Breakout Potential: Will Austin Seferian-Jenkins Be The Next Breakout Tight End?

by Ray Kuhn

Unless you drafted Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas or Rob Gronkowski, it is very likely that you are in the position of streaming tight ends. With any luck you didn’t waste a high draft choice on the likes of Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron or Jason Witten, and instead went with any number of the young, sleeper tight ends that were available.

This is not to discount solid veteran options like Heath Miller and Owen Daniels (now with Dennis Pitta sidelined), but youth is key at the tight end position. We know that rookie tight ends in the past have had a learning curve, but the expectations and roles have changed in the past few season. In general it has become more about pass catching ability than anything else, and that has helped ease the transition a little bit.

Tampa Bay drafted physical specimen Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round this spring and, despite his talent, expectations for this season were kept at a reasonable minimum. The Buccaneers also had plodder Brandon Myers at their disposal, and Tim Wright was also expected to be an option (prior to his trade to New England for Logan Mankins).

What was evident with Tampa’s draft this season, they took Mike Evans in the first round, is that they wanted to get more athletic in the passing game.  For now it appears that the Josh McCown experiment is over with Mike Glennon back under center, and Seferian-Jenkins also appears to finally be healthy. He caught one pass for 26 yards in his debut, prior to missing Weeks 2 & 3 with an ankle injury.

The rookie returned last week for Tampa’s upset of Pittsburgh and he caught three passes for 44 yards on seven targets. More importantly, Seferian-Jenkins was on the field for all of the Buccaneeers’ snaps. Myers, who has 15 targets on the season, was only targeted once and he was on the field for less than 30% of the offensive snaps. So at the tight end position, it certainly appears that Lovie Smith has no reservations about elevating his rookie tight to the top of the depth chart and Glennon also appears to be comfortable with him.

Beyond Evans and Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay is not especially deep at wide receiver. That was evident this past week as Louis Murphy took on a big role as part of the Buccaneeers’ offense. Now with Evans slated to miss the next few weeks, there is an even greater need for a receiving option to step up.

It may take a few games for it to fully take effect, but Seferian-Jenkins is set up perfectly to be that guy.  Based on last week he has surpassed Myers, and Smith doesn’t appear to be afraid to incorporate him into the game plan.  Between the 20’s, I would expect a good portion of Evans’ opportunities to fall to Murphy at first, but the red zone is likely where Seferian-Jenkins will have the most value.

This week Tampa Bay takes on the Saints and their defense which has been less than stellar on the season. However, they have had success holding opposing tight ends to just 159 yards and one touchdown on 17 catches. However they faced Levine Toilolo, a struggling Jason Witten and the Vikings and Browns, who are battling injuries at the tight end position.

For the next few weeks it would be foolhardy to truly expect big things from Seferian-Jenkins, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him reach double digits in fantasy points. With only two teams on bye this week there are likely better alternatives available, but he is a cheap option for Daily Fantasy and also worth a look in deeper leagues. However, I would expect that to change over the next few weeks.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 5 rankings:

Week 5 Observations & Musings: Should We Sell McCoy, Newton's Struggles & More
Fantasy Outlook: What Should Be Expected Of Kyle Orton & Sammy Watkins

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