The tight end position was a wasteland for fantasy points in 2017 as Travis Kelce (32) and Rob Gronkowski (36) were the only two to finish inside the top 50 in PPR scoring. Thus, dynasty owners are faced with a choice; spend a high startup pick/valuable trade assets on a stud or search for hidden value deeper at the position. Those opting for the latter should set their sights on Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
From a statistical perspective, Seferian-Jenkins has had a somewhat pedestrian start to his NFL career. However, the fourth-year pro from the University of Washington has achieved the type of personal growth and inner peace that won’t be found in the box score.
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Statistics from Pro Football Reference.
During his first two seasons in Tampa, ASJ showed flashes of his immense athletic potential but clashed with the coaching staff. In September of 2016, he was arrested for DUI (his second in four years) and released. He was immediately claimed off waivers by the Jets and didn’t truly acknowledge he needed a lifestyle change, specifically from his alcohol dependency, until a season-ending injury in a Christmas Eve 41-3 rout by the Patriots.
He went into the 2017 off-season at 260 pounds and ready to change both his anatomical and emotional health. He spent that 2017 summer at the home of his agent in Henderson, Nevada where he did everything from hot Pilates to mall-walking to get his body into shape losing 33 pounds. Most importantly, ASJ committed to his sobriety and looked to enter the 2017 season in the best physical and spiritual shape of his entire life.
After serving a two-game suspension from the NFL for his DUI arrest, Seferian-Jenkins’ renewed focus and energy produced sturdy results on the field. From weeks three-ten, he turned 50 targets into 39 receptions, 288 receiving yards, and three touchdowns; becoming both an aerial weapon for the Jets and a reliable streaming option for fantasy football.
Both Jets fans and fantasy footballers alike will be quick to remind you Austin Seferian-Jenkins should have one more touchdown added to that eight-game total. ASJ lost a score on a controversial call that overturned his apparent score into a possession-changing fumble. While pundits inside and outside of the Big Apple were screaming for the replay official’s head on a platter, Austin Seferian-Jenkins showed remarkable humility, blaming only himself for the fumble.
ASJ couldn’t build on his initial success in the final five games of the season, only posting 11 receptions for 69 yards and a goose egg in the touchdown department. While disappointed with this back-nine performance, the Jet took those games to improve upon his run-blocking and pass protection skills. The former University of Washington product also had another receiving touchdown overturned under dubious circumstances. Again, the tight end accepted responsibility for the drop and moved forward. Seferian-Jenkins’ calm, mature reactions to both these contentions rulings demonstrate the mark of not only a true professional but a man who has truly transformed his personal life.
2018 Off-season: A New Home
Celebrating a year of sobriety in late January was not the only thing on ASJ’s mind this past winter. The former Huskie entered into free agency coming off of his best statistical season. While there was mutual interest in a reunion with the Jets, Seferian-Jenkins signed a two-year deal worth $10 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At first glance, signing with a defensively stout, run-first team who targeted their tight ends the third-fewest times in the league in 2017 seems like a death blow to his dynasty value. However, a closer examination will show he is in the perfect situation to finally enter the TE1 fold.
A more maligned starting quarterback may not exist in both fantasy football and NFL circles than Blake Bortles. The UCF product has been plagued by wildly inconsistent play since joining the NFL in 2014. One of the biggest knocks on Bortles, even before the draft, was his arm strength or lack thereof.
These critics might be onto something. Bortles’ average completed Air Yards per target was in the bottom tenth of the NFL in 2017 at 5.9 yards per completion. Yet, this number is fantastic news for both ASJ and his dynasty owners. With the Jets last season, Seferian-Jenkins’ average targeted air yards per reception was the sixth lowest in the entire league at 6.4 yards per target. These analytics empirically demonstrate what savvy dynasty participants already know; Bortles and ASJ are a PPR match made in heaven.
Look for the 6’6 tight end to not only be Blake Bortles’ safety valve in the Jaguar aerial attack, but to consistently move the chains on third and three-to-five yards to go. His yardage totals may be low in any given week, but he should improve upon his four reception per game average from last season, giving his PPR owners a safer weekly floor.
Competition For Targets
For fantasy football purposes, the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver corps looks to be a jumbled mess. Without a true number one wide receiver, the expectation is for Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and DJ Chark to all cannibalize the fantasy upside of one another. While Seferian-Jenkins will technically be competing with the wide receiver fracus for targets, he should have the tight end position all to himself.
Niles Paul, Ben Koyack, and David Grinnage are nothing more than NFL backbenchers and offer little to no threat to ASJ’s fantasy upside. The Jaguars brought in the former New York Jet to be both a possession receiver and red-zone threat because they were less than enamored with the present options available. Given his offensive coordinator’s history, I would not be surprised to see ASJ leading the Jaguars in several receiving categories in 2018 and beyond.
Current Jacksonville offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has a history of designing an offense with a grab bag full of wide receivers and a big, sure-handed tight end. When he was in the same position with the Buffalo Bills for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the wide-bodied Scott Chandler manned the tight end position, averaging 75 targets, 50 receptions, 576 yards, and (just under) nine red zone targets per season. Chandler even led the team in receiving yards in 2013.
Notice how I only highlighted the red zone targets for Chandler. Unfortunately, the former Bills tight end was only able to convert those 17 looks into two touchdowns. With all due respect to Scott Chandler, he’s not in the same stratosphere as ASJ in the measurables department. Expect Hackett to feature the freakishly athletic Seferian-Jenkins (and his 89th percentile vertical jump) not only in the red zone but the short passing game as well. ASJ should improve upon his 12 RZ targets from last season and see anywhere from 14-16 this season: On par with weekly fantasy starters Kyle Rudolph and Delanie Walker.
So Far So Good
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ tenure so far with the Jaguars has only consisted of OTAs and Minicamp. Yet, the early reviews have been stellar.
Few thoughts from the #Jaguars' practice today: Barring injury, Austin Seferian-Jenkins should set a career high in receiving yards and touchdowns. He's looked that good.
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) June 7, 2018
The local media in Jacksonville are smitten with their new free agent signing. They believe ASJ can provide the offensive spark at tight end the team had been missing with the mediocre Marcedes Lewis in 2017. Nathaniel Hackett would agree as he believes Seferian-Jenkins will bring “another dimension” to the offense.
Now, I’ll be the first person to warn anybody about the dangers of reading to much into off-season coachspeak/media saber rattling regarding a player. However, when a tight end changes teams, is learning a new offensive scheme, trying to develop chemistry with his quarterback, etc., a glowing report out of minicamp is welcome news to dynasty owners.
According to DLF’s June Startup Dynasty ADP, Seferian-Jenkins is being drafted, on average, as the 20th tight end off the board and 163rd overall pick. He’s being selected after rookie tight ends Dallas Goedert and Hayden Hurst which is beyond puzzling to me. Goedert, while possessing tremendous upside, will be stuck with the fantasy crumbs behind Zach Ertz for a few years. Hurst not only has fellow rookie Mark Andrews to compete with for snaps, but is already 24 years old – just one year younger than ASJ without the NFL experience.
This lack of perceived value for ASJ comes from false narratives I’ve already poured cold water on; checkered past, bad landing spot in Jacksonville, lack of past TE1 seasons, etc. According to the Dynasty Trade Finder on DLF, the new Jacksonville tight end can be acquired for as cheap as Joe Williams or a 2019 fourth-round rookie pick! It should be the life’s mission of any tight end-starved dynasty owner to pounce and acquire Seferian-Jenkins in the next month while he’s still available at a discount.
While some in the dynasty community view Austin Seferian Jenkins’ battle with his addiction demons as a drawback, I couldn’t disagree more. When ASJ made a serious commitment to his sobriety, he simultaneously rededicated himself to football. While the results in 2017 were not earth-shattering, it was a fantastic first step. With Nathaniel Hackett and Doug Marrone manning the Buffalo offense in 2013, Scott Chandler finished as TE16. Look for the uber-talented Seferian-Jenkins to finish as TE10-TE14 this season (with a higher ceiling for the future) and finally live up to his enormous potential the dynasty world has noticed since 2014.
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