The tight end position seems to have a lot of question marks in Duval this offseason. About a week ago, ESPN writer Mike Dirocco wrote that the Jaguars should or could cut Julius Thomas, who signed a 5-year, $46 Million contract in 2015. The headlines ended up implying that the team planned on cutting Thomas, however that was mainly clickbait. I could never find any source that claimed this roster move as an actual plan, besides Dirocco’s opinion. The future of Thomas in Duval will remain a question, but I doubt that Caldwell and Coughlin pull the trigger; I would be surprised if Julius Thomas did not return for his third season in Jacksonville. Nonetheless, his production has been extremely underwhelming. He has been riddled with injuries, and does not produce well even when healthy. Thomas played in 12 games in 2015 while tallying 455 yards. 2016 was even worse, as Thomas only played in 9 games and finished with 281 yards.
Marcedes Lewis has been a reliable Jaguar for years, but the 32 year old may not have much left in the tank. There has been no news as to the future of Lewis, but I expect him to play for one or two more years. Ben Koyack also got some time on the field when both Lewis and Thomas were sent to Injured Reserve. His play was minimal, but the difference between him and Thomas wasn't all that noticeable, save Koyack's ability to block. Rounding out the unit are Alex Ellis, who joined the team during the season and mainly played Special Teams, and Neal Sterling, who contributed little, in addition to two depth players in Gannon Sinclair and E.J. Bibbs. Now let’s look at some potential targets for the Jags. I doubt we spend our first or second round picks on a TE, so that excludes the positional leaders such as O.J. Howard from Alabama and David Njoku from Miami (FL), but I still see some great targets in the middle rounds.
Target 1: Jake Butt, Michigan
Jake Butt was a contributor for the Wolverines for all four of his years. Many early 2016 mocks estimated he could be picked about Round 2, until he decided to return for his Senior year. Currently, he is ranked as about a third to fourth rounder, some of which is due to his ACL tear in the Orange Bowl. He should be good to go by the tim the season rolls around, assuming his recovery goes well. If Butt fell to Round 4, I would say that he is worth a consideration.
Target 2: Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
Recruited as a QB out of high school, this 6’7'' tight end is projected around the late second, but the possibility of a slip to Jacksonville in Round 3 is very possible. Hodges’ finished with only 691 receiving yards in 2016, but his pure athleticism and strength make him an excellent prospect for the NFL.
Target 3: Jordan Leggett, Clemson
Leggett has a history of playing big in big games, finishing with 95 yards on 7 receptions in the most recent National Championship game. Jordan Leggett can be a very versatile player, as both a blocker and pass catcher. I would expect him to end up being taken in the third or fourth round.
There's no telling what will happen with the Jaguars tight end position this offseason, but if Thomas or Lewis are shown the door then the Jaguars could be looking to replace them with one of the many talented tight ends in the 2017 draft class.
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