The tight end position is one of the most difficult when it comes to transitioning from the college game to the NFL level. Not only do tight ends need to learn complex route schemes, but they are often asked to understand blocking in both the run and passing games. Considering all the variables, it’s extremely rare to see any rookie tight end break out.
Some tight ends — such as George Kittle, Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz — broke out in their second seasons, but others needed even more time before they became useful fantasy assets. Austin Hooper, Darren Waller and Tyler Higbee all broke out in their third or fourth seasons.
In fantasy football drafts, the elite tight ends come with high draft capital, and there are only so many of them. If you miss out at the beginning of your draft, it’s crucial that you snag one or two of these late-round targets who have shown the upside to suggest they can make the next leap.
In this series of articles, I’m looking at the breakout potential at the tight end position, focusing on players entering their second, third and fourth seasons. I'll take a look at their current situations to see if they have a clear path to targets and then analyze what they've done in the NFL to this point to determine whether they've shown the upside to break out in 2020.
Akins' Separation Ability and Red-Zone Work
Jordan Akins‘ path to the NFL took a detour through professional baseball right out of high school, which is why he enters Year 3 of his NFL career at 28 years old. Even though he started late, Akins has been productive in limited opportunities during his first two seasons with the Houston Texans.
In 2019, Akins ranked fourth in yards after contact per reception (7.0) and sixth in forced missed tackles on receptions (eight) among all tight ends with at least 25 targets.
|TE yards after catch per reception 2019|
He also showed success facing man coverage, earning the second-highest one-step separation percentage (37%) among tight ends with 40 receiving snaps. Akins’ ability to separate wasn’t limited to man-coverage, either — he generated at least one step of separation on 44% of his total snaps, which was the ninth-best rate among 21 qualifiers.
Akins showcased is talent in Week 3 last season against the Los Angeles Chargers, going for a season-high 72 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just three receptions. He showed off his big-play ability with a 53-yard TD catch, becoming one of just nine tight ends to score a touchdown of 40 or more yards in 2019.