Boom-or-Bust Talent Has Plenty to Prove as Jets’ Rookies Report

Kenny Yeboah

Getty New York Jets tight end Kenny Yeboah stiff-arms a defender with Temple on November 30, 2019.

Today (July 20, 2021), we are one step closer to seeing Zach Wilson and this 2021 class in action as the New York Jets rookies officially report back to Florham Park.

Most of these prospects have received their fair share of publicity throughout the spring but one first-year player, in particular, has had a fortuitous blend of hype and opportunity. I’m talking about undrafted free-agent Kenny Yeboah.

The Jets’ tight end room might be the weakest area on the roster at this moment. The headliners are Chris Herndon and free-agent signing Tyler Kroft.

The former (Herndon) was a rookie standout with Gang Green in search of redemption after two horrendous campaigns since 2018. The latter (Kroft) is a journeyman veteran that profiles more as a secondary tight end. He’s a plus-inline blocker that could prove helpful in this rushing attack.

Outside of those two and Yeboah, the final three tight-end options are projected starting fullback Trevon Wesco, blocker/safety net Ryan Griffin, and special teams ace Daniel Brown.

There’s plenty about this situation that bodes well for the rookie, which even he admitted during an interview with team reporter Eric Allen.

“I felt like the Jets would be a great opportunity,” explained Yeboah, “everything is new, it’s a new culture. They’re starting to make a new brand for the Jets, so I just want to be a part of that honestly.” He described the Green and White as the “perfect fit.”

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Yeboah Has Clear Potential but Lacks Consistency

During his first three seasons of college ball, Yeboah played with the Temple Owls under three different head coaches and “a lot of different systems.” That can be tough on the development of a young prospect.

Yeboah also told Allen that “it was exciting to be able to showcase [his] abilities as a pass-catcher at Ole Miss,” being that Temple used him as a blocker most snaps.

Judging by the 524 receiving yards (19.4 yards per catch) and six touchdowns during his senior year (and first campaign) under Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss, it was obvious that Yeboah had some untapped potential. Kiffin began to scratch the surface, while Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur plans to unlock him completely.

As a priority UDFA for Joe Douglas, Yeboah’s status is higher than the typical undrafted prospect. This comes with added expectations, which can translate into extra pressure.

The tight end’s spring at OTAs was a carbon copy of his initial scouting report. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein described Yeboah as “a bit of an enigma as a pass-catcher with below-average catch focus, leading to drops on simple throws.”

He added: “However, he possesses above-average ball skills on contested throws downfield.” Zierlein also touted the Ole Miss product’s “build-up speed” and “big-play capability.”

In other words, Yeboah tends to demonstrate boom-or-bust qualities.

Another Jets tight end shares a similar disposition. Herndon has been the king of dropping and fumbling in crucial moments while flashing his raw skillset in others. Gang Green will need consistency at this position in 2021 with a rookie quarterback under center.

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Ability as a Space-Blocker Helps Roster Chances

Zierlein referred to Yeboah as a “move tight end,” noting his ability to block in space rather than inline like Kroft or Griffin.

Jordan Reid of The Draft Network also called him “an acceptable run blocker.” He elaborated: “[Yeboah] can sustain against single blocks as the end man on the scrimmage as well as a wrap blocker on various type of gap scheme concepts.”

These traits could fit well with the outside-zone scheme that LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton operate. This system requires blockers to move laterally and focus on spaces or zones of the field, instead of specific players.

Yeboah feels like more of a developmental prospect than some Jets fans may have initially expected, but he should have a protected spot with this franchise either way — whether on the 53-man roster or the practice squad.

Considering the lack of depth at tight end and the extra dough that Douglas dished out to get him, don’t expect the Jets to allow another team to claim this rookie off waivers. I still have him pegged as the fifth tight end on the roster over Brown at the moment, and that may not be enough to make the Week 1 group.

Including Wesco at fullback, the Jets may only have room for four tight ends.

My personal projections for the NYJ depth chart at the position are as follows:

  • TE-1A: Kroft, utilized on early downs and rushing attempts.
  • TE-1B: Herndon, utilized on passing downs and spread formations.
  • FB: Wesco, LaFleur likes to employ a dedicated FB and this is the most likely guy to do it. Could also challenge Griffin as the secondary blocking TE.
  • TE-2A: Griffin, blocking backup to Kroft that could start on two-TE jumbo formations, but could also lose out on a roster spot to the more versatile Wesco.
  • TE-2B: Yeboah, if the Jets go blocker-heavy at TE, there may not be enough room for the rookie. If they go for explosiveness and upside, he’ll become Herndon’s understudy.
  • Depth/Special Teams: Brown, unlikely to make the roster.

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