Last week, I wrote about Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and how his skills fit into the growing pantheon of versatile tight end play that is in vogue in the NFL. But versatility can have a number of different meanings depending on the talents of the player and his fit within an offense. The word doesn’t necessarily mean that the player can do everything well.
Players like Jermaine Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew, Brent Celek, andHeath Miller are versatile in the sense that they can run block, have enough speed to stretch the intermediate seam, and produce in tight coverage in the red zone. I think they do a lot well, but nothing great. If anything, I believe they are the current evolution of the “average” tight end. (Though I have to say that calling personal favorite Miller “average” insults my sensibilities because in terms of smarts and execution he blows away players like Gresham and Pettigrew.)
Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, and Jared Cook are versatile because they have the speed to run more vertical routes and the height and hands to function more as outside receivers. While Graham and Finley have improved as blockers, neither would list this skill as a true strength of their games. All three are essentially big wide receivers that can do a passable job as blockers depending on the way an offensive coordinator incorporates them into a scheme. In other words: teams have to be more creative with them when they aren’t running a route.