Just because you have the potential to get significant snaps in a position that was occupied by a future Hall of Famer does not necessarily equal success.
On April 10 2019, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ) signed a one-year deal with the Patriots which included a mega-bucks $50,000 signing bonus. In nine seasons Rob Gronkowski, who recently announced his retirement from the Patriots, earned over $53m in nine seasons. ASJ has earned a fifth of that in five years, and his one-year deal is costing the Pats the same as complete no-name tight-ends including Scott Simonson (Giants), Neal Sterling (Jets) and Logan Paulsen (Falcons).
ASJ was a 2014 second round (38th overall) draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was actually four spots above Gronk who went 42nd in 2010 draft.
As a rookie ASJ had little impact on the effectiveness of the 2014 Buccs, who went 2-14 under Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, managing 21 catches in 9 games, gaining 221 yards and two scores (both occurring in losses). ASJ lasted 11 games in his first NFL season, averaging 5.82 yards per target in the process.
In year two, ASJ matched exactly his catch output, but his YPC rose significantly from 10.5 to 16.1 per catch. This time ASJ was less durable, staying on the field for just 7 games. His four scores also came in four defeats.
Finally, in week one of his third season (2016), ASJ scored a touchdown in a victory (against the Falcons from a Jameis Winston pass). This was not that fortuitous as Tampa abruptly ditched ASJ after two games when it was revealed he was arrested for driving under the influence.
He was hastily picked up by the New York Jets through the waiver wire and started in the Big Apple in Week 5. He played 7 games for the Jets in 2016, including two losses to the Patriots, catching 2-26 combined in the games.
ASJ went on to have his best season, both statistically and health wise, in 2017, despite missing the first two games through suspension, snagging 50 receptions in 13 games including a season high 8 grabs in another loss to the Patriots.
The Jets then became the second team to ditch him, and he was picked up in March 2018 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was given a two-year $10m deal and anointed the starter, but again failed to make a significant impact.
ASJ played just 5 games, the lowest in his career, gaining a paltry 90 yards on 11 catches. His only 2018 touchdown was in a win against of all teams ….the Patriots. He went on injured reserve in October last year with a core muscle injury.
To summarise ASJ has been a bust. Five seasons has resulted in 43 games played from a possible 80, 116 catches, 1,160 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero playoff appearances.
He has been on the winning side in just 33% of the games he has played.
Games with over 100 receiving yards = 1
Games with 6+ catches = 3 (all 2017 with Jets)
Games with 8+ catches = 1
The Patriots are going to miss Gronk in a big way, but they have been effective without him, Bill and Tom find a way.
The Patriots do enjoy the challenge of turning base metal into gold, but this is one alchemy project that will be full of frustration and ultimately end in failure.
I get it. ASJ has not had the greatest of starts to his NFL career since that high investment pick from the Bucs in 2014. However, it’s been well documented that the bear like figure out of Washington has had a difficult time off the field with alcohol related problems.
After the DUI in 2016 which subsequently led to his dismissal from Tampa, ASJ has been on the straight and narrow since completing a stint in rehab. That fantastic personal turnaround was plain to see on the field too as he completed his most successful season to date in 2017 with the New York Jets.
Lawrence has already pointed out that his 6+ reception games all came in that year, as did his career high in targets (74) and yards (357). Although those statistics won’t blow anyone away, don’t forget that was with the uninspiring Josh McCown led 5-11 Jets.
Talking of Quarterbacks, let’s re-visit those who ASJ has had to put up with so far in his career. Josh McCown (again) with Mike Glennon in his rookie year and you’ll likely remember the hapless start that Jameis Winston had to his career for the following season and a half. Then it was back to McCown as previously mentioned in New York before finally being treated to the mess in Jacksonville under that “superstar” Blake Bortles which ended in the season ending core muscle injury. No, it’s not been nice for ASJ thus far in his career.
But now, finally, he strikes gold. Heading to the New England Patriots with a first ballot Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest QB of all time throwing him the ball, with no immediate threat within his position and somehow people don’t think his production will rise? Crazy.
Let’s start with the production. With the pass catchers that have left the Pats this off-season means there are around 150 receptions up for grabs if you go by last seasons’ stats. Around 50 of these are from the tight end position (Rob Gronkowski in 13 games, Jacob Hollister and Dwayne Allen).
I expect exciting talent N’Keal Harry will demand around half of those 150 unaccounted for receptions out wide with a minimal contribution, if any at all, from the other new receivers Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman.
I haven’t mentioned Ben Watson yet, I know, and for good reasons too. Firstly, he’s 38. Secondly, he’s suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Why? Because he had to take banned substances to help fix his broken body. Are you kidding me? For those of you that think Watson is going to bowl into Gillette Stadium and be Terrific Tom’s red zone man, do me a favor, forget it.
Am I saying ASJ will be the next Gronk and put up Gronkonian numbers? No. Am I saying there is plenty of upside there for him to be relevant in that offense, and relevant on your fantasy rosters? Definitely.
I currently have him slated down for just over 50 receptions and around 530 yards. But it’s the TD column where things get interesting. 12 TD’s from last years’ crop are up for grabs and are crying out for a big, bullying target to come claim at least some of them like whats has become the norm in Foxborough in recent history. Knowing the chemistry Brady had with Gronk, particularly in the end-zone, I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that ASJ can claim at least 6 of those.
At 6’5, 263 lbs (which, coincidentally is just 2 lbs lighter and 1 inch shorter than Gronk), ASJ fits the role of red zone target to a tee. With those 12 touchdowns from 2018 now unclaimed, ‘Hercules’ (yes, that’s his nickname) could well be that guy.
I’ve not even mentioned yet why I am all aboard this mini hype train either. It’s his ADP. He isn’t being drafted. He’s completely free. You can quite happily select your D/ST and Kicker before you need to pick ASJ up with your last pick as your TE2.
In a landscape where anyone not named Kelce, Ertz or Kittle can find themselves in the next tier of fantasy tight ends, what have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing. If he stinks and i’m completely wrong, you can throw him back to the waivers and pick up another flyer, BUT… if he hits and I am right, you have the ceiling of Rob Gronkowski and you won’t have sacrificed a single thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact.
by Lawrence Vos – @NFLFANINENGLAND and Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller
*We want to hear your views on this matter! Are you a ASJ believer, or is this just another place for him to go be Mr. Average. We have a poll up on our twitter handle @F10YFantasy, please go vote and leave your reasoning in the comments!*