An underrated position, the tight end position is a versatile tool for an offensive guru and the ultimate security blanket for new quarterbacks. In keeping with that fact, all of the top five play for offensive minded coaches and three of the five will be catching passes for new quarterbacks which should provide them plenty of opportunities to make plays. Another interesting aspect regarding the position is the strength it holds in the PAC 12 with Seferian–Jenkins, Lyerla, and Grimble all playing in that conference. Here are the top five:
1. Austin Seferian–Jenkins 6’6″ 267lbs. Washington, Junior– There is no question who is at the top of this group as Seferian–Jenkins easily stands alone as the nations premier tight end. Possessing great size, the Washington Huskie hauled in 69 catches for 850 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He adjusts to the ball well and presents a great target for senior quarterback Keith Price which is why, in just two years, he has already broken every major statistical record for tight ends at the school. Although he is not a considered to be the speedster that some on this list are, Seferian–Jenkins has also played basketball for Washington and shows skills learned on the court in how he uses his body to position himself and catch the football. On the downside, an offseason DUI could delay or even end his 2013 campaign before it even gets started.
2. Colt Lyerla 6’5″ 245lbs. Oregon, Junior– Lyerla is a dynamic athlete and figures to be used more prominently in the Ducks offense in 2013 with Mark Helfrich in his first season. Nevertheless, he caught six touchdown passes last season and even scored a seventh on one of his thirteen carries out of the backfield in 2012. In his second season, look for sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota to target the man who many consider the best NFL prospect, from an athletic standpoint, at his position. It is this athleticism that makes him a versatile weapon who can line up anywhere on the field. With significant growth expected in his junior season, Lyerla could end up as the nation’s best if Seferian–Jenkins cannot suite up this year.
3. C.J. Fiedorowicz 6’7″ 265lbs. Iowa, Senior– The Hawkeye is a bigger, better blocker than the others, but may be a little behind athletically. Nevertheless, the massive target had 433 yards receiving last year which was still good enough for third for the struggling Iowa team, and his vertical speed is more than adequate to cover for his lack of agility. Moreover, the physical traits he possesses will translate well into the next level as an elite, physical blocker, and he should have plenty of opportunities to showcase his pass catching abilities as the Hawkeyes break in a new quarterback in 2013.
4. Xavier Grimble 6’5″ 255lbs. USC, Junior– Lane Kiffin may not know whether Max Wittek or Cody Kessler will ultimately be the starter for the Trojans, but it is clear who their security blanket is going to be. Although the program has stockpiled talent at the tight end position, Grimble managed 316 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns in 2012. Now, with Robert Woods gone and the team breaking in a new quarterback, he figures to play an even more prominent role. A smooth runner and more than adequate blocker, Grimble may be the most complete tight end outside of Seferian–Jenkins.
5. C.J. Uzomah 6’4″ 250lbs. Auburn, Junior– After playing behind Philip Lutzenkirchen the past two seasons, Uzomah figures to be one of the nation’s best in 2013. In fact, it would not be a surprise to see the tight end lead the team in every major receiving category this season. A former quarterback capable of spreading the field with his speed and providing a big end zone target for new quarterback Nick Marshall, Uzomah is exactly the kind of weapon Gus Malzahn needs in order to be successful with the Tigers. The new Auburn tight end may be the surprise on this list due to lack of playing time thus far, but athletic ability, understanding of the game, fit in the offense, need coinciding with a new quarterback, and the flashes he showed against Texas A&M makes Uzomah a possibility to be even higher on this list by season’s end.
Honorable Mention: Kaneakua Friel (BYU) Sr., Eric Ebron (North Carolina) Jr., Arthur Lynch (UGA) Sr., Marcel Jensen (Fresno State) Sr., Jacob Pedersen (Wisconsin) Sr.
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