Over the last few weeks, we've been sharing in-depth scouting reports on each of the players signed by the Jets in free agency. Today we take a look at tight end Bucky Hodges.
Hodges is 22 and listed at 6'6" and 257 pounds. He was a sixth round pick out of Virginia Tech last year for the Minnesota Vikings, but failed to make their roster. He spent part of the year on the Panthers practice squad but has yet to make his NFL debut.
Hodges was originally recruited to Virginia Tech as a dual threat quarterback but converted to tight end as a freshman. He also excelled at basketball in high school.
He was a consistent contributor at Virginia Tech, catching at least 40 passes in each of his three seasons. He had career bests in receptions (48) and yards (691) in his final season, ending his career with 133 catches for over 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
After he decided to enter the draft early, he was a projected mid-round pick but dropped into the sixth round where he was selected by the Vikings.
In preseason, Hodges caught four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown but suffered a concussion in his last game and ended up being waived with an injury designation. He was released from injured reserve a few weeks later. He spent six weeks on the Panthers practice squad but then was released and has not been with a team since October.
Let's take a look at what Hodges brings to the table based on in-depth research and film study.
Hodges provides a combination of size and athleticism that made him a match-up nightmare in college. He lacks ideal agility and strength but is otherwise an excellent athlete for his size.
As you can see his arms are of below average length despite the fact he is tall for his position.
Hodges was basically a wide receiver in college, especially in his last season. He seemed to play as a more conventional tight end more often in his redshirt freshman season.
In preseason with the Vikings he never lined up wide but did play in the slot about one-third of the time.
As noted, he was a quarterback in high school and he also saw some time as a wildcat quarterback with the Hokies, although he did not throw a pass. He also carried the ball on jet sweeps from time to time.
Hodges was a big downfield threat in college, albeit mostly from just going up to grab a downfield throw over a bigger defender. He can get over the top from time-to-time, but most of his downfield receptions come from running down the seam or boxing out down the field.
He showed an example of that in preseason as he ran down the seam for this 33-yard gain:
Hodges is a raw route runner and lacks elite acceleration to separate from defenders. Here's a nice route breaking to the outside, though:
His most effective way of gaining separation in man coverage is at the point of the catch where he can use his size to box out or push off.
Hodges' catch rate in college was between 50 and 60 percent in each of his three seasons, which isn't that bad given how more than a quarter of his targets were on lower percentage downfield throws and not many were dump-offs.
However, he doesn't really look natural catching the ball, as you'll see him double-catch or body catch the ball pretty regularly throughout his highlights. He only had a few drops in each of his first two seasons, but had more issues in his final year, mainly due to poor focus.
He is capable of catching the ball in traffic or over defenders though, and he can make spectacular grabs like this one:
Yards after the catch
Hodges' numbers for yards after the catch haven't been good and he doesn't break a lot of tackles. This is probably a symptom of the fact so many of his catches come with a defender right on his hip.
Here's an impressive play from when he was in college though:
With 20 career receiving touchdowns and his natural ability to create mismatches, Hodges is an obvious red zone threat.
While this was strictly speaking just outside the red zone, he showed his ability to make a touchdown catch in traffic in preseason:
Hodges is raw as a blocker and his effort levels have also been criticized in the past. Pad level and leverage can be an issue and he has issues with sustaining blocks.
On this play, he manages to get enough of his man to set the edge on this run, but even here it's not exactly textbook:
On this play, the Vikings get the touchdown but Hodges' lack of strength is apparent as he allows penetration at the point of attack:
Hodges stayed in to block a few times per game in his first season and didn't give up a sack although he got beat a few times. Since then he's hardly ever been asked to do it and he didn't have a single pass block rep in 2016.
Hodges didn't contribute much of special teams in college, although he did score this touchdown:
In preseason he got a few reps on the punt cover unit and was also employed as a blocker on the kick return unit. He does a poor job of staying on his block here:
As a former quarterback, Hodges has a good understanding of offensive concepts. However, he's still somewhat raw in terms of his natural pass catching instincts and in terms of his blocking assignments.
Hodges was arrested in 2015 for public intoxication, although charges were dropped when he agreed to do community service. There were rumors that off-field concerns were part of the reason he dropped to the late rounds of the draft, but several reporters looked into if there were any other red flags and there were not, as he was regarded as a player with a good work ethic in college.
He only had a few penalties each season in college, including holding and offensive pass interference calls.
Hodges played in 39 games in his three college seasons, but was released by the Vikings after suffering a concussion in the final preseason game.
Hodges has been on the street since October so he's more of a long-shot than the rest of the free agents signed by the Jets in free agency.
Even with the limited experience they have at the position, Hodges probably lacks the all around ability to beat out any of the other young tight ends on the team.
Hodges' athletic potential makes him an interesting possibility for a specialist type of role and he could be an interesting practice squad project, but the fact he's already been released by two teams and didn't have much interest from anyone else underscores how far his stock has fallen.