Monday, January 31, 2011

Player Profile: Jason Witten

Jason Witten
Position: Tight End
Size: 6'6, 263
Age: 28, 5/6/82
College: Tennessee
Drafted: Round 3, #69 - 2003
Experience: 8 Seasons

Salary History and Contract Status: 7/22/2006: Signed a six-year, $29 million contract extension through 2012. The deal contains $12 million guaranteed, including a $6 million signing bonus and a $6 million option bonus in the second year. 2010: $2.641 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2011: $3.391 million (+ $500,000 roster bonus), 2012: $3.641 million (+ $1 million roster bonus), 2013: Free Agent

2003 Draft Profile From OurLads: (2nd ranked TE - Behind Dallas Clark from Iowa) - Jason Witten, 6'5/265, 4.70 - Junior Eligible. Former defensive lineman. Solid producer the past two seasons. Has excellent size. Tall and well-built. Sturdy. Has good strength in the upper body and arms. Above average overall blocker. Not especially quick off the mark but he makes solid contact. Strikes with good lean and can generate movement on drive blocks. Can turn a defender with strong hand usage. Generally keeps his feet. Does a fairly good job of moving out on linebackers, although he is a little stiff adjusting in space. Not quick footed as a blocker - gets stationary at times with his feet while attempting to win battles with his upper body. Works to sustain but isn't nasty in doing so. Athletic. Often used in motion or split wide. Good receiver for a big tight end. Releases smoothly and has the speed to get up the seam. Has reliable hands - can extend and snatch away from his body. Shows the concentration to make the tough grab. Doesn't have dynamic cutting ability or fluidity. Heavy legged - lacks good leaping ability. Effective after the catch. Isn't nifty, but he has the power to run through tackles when he gets up a head of steam. Improving. Quality Prospect.

Witten ended up being selected by Dallas as the 5th TE off the board. Clark went in the 1st round to the Colts at #24, Bennie Joppru from Michigan went to Houston at pick #41 (I am sure this tortures some Texans' fans), LJ Smith of Rutgers to the Eagles at Pick #61, and the Raiders wanted #Teyo Johnson at #63 - a conversion WR who they wanted to convert to TE rather than settle for Witten. 6 picks later, Jason Witten was a Dallas Cowboy.

Pre-2010:Witten has been an elite Tight End for the majority of his 8 seasons in the NFL. Over that time, only Tony Gonzalez has more receptions at the position (672-617), and only Gonzalez (7732) and Antonio Gates (7005) have more yards than Witten (6967). Witten has out-produced Dallas Clark (393 receptions, 4,535 yards) substantially from that 2003 draft class. Not only that, but has rated Jason Witten the very best run blocking Tight End in 2009 and 2010. He is the total package and everything a team would want as a franchise-level Tight End. With the possible exception of DeMarcus Ware, nobody would argue that Witten is the most dominant player at his position that the Cowboys have employed in this era. In this world of fantasy football numbers, Witten often takes a back seat to Gates and Gonzalez, but that is because there are no points distributed for run blocking. As far as total tight ends go, nobody is more complete than Witten. And in a league where Antonio Gates is making $7.25 per year, Witten is a bargain, too.

2010: This season, despite QB chaos on the roster, Witten led the league in receiving amongst NFL Tight Ends. Most targets (123), catches (94), and yards (1002). Also, after a 2009 where he only found the end-zone 2 times (causing many to write stories about how he needs to improve on this), he scored 9 Touchdowns - including one in Game 16 that caused the Cowboys to drop 4 spots in the NFL Draft. On top of this, he led the NFL TE's in run blocking grades, and despite conceding a few sacks, graded 5th by in pass protection. It was clear that Jon Kitna found throws to Witten to be far more available and appealing, so when Romo left for the season, Witten was targeted again and again. And amazingly, the defenses were never able to contain him like they did when Romo was on the field. All 3 of the interceptions intended for Witten occurred when Romo was the QB.

2011 Analysis: At some point, Witten will slow down. But, the good news is he will be just 29 years old on opening day and despite the fact that he has a lot of miles on those tires, it sure appears that he also has a few more years to be dominant. After that, he has such a large gap between his level and "Average NFL Tight End" level, that he could no-doubt help this team for years to come. The Cowboys use him in a number of ways to get maximum production out of him, and I suspect as time goes on, they will try to flex him out into the slot more and more and keep him from having to block edge rushers - leaving that to the young TE's like Martellus Bennett and John Phillips. There is every reason to believe that Jason Witten is on his way to Canton if he keeps going for a few more years.

Previous Profiles:
Doug Free
Marc Colombo
Sam Young
Alex Barron
DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Victor Butler
Brandon Williams

1 comment:

scottmaui said...

Thank God for Jason Witten. A total professional, elite player and class person.