By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
The NFL Combine was supposed to be a time to prove things for Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The former University of Washington star had won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top tight end, yet most projections had North Carolina’s Eric Ebron as the best draft-eligible tight end.
After dealing with a junior season that included a DUI arrest, injured pinky and reduced numbers, Seferian-Jenkins was still answering questions about those topics at the combine in late February.
A chance to get in a full workout would have helped answer those questions —for better or worse —more so than any interview with reporters could.
Then, another bump. During his medical examination in Indianapolis, Seferian-Jenkins learned he had a fractured foot. That kept him from running at the combine and caused him to miss Washington’s pro day.
With the draft coming Thursday, Seferian-Jenkins still, at least in public, has the questions surrounding him. When prior assertions had him clearly as the top tight end in the draft, the updated ones wonder if he will be selected in the first round. Anonymous scouts have grumbled about his work ethic and overall attitude. However, anonymous opinions need to be absorbed with proper skepticism.
He said two weeks ago his foot was healed. A stock-bumping workout a week ago seems to confirm that. According to Packersreport.com, Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services said Seferian-Jenkins ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash while working out for the New York Jets.
Flashback to the combine. Teams wanted to know if Seferian-Jenkins had NFL-level speed to go with his NFL-level frame.
“I’m looking to run 4.6-something,” Seferian-Jenkins said at the time.
For the Jets, he apparently cracked that mark. For comparison: the top tight end selected in last year’s draft, Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame, ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at the 2013 combine. Eifert also beat out Seferian-Jenkins, one of two other finalists, for the 2012 Mackey Award. Eifert was selected 21st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Seferian-Jenkins is confident the skills he used at Washington to set almost every school tight end receiving record put him in a good position to do big things in the NFL.
“My game translates to the NFL because I’m very versatile whatever you need me to do I can do,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Do you say it’s very pass-happy now, I’ve played receiver and I’ve run routes, I’ve run in the slot. I’ve played almost every single position receiving the ball at the University of Washington and people still run the ball and I still take pride in run blocking and that’s something I can do very well at.”
The Huskies used him in multiple ways. They would throw screens in the flat to him, have him go deep up the seam or play post-up in the end zone.
In 2012, Seferian-Jenkins dominated. He made 69 catches for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers went down in 2013, when he missed the first game of the season, because of a suspension following the DUI arrest, and finished with 36 catches for 450 yards, totals below his freshman season’s numbers. Though, he did have a career-high eight touchdowns.
He’s dropped about 20 pounds since last season after bulking up in an attempt to be a better blocker. Seferian-Jenkins is still trying to shed concerns about his DUI, which was a repeated topic at the combine for the press and surely for teams interviewing him.
“I think when you get to know me and you get to talk to me, I think it’s very clear that I’m not a character issue guy,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I made a mistake and I’ve moved past that.”
Where he will land during this week’s draft continues to be a debate. The Green Bay Packers have the 21st overall pick and a need for a tight end. That seems a logical landing spot. There’s even talk the Seattle Seahawks would look at tight ends in the first round, though that seems less likely.
Whether the first or second round, Seferian-Jenkins will be a pro by the end of the week, accomplishing something he always wanted.
“I just always envisioned I was going to be playing in the NFL and was going to be ready for the NFL,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Ever since I was growing up I knew I was going to play in the NFL. I never thought anything else. Never was a moment like ‘I’m ready.’ I just knew that there would be a time and after my last game I knew I was ready.”