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Tennessee Titans

Can Okonkwo hold up as a blocker?

I saw where Mike Vrabel was saying Chigoziem Okonkwo’s blocking isn’t good enough. That’s worrying, in that if it causes Okonkwo to play less in his second season, he would be unlikely to put up big numbers.

Okonkwo had the sneaky good rookie season, with 3 catches that went for 40-plus yards (the most of any tight end in the league). Setting aside the run-dominated games with Malik Willis at quarterback, Okonkwo put up top-10 tight end numbers in his final six games (using PPR scoring).

But Okonkwo isn’t a good blocker. It’s not something he’s done a lot of, and he’s also undersized for the position – just 238 pounds.

“I think the biggest thing for Chig is going to continue to be his hand placement,” Vrabel says. “I don’t think we’re going to make him any bigger; he’s not going to be a 260-pound player. But I think we have to just continue to focus on his hands and making sure that they’re inside, that they’re strong and they’re powerful. First play today, you’re not going to be able to sustain against Arden [Key] or any player with your hands outside, you just don’t have enough power. He’s willing, I just think the technique has to improve.”

But size is size. And if you look at historical track record of tight ends weighing less than 240 pounds, you don’t see many where they were able to become full-time type players. Below see the rundown of all tight ends weighing less than 240 pounds who’ve had at least 300 receiving yards in a season. There aren’t a lot of them (just 11 players, generating 18 such seasons), and not a lot of what you would call long-term NFL tight ends. Shannon Sharpe is in the Hall of Fame, but he was a different style of player.

LIGHTER TIGHT ENDS
YearPlayerNoYardsAvgTDPPRRk
2003Shannon Sharpe, Den.6277012.48187.02
2002Shannon Sharpe, Den.6168611.33147.64
2015Jacob Tamme, Atl.5965711.11130.714
2010Jacob Tamme, Ind.676319.44154.112
2020Robert Tonyan, G.B.5258611.311176.65
2018Trey Burton, Chi.5456910.56149.18
2012Jacob Tamme, Den.5255510.72119.523
2022Juwan Johnson, N.O.4250812.17134.815
2022Robert Tonyan, G.B.534708.92112.020
2013Rob Housler, Ariz.3945411.6190.428
2022Chigoziem Okonkwo, Ten.3245014.1397.225
2015Ladarius Green, S.D.3742911.64107.923
2012Rob Housler, Ariz.454179.3086.731
2019Jacob Hollister, Sea.413498.5393.923
2017Stephen Anderson, Hou.2534213.7165.233
2016Trey Burton, Phil.373278.8175.734
2011Evan Moore, Cle.343249.5490.428
2016Ladarius Green, Pitt.1830416.9154.441

Statistics compiled using search tools at Pro-Football-Reference.com

In case of Okonkwo, his situation changed when the Titans signed DeAndre Hopkins. Before that move, Tennessee had only two notable pass catchers – Okonkwo and Treylon Burks – making those guys looks like certainties for plenty of balls. Now, Hopkins will be their main option, making more modest roles for the others a possibility.

Previously, I was thinking of Okonkwo as a possible top-10 player at his position. Nowadays, I see him as more of a second tight end in a typical fantasy league.

—Ian Allan

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