David Ausberry (86) is the leading candidate to replace starting tight end Brandon Myers (83), who left in free agency. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
It’s not good when your team’s best tight end is ranked ninth in a four-team division.
That was the case this week when ESPN.com’s AFC West blogger Bill Williamson put together his ranking of what he called the division’s “underwhelming group” of tight ends.
At the end of last season, the Raiders might have ranked No. 1 on this list with Brandon Myers, who had a breakthrough year. Myers caught 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns and became quarterback Carson Palmer’s most dependable target when a first-down catch was needed. But after four seasons in Oakland, Myers departed in free agency to the New York Giants.
Now the heir apparent at the position is David Ausberry, who’ll be entering his third NFL season from USC having served as a backup to Myers in 2012 and the third option behind Myers and starter Kevin Boss in 2011. Last season the 6-foot-4, 258-pound Ausberry had seven catches for 92 yards. His rookie season he had just two for 14.
Yet Ausberry is ranked by Williamson as No. 9 among tight ends in the division, behind three on the Chargers’ roster (Antonio Gates, John Phillips and Ladarius Green), three in Kansas City (Anthony Fasano, Tony Moeaki and Travis Kelce) and two in Denver (Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen).
“Ausberry gets first crack, but he hasn’t shown much,” wrote Williamson. “Sixth-round picks Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera are awaiting their chances.”
Ausberry has the size and the speed (4.48 40-yard dash at the Combine) to be a good target if given the chance to contribute, and showed at USC he could be a playmaking receiver. He had 64 receptions for 700 yards and seven TDs for the Trojans.
Ranked No. 10 is Richard Gordon, also a third-year pro. The 6-foot-4, 268-pounder from Miami is considered a better blocker than Ausberry but has just three catches over two seasons for 11 yards and a TD.
Kasa, who is 6-foot-6 and 269 pounds, has a minor injury and hasn’t been able to participate in organized team activities (OTAs) over the past three weeks. He caught 20 passes for 348 yards and three TDs in 2012 for Colorado, then played for the Oakland coaching staff in the Senior Bowl. He’s considered to be a receiver with good speed, and has been compared to Boss.
Rivera, a former Tennessee Volunteer who is 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, caught 36 passes as a senior and 29 as a junior.
Ausberry is the front-runner for the job, but with summer training camp and exhibition games still a couple of months away that could change.
“It’s pretty wide open,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told the Bay Area media this week about the position. “All of those guys are doing a nice job. Obviously it’s hurt not having Kasa out there because he’s a guy we really anticipated being able to step in and potentially fill a role for us. So hopefully we’ll get him out there soon.
“The big thing, again, with those guys, just like it is with everyone else, it’s going to be the consistency issue because they are relatively young at the position.”