2018 Position Review: Tight Ends

As Jimmy Fallon would say in his famous Saturday Night Live sketch with Ben Affleck – and we’re back!

While we might not be back with four-a-half minutes of witty banter, we are back with our next installment in our Position Review series.

Today we take a look at the Oakland Raiders tight ends, from Jared Cook to Paul Butler and everyone in between, and then peek ahead to see what 2019 could look like for the group as a whole.

Overview:

I think it’d be fair to say that 2018 – as far as the Raiders offense was concerned anyway – was the year of Jared Cook.

Simply put, Cook was outstanding in his second season as Raider, pacing the Silver and Black’s offense in not only receiving yards (896), but receptions (68) as well.

Not only that, but with the revolving door that was the Raiders wide receivers for much of the year, the athletic tight end was a constant presence for Derek Carr to look for, and boy, did he make himself available.

Every Sunday, the opposing defense knew that Cook was going to be the No. 1 target for DC, and week in, and week out, No. 87 ate.

While Cook understandably gets a lot of love when you’re talking about the tight end group, as a whole, Frank Smith’s unit really did a bit of everything in 2018.

Cook was obviously the receiving threat, but Lee Smith showed that he’s got some soft hands as well, hauling in a career-high three touchdowns from Carr, in addition to his usual, dominant blocking responsibilities at the line of scrimmage.

Derek Carrier was signed as a free agent in March, and although his receiving numbers weren’t overly impressive in his first season back in Oakland, No. 85 appeared in all 16 games for the Silver and Black, and brought more to the table than his stat line suggests.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention late-season addition, and pleasant surprise to the tight ends room, Darren Waller. Signed to the active roster from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad in late-November, the athletic tight end made four appearances as a Raider, flashing some big-play ability, in addition to his work in the trenches.

Undrafted rookie Paul Butler was also promoted to the active roster on Christmas Eve, but didn’t see any game action down the stretch.

The Number To Know:

Four.

That’s how many times Jared Cook hit the 100-yard mark this season, the most by any Raiders tight end since at least 1999.

Like I said earlier, Cook was an absolute beast in 2018; can someone please explain to me why this man isn’t in the Pro Bowl?

I’ll wait.

Position Group MVP:

Come on, you guys know who’s getting the nod for this one.

Jared Cook, Jared Cook, and then Jared Cook.

Look, the man was on another level in 2018.

Yes, statistically speaking, 2018 was a career year for Cook, but his accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that he was essentially the de facto No. 1 option for Carr and the passing offense for much of the season.

Cook rarely – if ever – dropped a pass, and while Derek Carr didn’t have the luxury of having a lot of consistency with his wide receivers, Cook very much filled that void.

Congrats, Mr. Cook, you had a heck of a year.

Going Forward:

The biggest question surrounding the Raiders tight ends revolves squarely around Jared Cook.

After two, really strong seasons in Silver and Black, the athletic tight end is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the league’s new year, and figuring out what to do about that situation will be something Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock will likely spend quite some time working on.

Cook aside, Paul Butler is an exclusive rights free agent, but Lee Smith, Derek Carrier, and Darren Waller are all inked to deals for 2019.

Like I said, the biggest question for this group going forward is the future of No. 87.

Reviewing the Raiders tight ends from the 2018 season.

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