draft.
It is more likely that the Colts sign a tight end than they draft one due to the many tight ends in the free agent pool.
The first player the Colts could target is the former Eagle, 26-year-old Trey Burton. Burton will look to test free agency this season after backing up Zach Ertz on the Super Bowl-winning Eagles team. Burton has a large role on the Eagles, but will never be the number one tight end due to Ertz. Last season, Burton only started one game and was targeted 31 times, and made the most of his chances with 248 yards, 23 catches, and five touchdowns. Trey Burton is a bit undersized, but has excellent athleticism and hands, and will make an excellent receiving threat in the Colts offense. Per Spotrac, Burton projects to make $7 million per year, which is a bit pricey, but the Colts have money to spend. Burton is also obviously familiar with Frank Reich, and will assimilate into the offense seamlessly.
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Seferian-Jenkins is a far more underrated and cheap option than Burton. Seferian-Jenkins has had a fairly poor career compared to what he was expected of. Drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay, the 6’6 tight end with great speed, agility, catching, and route running ability was supposed to be a major asset on an NFL offense. Despite this, off of the field issues have killed his career. Seferian-Jenkins has reportedly asked the Jets for a $7 million per year contract, but I doubt he gets that much. If he does not get the money he wishes for, the Colts could take a chance on the tight end on a cheap deal.
Jimmy Graham is the least likely player to be signed by the Colts. Graham will likely garner a lot of attention in free agency, and therefore ask for quite a bit of money. Spotrac projects his salary to be only $6.7 million, I expect some team to offer him quite a bit more than that. The Colts’ may also want to avoid him due to the fact that he is 31. If the Colts do acquire Graham, he will provide a huge boon to their aerial attack. It is not that far-fetched to argue that Graham is would be the most talented player Luck has ever thrown to. Jimmy Graham would stifle opposing defenses but may be a bit too pricey for Chris Ballard to pull the trigger.
The Colts will not likely spend an early round pick on a tight end, but there are many solid options in the mid-late rounds.
Dalton Schultz could be the next of the bevy of tight ends that Stanford has produced, including Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener, and Austin Hooper. Schultz is an excellent run blocker with good route running and quickness. He lacks in top-end speed and may struggle to separate on the next level. Schultz projects to be drafted in the third or fourth round and could be a decent mid-round option for the Colts.
Goedert is a small school tight end who could be an excellent receiving threat in the NFL. He runs great routes in the short and intermediate part of the field and has good speed on deep routes. Goedert plays with good strength but is not an excellent run blocker. Goedert’s production in the NFL will depend on his ability to dominate against high-level competition and to refine his skills and increase his effort level. Goedert projects in the second or third round, so he may be out of the Colts’ reach. If he does land in Indianapolis, he will surely be a major asset in the Colts’ offense.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_ and @FPC_Colts.