New York Giants Positional Breakdown: Tight Ends
Throughout the next several weeks, I’ll be breaking down the Giants’ roster, position by position. We’ll take a look at what each player brings to the table, their chances of making the roster and, if applicable, their roles on the 2015 team. Next, we’ll take a look at the tight ends.
Roster odds: 100%
Tight end was one of the Giants’ biggest question marks before the 2014 season after both Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe departed in free agency. Larry Donnell made sure the team wouldn’t have the same uncertainty at the position in 2015.
After spending the first two years of his career on the practice squad, and his third as a deep reserve, Donnell exploded onto the scene last year, recording 63 catches for 623 yards. He was consistently the Giants’ third option through the air, and his six receiving touchdown were second on the team, behind just Odell Beckham Jr.
Donnell is locked in as the starter in 2015, though there are parts of his game that need improvement. He was credited with four fumbles last year, a number that will need to decrease if he wants to see consistent targets. He was brutal as a blocker last year, ranking 63rd among 67 qualifying tight ends by Pro Football Focus. Thankfully, reports say Donnell has been working on his blocking technique in the offeseason.
While he has some work to do, it’s clear the Giants really like what they have in the former undrafted free agent out of Grambling State.
Roster odds: 100%
Fells was also a nice surprise for the Giants in 2014. After sitting out the 2013 season, Fells joined Big Blue and recorded 16 catches for 188 yards and four touchdowns, while also excelling as a blocker.
He served as Donnell’s backup last year, and is in good position to do the same in 2015. Fells may see a little less playing time if Donnell’s blocking really does improve, but Fells still has value as a veteran backup, red zone target and blocking specialist.
Roster odds: 60%
Through three years, Robinson has been a huge disappointment for the Giants. After selecting him in the fourth round out of Cincinnati in the 2012 draft, general manager Jerry Reese famously (infamously?) referred to Robinson as the “JPP of tight ends,” referring to his athleticism.
Unfortunately, Robinson hasn’t had nearly the same on-field success that the real JPP has. He went his first two NFL seasons without recording a single catch. After the departures of Myers and Pascoe after the 2013 season, Robinson seemed to be the favorite for the starting job. As we know now, not only did Robinson not win the starting job, but he didn’t even earn backup duties. He recorded just five catches as the third stringer.
Robinson’s “potential” makes him my current favorite for #3 duties in 2015, but he won’t be gifted anything. He’ll have to earn it by showing something, anything during the preseason. Consider him a very slight favorite for now.
Roster odds: 45%
LaCosse is probably Robinson’s biggest competition for the third tight end job. The undrafted rookie out of Illinois wasn’t a huge part of the Illini offense (just 14 catches for 117 yards and three touchdowns in 2014), but excelled at his Pro Day, clocking a 4.64 40-yard dash, and recording 20 bench press reps. He has also received praise from Giants tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr.
“Different skillset,” Gilbride Jr said according to NJ.com. “He’s a linear guy, can get down the field. Very bright. Matt didn’t make many mistakes. We had him in a role where we moved him around all the time.”
It sounds like LaCosse has a real shot to make the team, and with Robinson entering the final year of his contract, the Giants could look to go younger and hold onto LaCosse instead of Robinson. Of course, the fact that the Giants could also stash LaCosse on the practice squad may play a role too. It’s something to keep an eye on.
Roster odds: 30%
Cunningham spent time on the Giants’ active roster last year, but never dressed on gameday. The second-year player out of Southern Connecticut State seems like a longshot on the surface, but it’s worth noting he received some first-team reps during offseason workouts as Donnell recovered from an Achilles injury. And with the third tight end job wide open, anything is possible. Still, I have a hard time seeing Cunningham surpassing both Robinson and LaCosse.
Roster odds: 10%
Tye is an undrafted rookie out of Stony Brook. He’s a bit small for the position, listed at 6’2”, but has the frame at 257 pounds. Tye began his collegiate career at Florida State, but transferred to Stony Brook in search of playing time. He impressed with 79 catches for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns for the Seawolves last year. Still, he’s a longshot at this time, but like I mentioned above, anything could happen with this tight end corps.