For prospective NFL tight ends, few opportunities are as enticing as the one presented by the Chiefs.
Fifth-round draft choice James O’Shaughnessy — who will battle for the No. 2 tight-end spot in his first professional season — said as much Thursday after the final practice before veterans report to training camp on Friday.
“From the numbers, it seems so,” O’Shaughnessy said of the lucrative tight-end prospects in Kansas City. “So far, I’ve been very fortunate to receive a lot of passes and opportunities in practice, so I would say it’s probably the best team to be a part of if you’re a tight end.”
The statistics to which O’Shaughnessy alluded are revealing. Last season, quarterback Alex Smith threw 18 touchdown passes. None were caught by a wide receiver.
Tight end Travis Kelce led the team in receptions with 67 and receiving yards at 862. He also tied running back Jamaal Charles for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with five.
Not an unattractive precedent for O’Shaughnessy — a 6-foot-4, 245-pound target out of Illinois State who has aspirations to get on the field immediately and says his greatest attribute is as a pass catcher.
“I definitely would say I wish to play as much as I possibly can on offense or special teams — whatever they need me on,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I’m just trying to make the 53-man roster and steal as much playing time as I can.”
The Chiefs’ tight-end situation offers plenty of opportunity to do just that.
Veteran Anthony Fasano has moved on, and projected backup Demetirus Harris was sidelined for the second half of last season with a foot injury — an injury that required additional surgery in the offseason, causing him to miss the entirety of OTAs.
If Kelce is the barometer, then O’Shaughnessy appears to measure up well.
Kelce led the team in yards per reception last year at 12.9. O’Shaughnessy‘s average in college was 18.8 — a number indicative of speed, awareness and the ability to pick up yards after initial contact.
O’Shaughnessy is a little smaller than Kelce — an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter — and strength is a potential issue. But he is aware of what he needs to refine.
“I think I need to improve on every aspect of being a tight end: blocking, pass catching, route running,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Some things I do better than others, but to play in the National Football League, you’ve got to be able to do every one.”
Both O’Shaughnessy and the Chiefs should know more by next week, once the entire team has arrived in St. Joseph and practices in full pads begin.
“I’m very much looking forward to (putting pads on),” O’Shaughnessy said. “I think that’s when you’re really going to see the speed of the game, the tempo of the game, the physicality of the game change.
“That’s when you really get to play NFL football, so I would say I’m extremely excited to see what that’s about.”