Rookie Redskins Tight End Jordan Reed Has a Remarkably High Ceiling

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 23, 2013

Oct 20, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I know it's still very early, but I can't see anything stopping Washington Redskins rookie Jordan Reed from becoming one of the NFL's next elite tight ends. 

We always knew the third-round pick out of Florida had the physical ability, but he's actually delivering on the field far before anyone expected. In fact, he's been so good as of late that his play has rendered 27-year-old veteran tight end Fred Davis useless and dispensable, which makes Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan look particularly clever for the way in which they handled the team's tight end situation this past offseason.

Despite the fact that Davis put up nearly 800 yards in only 12 games in 2011 and was on pace to hit that range again before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in 2012, the 'Skins refused to give him a long-term deal in each of the last two offseasons. 

And then they went out and spent a third-round pick on Reed, who didn't appear to fill an immediate hole.

With Reed now on fire after a nine-catch, 134-yard performance in a victory over the Chicago Bears, Davis has reportedly become trade bait. He has just three catches and 25 yards this season, and he's played just 24 snaps since Week 2. An ankle injury has factored in, but he was basically a healthy scratch after being inactive despite entering Week 7 with a "probable" label.

That's how confident they are in Reed. They know Logan Paulsen can handle major blocking assignments, especially on non-passing downs, and it looks as though they'd prefer Reed to Davis the rest of the time. Meanwhile, Niles Paul can play special teams, which means Davis' services are essentially no longer required.

Few of us expected Reed to emerge this quickly. In the big picture, his breakout game came against the Bears on Sunday. In that game, all nine of the passes Robert Griffin III threw Reed's way were caught by the 23-year-old Florida product. On the rest of his passes, RGIII was only 9-of-20.

However, Reed has actually been killing it for several weeks. He's put up at least 50 yards in each of his last three games, and he's caught 83.9 percent of the passes Griffin has thrown to him. That ranks first among all NFL tight ends who have been targeted at least 10 times, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

He's dropped two of those passes, which isn't great, but isn't enough to be problematic. And he's made up for that by compiling a solid 132 yards after the catch while chipping in as a decent blocker when needed. Again, Paulsen is the primary blocking tight end on the roster, but Reed hasn't given up a single pressure as a pass-blocker, according to PFF. He's fared well for a rookie run-blocker, too.

Plus, he's extremely athletic and a pleasure to watch. The move he pulled against Barry Church on this 29-yard catch-and-run was special:

And then there was this thing of beauty to convert a crucial third down in the final minute against Chicago's Chris Conte:

Despite missing a game due to a quadriceps injury, Reed is still on pace to catch 78 passes for 894 yards, which would give him the team rookie record for receptions and the all-time team record for receiving yards by a tight end. 

In fact, he's on pace to tie the modern-day NFL record for receiving yards in a season by a rookie tight end. 

Best rookie tight ends in NFL history (post-merger)
Tight endYearReceptionsRec. yardsTouchdowns
Keith Jackson1988818696
Jordan Reed's pace2013788946
Jeremy Schockey2002748942
Charle Young1973558546
Pro Football Reference

When you consider that he's actually been a lot more productive in recent weeks than he was in early September, Reed could even have a chance to become just the 18th tight end in NFL history to hit the 1,000-yard mark. Pretty amazing when you consider that he was drafted behind five other tight ends last April. 

Rookie tight ends, 2013 (drafted in first three rounds)
Tight endDraftedRec/GMYds/GMTD/GM
Tyler Eifert 21st3.138.60.1
Zach Ertz 35th1.928.00.0
Vance McDonald 55th0.912.30.0
Travis Kelce 63rdN/AN/AN/A
Jordan Reed85th5.259.60.4
Pro Football Reference

Thus far in 2013, Reed, Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham are the only tight ends in football who have gained more than two yards per pass route run, per PFF.

Considering that he and that Redskins offense should only continue to improve, I think we'd better get used to hearing his name among groups like those.