Rookie tight end Brenton Strange will most likely start the regular season behind Evan Engram, who got the franchise tag earlier this year. However, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports believes Strange could end up filling a key role for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023.
Trapasso put together a list of AFC rookies who could have an impact next season and included Strange, pointing out that he showed big-play capability at Penn State despite having limited opportunities.
"Strange should've gotten the ball more at Penn State. Felt like every time it was in his hands he was making a critical play for the Nittany Lions offense and often times he made something out of an essentially nothing underneath throw. That innate capability and his elite testing figures are why he was a second-round selection despite minimal receiving production -- only averaged 11.3 yards per catch in his final two seasons. "
Trapasso goes on to say that Engram's presence should help Strange, a "highly athletic tight end" that will make the most of his opportunities in Jacksonville.
The Jags applied the franchise tag on Engram to prevent him from leaving in free agency but they let Chris Manhertz and Dan Arnold walk in free agency, which is why tight end was seen as one of their top needs ahead of the draft.
Expected to target one of the top tight end prospects in the class, such as Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid, or Michael Mayer, the Jaguars raised eyebrows when they chose Strange in Round 2 instead. Regarding the pick, the team's brass said that the former Nittany Lion was a better fit and added that they liked the versatility he brought to the position.
Brenton Strange could help the Jacksonville Jaguars in the short and long term
Strange isn't the only player in the mix for the TE2 job though. 2021 fifth-round pick Luke Farrell, 2022 undrafted free agent Gerrit Prince and athletic sensation Sammis Reyes will also be given a chance to show what they've got in training camp. However, Strange might be the best of the bunch and should be No. 2 on the depth chart when the season begins.
Farrell is a good blocker but not much of a pass catcher. Prince spent his rookie season in the practice squad and might have a steep hill to climb to make the 53-man roster. There's also Reyes, a dynamic athlete that is still working out the kinks of the position after playing basketball in college.
Meanwhile, Strange can create plays as a pass catcher but has also shown chops as an in-line blocker. Manhertz was TE2 two on the depth chart last season but he was mostly used on pass-blocking situations. The coaching staff surely expects Strange to fill the void left by Manhertz but also add another target in the passing game, which is why Trapasso thinks he could earn an important role as a rookie.
Also, Strange provides insurance in case Engram leaves in 2023. While Engram and the Jaguars could still strike a long-term deal before the July 17 deadline, there's an equal chance he'll become a free agent next offseason and if that's the case, Strange could then enter the 2024 season as TE1 No. 1 on the depth chart.
The Strange pick might have been a surprise pick at first but given his upside, it wouldn't be shocking to see him he become a playmaker for the Jacksonville Jaguars in his rookie season and the long-term answer at tight end.