On Wednesday, the New York Jets lost more than 50 percent of their tight end production with the news that Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
OK, the numbers are a bit misleading.
Though the percentage is accurate, we're not talking about a huge sample size. Seferian-Jenkins made 10 receptions last season, the rest of the tight ends accounted for eight, easily the lowest numbers in the league.
Translation: Bleak turned bleaker with the suspension.
This wouldn't be a thing if Chan Gailey still were the offensive coordinator -- he didn't use tight ends in the passing game -- but the Jets will be switching to a West Coast-style offense under his replacement, John Morton. They've already said tight end will have a more prominent role than in the past.
Even with Seferian-Jenkins, hardly a lock to make the team, the Jets need an infusion of talent. There's not much left in free agency, which leads us to the draft. Alabama's O.J. Howard is being hailed by talent evaluators as an elite talent, raising the question: Could the Jets take him with the sixth overall pick?
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay believes Howard is worthy of a high pick. In his latest mock draft, he has Howard going fourth to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's what you call an outside-the-box prediction -- way outside the box.
Consider: In the modern era (since 1970), only one tight end has been drafted in the top five -- Riley Odom, picked fifth in 1972 by the Denver Broncos. Since 1996, only three have cracked the top 10 -- Eric Ebron (10th in 2014), Vernon Davis (sixth in 2006), and Kellen Winslow (sixth in 2004).
McShay, in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, acknowledged "it might be stretch" to have a tight end at No. 4, but he added: "Ultimately, when you look at this year’s class, I think from a character standpoint, the maturing that he went through, the ability to stretch the field vertically, the ability to create after the catch and then the improvement he’s undergone as a run blocker and even in pass protection at times, I think O.J. Howard is one of the most complete prospects."
Howard was under-utilized at Alabama, finishing his career with 114 receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch, which is outstanding for a tight end.
So let me pose this question: If you thought you were getting the next Rob Gronkowski, would you take Howard at No. 6?
Considering their multitude of other needs, it would be an absolute stunner if the Jets picked Howard that high. But it's a deep draft for tight ends, and they have to face reality: With or without Seferian-Jenkins, who has only one year left on his contract, the Jets need to add a young, athletic tight end to a pipeline that dried up years ago.