Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There’s a QB-turned-TE who excelled with the Virginia Cavaliers who is looking to make a name in the NFL.
Heath Miller is, obviously, the poster child for this, having a Hall of Fame NFL career including two rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers following his stellar Virginia career. Jake McGee and Tony Poljan are two other examples, and now Jelani Woods is the most recent.
Woods was a 6’7” 230 lb “Pro-style” QB coming out of HS. After a redshirt year at Oklahoma State, he moved from QB to TE. He was actually listed on the OSU as “Cowboy-Back”, which is sort of a Tight End/Fullback hybrid position.
In three seasons at OSU, Woods totaled 31 receptions for 361 yards (11.6 ypc) and 4 TDs. He was a two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention. But he may have been underutilized. In his lone season at Virginia, Woods totaled 44 catches for 598 yards (13.6 ypc) and 8 TDs. Even those numbers are just scratching the surface of what he could be.
Woods was just another NFL draft name heading into the NFL Draft Combine. That all changed quickly. Woods’ performance at the Combine has generated a ton of hype and he’s now being projected as a Day 2 pick, and possibly even the first TE taken.
He only participated in two events at the Combine, the 40 yard dash and the bench press. But that was enough.
As you can see, Woods ran a 4.61s in the 40. That was the second fastest TE at the combine. The only faster TE weighed in at 238 lbs. Woods weighed 259. Woods also put up 24 bench reps, which was tops among TEs. His combine performance is on par with Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, likely the two best NFL TEs in recent years. Frankly, this combination of size, speed and strength is scary. Scary good.
This was Woods’ breakout game, coming against the Illini in Virginia’s second contest of last season. Woods had 5 receptions for 122 yards and a TD in this one. His previous single-game high was 54 yards.
Let’s look at a couple more highlights to see what Woods can do.
His first strait that stands out is obviously his size. Woods is a big dude. Here, he uses his body to shield the defender and create a window for Brennan Armstrong to hit him in the end-zone.
He’s also strong and knows how to take advantage of it. On this play, he takes a big hit and stays up, forcing his way into the end zone.
And — as evidenced by his 4.61 40-yard dash — Woods can run. Against Pitt on this play he breaks a couple of tackles and turns a 10 yard pass into a 40 yard gain.
If his overall numbers don’t blow you away, remember that Woods was part of an offense with the nation’s 14th ranked WR in yards (Dontayvion Wicks) and 19th ranked WR in receptions (Keytaon Thompson). There’s only one football on the field at a time and only so many passes to be thrown. Woods wasn’t the primary option on most plays, yet still put up some impressive numbers in his first extended run as a passing game weapon.
But what about blocking? TEs need to block. Can Woods? Look, Oklahoma State essentially turned him into a fullback. He can block. That said, he’s not a TE who can handle an NFL DE one-on-one. Those are rare. His height is a liability when blocking bigger DEs. He is much better in space where he can use his long arms to get locked onto a defender and his bulk to push the defender back.
You may be surprised to hear that highlight reels for TEs do not include much blocking. But here is one, below, showing Woods blocking on the edge. Woods is the last man on the OL to the right (towards the top of the screen). He gets into space and takes Duke’s #23 right out of play. By the end of the play, the Duke defender is 10 yards upfield.
Woods may not be faster than most NFL LBs, but he is bigger than them.
Woods is raw. He hasn’t mastered route running, though he got good reviews on that from the Senior Bowl. And he can also improve as a blocker. (So can every other guy in this draft.) But Woods’ physical gifts are tremendous and if he puts in the work, he could become a very good NFL TE.