Every NFL offense can use a big, athletic tight end.
For a long time, “Pro Style” offenses valued tight ends for their blocking prowess first and their receiving upside second. Tight ends were often more likely to be built like smaller offensive tackles than oversized receivers, and their best ability with the ball in their hands was to be a safety blanket for the quarterback on third downs.
That’s all changed and tight ends are considered full-fledged offensive weapons, but size is still important for many teams.
Virginia’s Jelani Woods, a quarterback turned tight end, has size in spades. He measured in at the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl at just under 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. And yet, he still has the ability to move like the dual-threat quarterback he was recruited to be.
That gives Woods tantalizing upside for teams looking for a potential mismatch for their offense.
One of those teams could be the New York Giants, who could need to completely rebuild their tight end position over the course of the off-season.
Prospect: Jelani Woods (0)
Games Watched: vs. Illinois (2021), vs. UNC (2021), vs. Duke (2021)
Games Played: 33
Yards (YPC): 959 (12.8 per catch)
Games Played: 11
Yards (YPC): 598 (13.6 per catch)
Best: Size, linear athleticism, catch radius, versatility, play strength
Worst: Fluidity, experience, technique
Projection: A number two tight end with starting upside.
(Woods is TE number 0)
Virginia tight end Jelani Woods is a big and athletic prospect who is only scratching the surface of his potential.
Woods is relatively new to the tight end position, and entered school at Oklahoma State as a dual-threat quarterback before converting. Woods has added considerable muscle mass since beginning his college career and now has a powerful frame at just under 6-foot-7 (with 34-inch arms) and 260 pounds.
Woods transferred from Oklahoma State to Virginia prior to the 2021 season and saw his best year with the Cavaliers. He aligned all over Virginia’s offensive formation, taking snaps as an in-line and detached tight end, out of the slot, and motioned out as a wide receiver. Woods has impressive athleticism in the open field, flashing good short-area agility as well as the long speed to threaten defenses deep.
Woods shows a solid understanding of his role in route combinations, both using his frame to create traffic for defenders and working himself free. Woods is deceptively athletic, and is able to pick up chunk yardage when he gets free in the open field. Likewise, his height and long arms gives him a massive catch radius, which he puts to good use in the Red Zone or in 3rd down situations.
Woods is a willing blocker in both the running and passing game. He uses his size well to chip defenders when releasing into routes, and he makes good use of his strength to sustain blocks as a pass protector. Woods has the size to match up with most EDGE defenders as a run blocker, and flashes the ability to generate movement on the perimeter when matched up against smaller linebackers.
That said, Woods is still relatively inexperienced as a tight end and his technique is still developing. He appears tentative when playing out of a 3-point stance as an in-line tight end. He doesn’t really “fire” out of his stance and doesn’t really strike and drive defenders as a blocker. Woods also needs to work on his hand placement in both run blocking and pass protection. He can have a tendency to let his hands drift outside defenders’ framework, which can lead to holding calls at the NFL level.
Woods also lacks fluidity and explosiveness as an athlete. He is fast, but it’s more build-up speed, and while he flashes quickness and agility, he doesn’t really have the ability to drop his hips and make dynamic cuts. Those combine to limit his effectiveness in the short area of the field or on quick-breaking routes.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Jelani Woods will likely begin his career as a “number two” tight end who is brought on in heavy packages as an extra blocker or to use his size as a red zone threat. Woods has the upside to be a starting tight end in most NFL offenses, and while he’s a bit of a limited athlete, he should be a dangerous mismatch once he learns how to use all of his tools.
That said, Woods is not yet a finished product. He appears much more comfortable playing from a 2-point stance as a detached tight end or as a giant-sized slot receiver. He shows a much better release off the line of scrimmage from a 2-point stance and is more dynamic down the field. He likely just needs experience and coaching in the more traditional aspects of the tight end position – namely playing out of a 3-point stance and blocking. Woods is a willing blocker, with the size and play strength to be an effective one eventually. For now, teams would be wise to try and scheme advantageous match-ups for Woods as a blocker, letting him use his size against smaller linebackers.
Woods could become a true “complete” tight end with the right coaching, and his experience lining up in multiple positions should help him in modern NFL offenses. His size and play strength should allow him to line up as an in-line tight end without issue, while his speed and agility should pose problems for defenses – particularly the common Cover-2 and Cover-3 schemes. Finally, Woods’ massive catch radius will be a problem for almost any defensive back tasked with covering him.
The upside is there, so long as NFL teams are willing to be patient and work with Woods to reach his full potential.