Currently the Washington Redskins have three tight ends under contract, and are said to be looking to bring about five tight ends to camp. Though not signed I will include Fred Davis and Chris Cooley in this mix given their history with the Redskins and fan support. Here is how they rank, including predictions for where they end-up. Tiers are based off of what their expected value is for 2013, due to a combination of past production and likely potential. Overall potential, or contract status is not really taken into account.
Description: Top level starter, absolute lock to both make the team and start. Won’t face any competition for his job.
Description: Quality starter who may have some minor struggles in a given year, but overall is a good football player. Should both easily make the team and start.
Now some may want to put Davis in the top Tier, but that really is only for elite players at their position and Fred Davis just simply isn’t that. Even if you ignored the injury and off the field issues, Davis isn’t a top tier tight end. He’s been a poor blocker throughout his career (which hurts more in Washington, than say a team that didn’t run the ball more than 50% of the time), and his production has been streaky at best. Even his pass catching ability has question marks as he’s had streaky hands and has never been a good route runner. He also has never made much of an impact in the red zone. Add in the fact that he’s coming off an October Achilles injury and you have a player who may even be a better fit for Tier 3 next season. Achilles injuries are one of the worst to come back from, with players many times losing speed and burst that they never regain. Davis is still a free agent, but may be the case where he actually means more to another team than the Redskins.
Description: Passable starter, can play the position and be okay, but won’t consistently play at a high level. Will be streaky throughout the season and over the course of many seasons. Depending on position would be better served as a good role player, or would be the best reserve player at a position. Should make the team, though not a lock and should face competition for a starting job.
-Paulsen was once again thrust into the starting role after Fred Davis went down with injury last year. Paulsen ended up with 25 catches and 300+ yards for the year, Almost of of which came after the Davis injury. Paulsen’s 12.3 yards per catch were not as good as Fred Davis’s 13.5, but very much in the ball park. The real area where Paulsen set himself apart was his blocking. He was a far better blocker across the board (run, pass, screens, down field), and was extremely valuable to the Redskins running game success. Paulsen will always be a bit more limited in the passing game, but for the most part was effective last year. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be a good receiving tight end, but he’s at least solid, and he may be a better red zone target given how he uses his size.
Description: Replacement level starter. This is a guy who could start in a pinch or as a long-term injury replacement but will max out as an average starter, and will probably be below average. He’s a guy who could be okay as a short term filler, but over an extended period will struggle. Depending on position could be a solid player, or would be a good back-up. Has a decent chance to make the team, and could get a look at a starting job, but nothing is set in stone for him.
-Cooley was tough to place. Obviously after the last two years Tier 5 or lower would make some sense, but in 2010 and prior he was among the higher end Tier 2 tight ends. While it may be asking a lot, but with a longer window to get into shape and recover from injuries he may show he still has something left in the tank. Cooley was always a reliable receiving option with good hands, awareness and nice route running ability. Though not a good blocker, he was always a guy who would continue to battle in the trenches. Cooley has also shown some ability to back-up the fullback position as well. He’s not signed, but if Fred Davis leaves the team might sign him as essentially a camp invite, but his chances of making the team would be murky at best.
Description: Solid back-up caliber player. Shouldn’t really ever start, and would be below average in that capacity, but can be a short term injury replacement. Shouldn’t even be much of a role player depending on the position, their best value is in their reliability as a replacement. Depending on the position, should be capable of backing up multiple positions or roles to increase their value. Has a chance to make the team, but really shouldn’t be considered a starting option at all.
-Paul was a receiver in college and worked as one as a 5th round rookie as well in 2011. Though he never showed much as a pass catcher, Paul got a fair amount of playing time as a rookie given how strong of a blocker he was. The team decided to move him to tight end this past year, and the results were mixed. His blocking continued to prove to be an asset and being put in a better position to do so helped. His receiving continued to be streaky, though he did show some ability to stretch the field as 5 of his 8 receptions went for 21 yards or more. If he can develop into a movement tight end that actually blocks the Redskins could have a find on their hands. Even if his pass catching ability doesn’t develop, he’s pretty assured a roster spot given his special teams ability and blocking skills.
-Peterson was an undrafted movement tight end out of LSU last year who was on the Redskins practice squad. He was signed to a reserve contract keeping him to compete for a spot this year. Though he didn’t produce much in college, much of that can be blamed on the fact that LSU has had poor quarterback play and rarely throws the football. His combine numbers didn’t wow people, but he had a nice Senior Bowl week in 2012 where he was coached by the Redskins staff. He was a guy who needed to add some bulk and hone his blocking and route running skills, but could be an intriguing guy in camp. He has some interesting potential, and while it may be a long way off he could stick as a third tight end if the Redskins don’t re-sign Davis.
Description: Replacement level player. Not considered at all for a starting role, and isn’t even considered a viable back-up. Really only has a shot to make the team if injuries thin out the competition. Overall has a poor chance to make a roster, and is a player who will likely be replaced during the season.
What do you think? How would you rank the Redskins tight end options? And do you think they should look to upgrade?