The tight end position has become one of the most formidable and versatile positions in the offensive formation.
Tight ends are still used for run blocking and pass protection, they have seen their share of the receiving game grow significantly over the last decade or so. Part of that has been an evolution in offensive thought throughout the NFL, but there has also been an evolution in the types of tight ends produced by colleges.
San Jose State’s Derrick Deese Jr. — son of San Francisco 49ers All-Pro left tackle Derrick “Deezey” Deese — is one of those new-breed “hybrid” tight ends that have become so dangerous at the NFL level.
Not that long ago, he would have been labeled and “undersized tweener” and promptly dismissed when NFL evaluators couldn’t neatly fit him into a box. But now that versatility to play tight end, receiver, or fullback is an asset and not a liability.
The New York Giants are not only looking at an entirely new offensive scheme, but they could be looking at a complete rebuild of their tight position. Could Deese Jr. be an under-the-radar gem to help in the rebuild.
Prospect: Derrick Deese Jr. (87)
Games Watched: vs. University of Nevada-Las Vegas (2020), vs. San Diego State (2020), vs. Southern Utah (2021), vs. San Diego State (2021)
Red Flags: Neck (December, 2020)
Games Played: 30
Yards (YPC): 1,149 (13.4 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 730 (15.5 per catch)
Best: Versatility, blocking, ball skills, athleticism
Projection: A starting TE or H-Back with scheme diversity.
(Deese Jr. is TE number 87)
Derrick Deese Jr. is an athletic, versatile, and competitive tight end prospect from San Jose State University.
Deese Jr. played a variety of roles within SJSU’s offense, lining up as an in-line tight end, slot receiver, and H-Back, often over the course of the same drive. And not only did he line up in a variety of positions, he was able to execute as both a pass catcher and blocker from each of them.
Deese Jr. is a good athlete for all of the positions he played, showing good agility, short-area quickness, and long speed. He is a competent route runner, running a variety of routes from each alignment. Deese Jr. was generally able to be in position, and on time, from a variety of alignments. Likewise, he shows an understanding of how to find voids in zone coverage and use his frame to create traffic, draw coverage, and otherwise create separation for his teammates as a part of route combinations or concepts.
Deese Jr. also shows very good ball skills down the field. He does a good job of locating and tracking the ball in the air, and makes good adjustments to errant throws. He also uses his long (33 ⅝ inch) arms and big (10 ¼ inch) hands extend, expand his catch radius, and pluck the ball out of the air. Deese Jr. generally shows strong hands and is able to make tough catches in contested situations.
He is also a surprisingly good blocker for his size. Deese Jr. was frequently used as an extra pass protector or relied upon to make key blocks in the running game. He was tasked with blocking EDGE defenders as an in-line tight end and was able to do so effectively. Likewise, he was also used as a lead blocker in the running game, often pulling across the offensive formation as an H-back. Deese Jr. is a competitive blocker who gets into position quickly, strives to sustain his blocks, is capable of creating movement along the line of scrimmage, and consistently looks for work at the second level.
That said, his size is occasionally an issue. He is competitive and seems to relish contact, but he can still be overwhelmed when forced to block particularly big defensive linemen. Likewise, Deese Jr. is a good, but not great, athlete. He isn’t quite the “mismatch nightmare” that some other tight ends with greater size or truly elite athleticism can be.
Finally, Deese Jr. needs to further refine the technical aspects of his game. He can stand to improve his route running and hone it into a weapon for generating separation down the field. He could also stand to improve his blocking technique, as he has a slight tendency to lunge into defenders and his hand placement can be erratic.
Deese Jr. was knocked out of San Jose State’s bowl game with a neck injury following the 2020 season. He played every game in the 2021 season, but teams will still want to take a closer look at his medical reports.
Overall Grade: 7.2
Derrick Deese Jr. projects as either a starting tight end or H-back in a spread offense, or an important role player as a high-end “TE2” for teams.
Deese Jr. is the type of player who does almost everything well and can help an offense in a variety of ways. He’s a good blocker in the run and pass game, is capable of getting into position to block on screen plays, works up to the second level well, and even makes key blocks in short-yardage situations. Watching Deese Jr. block, it’s pretty evident that his father was an All-Pro offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the 90’s.
He also has the agility and hands to be an effective “safety blanket” for his quarterback in the shallow to intermediate area of the field, while also having the speed to threaten defenses deep down the seam. Deese Jr. has a big catch radius, big, strong hands, and the ability to make some truly impressive catches.
Deese Jr. still needs some work on the finer points of his game, and he might never be an “elite” tight end. That said, he does so many things well, and is able to play a variety of positions in a modern offense. He is definitely a player who can make plays for an offense throughout a game and help a team win.