Sometimes a player’s reaction to a bad play is more promising than a good play. Find out why this might be the case with UMass TE Jean Sifrin.
On the car ride to Mobile, I described this tight end class to Cecil Lammey with the mock headline: “If Only . . . ”
To the optimist. if only has the potential to become diamond in the rough. To the pessimist, if only means don’t bother. To many NFL teams, which at the end of the day are pragmatic, if only means, let’s give him a chance.
UMass tight end Jean Sifrin potentially qualifies as a late-round or free agent “if only” with the physical dimensions, athleticism, and experience at the position to develop into something more in the NFL than he was at college. Listed as 6-7, 254, I had a good first impression of Sirfin despite my first pass at a checklist grade displaying incomplete, unseen, or underdeveloped fundamentals at the position.
Here are two examples of Sifrin as a receiver that capture the range of his work, good and bad.
The first target is a great play on 3rd and 14 with 0:23 in the half–a pivotal moment in many games. Sifrin is the inside trips right receiver between the hashes and facing a two-deep, nickel look. The linebackers are playing two yards inside each hash and a defensive back is over top the formation playing inside shade on Sifrin at 11 yards depth.
Note the hard release up the seam. He’s selling the vertical story of the route from the beginning. Every receiver needs to incorporate this kind of intensity off the line into his game. Sifrin also tells a story during the stem of his route, issuing a stutter move and a convincing look over his outside shoulder towards the quarterback at the top of the stem. This is like a fake “tell” in a poker game to bear trap his opponent.
Sifrin’s bear trap is to break on the post. As he makes the break, he reads the deep coverage in the end zone and settles under the safety at the goal line. UMass’ quarterback aims high to his largest target and the catch is sheer athleticism and coordination: a one-handed snare with his arm fully extended while an opponent looms over his back.
This is a catch that bears resemblance to the raw ability of Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates entering the NFL. Yet there are also plays like this 2nd and 7 with 14:04 in the third quarter that should have been a touchdown.
Srifin is inline next to the right tackle in a 12 personnel weak-side, twin-left receiver set. The defensive end’s outside shoulder is over Sifrin’s inside shoulder. The wing back is offset Sifrin’s outside hip.
After the release and stem, Sifrin makes a common error that plagues even the best receivers on occasion. The next question upon seeing this play is how often does this kind of thing happen. Watch the play/re-play a few times and you’ll see that the quarterback did not make a poor placement decision with the target.
I like Sifrin’s initial release to the outside. He works between the linebacker and corner and reduces the inside shoulder. The little things he shows as a route runner are promising. It reveals that he cares about details enough that there’s potential for him to acquire more detail and refinement to his game.
Sifrin has a clear path up the flat to the end zone. The safety is inside the hash and nowhere close to reacting to the idea that the quarterback will target the tight end.
With the tight end wide open at the five, it may appear that the throw is placed high and Sifrin’s only option was to reach for the pass at the goal line, tipping it incomplete. However, it’s a simple issue of misjudging the target. He has to run through the target, but because he had more confidence in his height and rebounding skill than his running and tracking, he relied too much on his size.
What I like most about his play is what happens afterwards, Sifirin immediately taps his chest, indicating to his quarterback that he was at fault for the decision. His awareness of what went wrong makes this bad play a potentially good one, if he can display he’s as quick of a learner as he is at self-diagnosis of his problems.
Is Sifrin that kind of player who can develop into an elite pass catcher? The RSP blog is my chance to pose questions and share my research phase. The RSP publication in April is when I arrive at my pre-draft conclusions. Stay tuned.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2014 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.
Get the early bird discount by pre-ordering the 2015 RSP now through February 10!