Will Tye may have already exceeded NFL expectations. He was an undrafted free agent from a school that had never produced an NFL player when 2015 began, and became a contributing member of the New York Giants by season's end.
Now, the questions are different. Can Tye become an every-down player for the Giants, and perhaps a star at tight end? Let's take a closer look as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2015 Season in Review
Tye began the year by earning a spot on the 90-man roster during rookie minicamp. He was, however, the sixth guy on a six-man tight end depth chart. Tye was an undrafted free agent from Stony Brook, which had never produced an NFL player. You figured that if he was lucky Tye would earn a spot on the practice squad.
By the time Tye did earn that practice squad spot, the attrition that would give him his NFL opportunity had already begun. Matt LaCosse, who is now back, was waived injured. The uninspiring Adrien Robinson was waived. When Daniel Fells contracted MRSA, Tye was added to the 53-man roster. Tye soon surpassed the underwhelming Jerome Cunningham. A few weeks later, Larry Donnell suffered a neck injury and Tye, once just an afterthought, was suddenly the starter.
The 6-foot-2, 262-pound rookie took advantage of the opportunity. Tye ended up with 42 catches in 13 games, 36 in his final eight games, becoming a reliable target for quarterback Eli Manning.
2016 Season Outlook
Donnell, the starter in 2014 and until he suffered a neck injury halfway through 2015, is back. Technically, the two are competing for the starting job. The belief here, though, is that Tye has the edge. Both are relatively even in pass-catching, with the 6-foot-5 Donnell having an advantage over the 6-2 Tye on fades and high throws in traffic. Tye, though, seemed more consistent than Donnell during his time as a starter last season. Donnell is, truthfully, an atrocious, seemingly, unwilling blocker. Tye, while still needing work here, seems to have the ability to become a useful blocker.
Perhaps they both make the team. If only one does, that will almost certainly be Tye. Given an opportunity to start for an entire season, I don't think it's out of the question that Tye could equal or surpass Donnell's 63-catch 2014 season.
Dave-Te` Thomas says ...
Since it is still applicable, here are some tidbits from a 2015 scouting report on Tye by long-time NFL scout Dave-Te Thomas, who has been sharing work with us from his incredibly in-depth site, The NFL Draft Report.
Athletic Ability: Tye shows very good initial quickness with no wasted motion to get into his routes. He comes off the line with his pads low and hands extended to jolt and shock the defender to get a clean release off the jam. He has very good agility and flexibility.
Field Sense/Competitiveness: Tye is known for his ability to fight for yardage after the catch. He makes blocks away from the play and is a self-starter and very hard worker. He is very physical competing for the ball and has more than enough power to break tackles.
Release: Tye has good speed and initial quickness coming off the snap ... He is quick to elude after the catch. He is very physical uncovering when operating out of the slot or in motion. Despite his size, he is slippery enough to avoid the jam and has the hip snap to side-step linebackers trying to reroute him.
Acceleration: Tye is an inviting target working underneath. He won't explode off the line, but has the valid speed to gobble up the cushion and surprise the lethargic safety when challenging the deep zone ... He is a big, rangy sort who has the long arms to get vertical and the balance to maintain his stride after the grab ... He is simply an imposing target down field with the ball skills to consistently make plays on the ball. He can create mismatches vs. linebackers and safeties when he separates deep down in the seam.
Route Running: Tye has crisp plant-&-drive agility to come out of his breaks cleanly, but has not had enough coaching in proper route running. He needs to be more precise with his cuts (takes some soft angle ones), but is very effective on outs and crossing patterns ... He has the ability to isolate the linebackers and safeties and shows the second gear needed to elude in the open.
Hands: Tye is a natural hands catcher with large mitts to secure the ball before running. He shows proper arm extension to reach for the ball at its high point and the soft hands to look the ball in away from his frame.
Blocking: Tye's effort is admirable, but he needs to generate better hand placement to lock on and steer his assignment away from the ball when blocking in-line ... He has the raw power and size to be effective here, but just needs to refine his technique.