The NFL is in an unprecedented era of innovation. There’s a running back for every situation. Nickel corners are just as important as the two starters on the outside. Changes in the college game are trickling up into the NFL. It’s something Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien has noticed and it’s changing the way he thinks about tight ends.
“You definitely have a feel that these college teams are using their backs in different ways. It’s the same thing with tight ends,” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot receiving tight ends now.
“These guys that are like 6’4, 250 that can run and catch and smart. There’s a lot more of those now than the typical Y — you know, blockers, 6-8 yard route runner. There’s more of these athletic, almost like power forwards … I see running backs, I see what I call ‘F’ tight ends.”
It sounds a lot like the Gronk model, matchup guys who are too fast for linebackers and too tough for defensive backs.
The Texans also have the more traditional Y tight ends, or blocking specialists, too. The F tight end is the opposite, a receiver who does very little work as a blocker. In between those two, O’Brien has what he calls the U tight end, a guy who works both as a blocker and a receiver.
The three types of tight ends as defined by Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans: Y, F, U.
It just so happens to be a great year for tight ends in the draft, lots of F U types to be had. “Those are the types of guys that I see a lot in college over the last couple years,” as O’Brien pointed out.
With guys like O.J. Howard and David Njoku leading the way, it’s not the year teams will want to say FU to a great group of Fs.
Players like that can really allow an offensive coordinator to get creative and innovative with the play calling. But the real innovation here is the classification system: put something familiar into a new package and give it a name that sounds like a cuss word. Every coach in the league should embrace it.