**in grandpa voice** boy, lemmie tell you a story…..
|*||It all started in 1997. Most die-hard football fans know the story; Tony Gonzalez, power forward for the University of California, decided to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft even though his first love was basketball. Pat Riley, then head coach of the Miami Heat said in hindsight that Tony G actually had a good shot to become an NBA player. Doesn’t matter, Gonzalez made the right decision as he had a 16 year career as a Kansas City Chief and an Atlanta Falcon and will surely be a hall of famer.|
But we’re not here to discuss Tony G. We’re going to explore the phenomena (more than likely started by the drafting of Tony Gonzalez) of what I call the Basketball Tight End. A kinder, gentler Tight End **in George Bush voice**. I kid…no, the bigger, faster, more athletic Tight End. They are all coverage nightmares; men who can outrun/jump a Linebacker and can run over/jump over a Defensive Back. Again, the trend started with Gonzalez, and has increased in frequency. In fact, the new Tight End is so effective, many teams use the 2 Tight End set as their primary formation (i.e. Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals,).
Usually the type of Tight Ends that can perform in these sets are former basketball players like….Tony G. Their footwork, agility, and athleticism have been developed over years of running fast breaks and other various basketball plays. The added bonuses that come with converting a basketball player (particularly a Power Forward) into a Tight End is that they can post up; the act of using one’s body to gain leverage to the goal. This is helpful during a mismatch in the end zone with a smaller defensive player.
Also, the fact that a basketball moves quickly and frequently on the court gauges hand-eye coordination.
Guys like Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers have proven that with the right coaching one can make the adjustment from catching the big round ball to catching the oblong ball. Let’s look at the trend from a per year basis. I’m an analytical man by nature and trade so let me use the good ol’ bar graph. Here are the players per year:
Antonio Gonzalez (Chiefs, 1997)
Antonio Gates (Chargers, 2003)
Marcedes Lewis (Jags, 2005)
Martellus Bennett (Cowboys, 2008)
Jimmy Graham (Saints, 2010)
Julius Thomas (Broncos, 2011)
Jordan Cameron (Browns, 2013)
Demetrius Harris (Chiefs, 2013)
Darren Fells (Seahawks, 2013)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2014???)
Note the slow increase in frequency of drafting Basket Tight Ends from 1997 (Gonzalez) to 2003 (Gates) and 2005 (Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars). Note also, according to my research, Gates was the first Basketball Tight End that didn’t play football. Now look at the sharp increase from 2010 (Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints ) to 2011 (Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos). Neither Thomas nor Graham played college football. Actually, Graham played 13 games for the University of Miami, but that’s so few I didn’t count it. Graham was drafted in the late rounds of the NFL Draft and Thomas was signed as a free agent. What this means is that the NFL is recognizing the value in developing these players into the schemes they run. Thomas sat for a season and has slowly worked his way into the starting lineup as well as one of the best Tight Ends in the game.
So who will be the next Basketball Tight End? Draft experts say Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a Tight End who played both sports at the University of Washington.
He meets all of the criteria, however, my personal pick is a wildcard from the U, Erik Swoope. Swoope is a 6’4, 220 lbs. He can jump out of the gym and as you can see from the pic, he has some SERIOUS GUNS. Did I dig this up from the football rumor mills? Noooooooo….I’m starting the rumor baby!
I came to this assessment after watching Swoope play in 2 games this season. He literally bullied and ran around his opponents yet at the same time you can see that his game is not one of domination. His skills just might be better suited for today’s gridiron.
Yes, this is my 2nd post about the draft. I can’t help it, I’m fascinated by it; it’s probably the most intriguing draft in all professional sports. We shall see all of the big school players shake Roger Goodell’s hand and give him the man hug, but what I’m looking forward to is to see who the next standout Basket Tight End will be and how many there will be. My wildcard pick Erik Swoope may have a surname that better fits his current sport, but I can definitely envision him and the other Basketball Tight Ends going up for jump balls; and I don’t mean on the parquet.