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Jameson Konz and the H-Back Position in the Seahawks' Offense

In last year's 7th round, Seattle took a flier on WR/TE/H-Back Jameson Konz with their final draft pick.  The Uniontown, Ohio native measured in at 6'3", 235 pounds. He runs the 40 in 4.38 seconds. He has a 46" vertical.  And those numbers, really, are the main reasons he was chosen.  He is a freak athlete.  To be that big and fast, agile (6.93 3 cone drill), and to have a 46" verticle jump is pretty rare.  He also benched 225 lbs 27 times - better than some linemen can boast, so he's got strength to go with quicks. In his first year with the Hawks, Konz spent most of it on the Injured Reserve with a hip injury. Before that, though, he signed a 4-year, $1.83 million contract and figures to be in the Seahawks' plans this year.  

Like Antonio Gates, Josh Cribbs, and James Harrison, Konz played his college ball at Kent State.  He played linebacker the first three years of his collegiate career but then was moved to tight end his senior year. He hurt his ankle that year though, redshirted, and returned for another year.  His (2nd) senior year he played in-line Tight End about a third of the time, lined up at H-Back the rest, and caught 21 passes for 298 yards with a pair of TDs. His numbers most likely would have been significantly better had he not been injured his redshirted (first) senior year: he would have been catching passes from his then QB teammate/roommate and current New England Patriot Julian Edelman. The next year though, Edelman was drafted and Konz was catching passes from a true freshman, (16 TD to 16 INT). Not terrible stats for a guy in a shaky offense that was playing on defense the three years prior. 

After he was done at Kent State, Konz hooked up with Julian Edelman's agent, Don Yee; the two met through Kent State's head coach Doug Martin.  After the success that Yee had with Edelman, he reached out to another versatile, athletic player in Konz: as Lee put it, "Versatility is becoming more important on these [NFL] rosters. If a player has the appropriate body shape and ability, he's going to be serving more than one role. I think [Konz] is going to be the same Swiss Army knife-type of guy."

It's no secret that Pete Carroll loves versatility and you can see a pattern emerging with some of the personnel moves they're making to shape this team. Konz was initially told by the Hawks' coaching staff that he'd be playing some WR, but played some TE in mini-camps as well.

According to a source with some inside knowledge from the team,

"When Konz asked Schneider as the season was ending last year where they planned on playing him in 2011, WR or TE, Schneider just kind of shrugged his shoulders and smiled, not giving a clear indication. His main contact with the team is the TE coach, so it's fairly clear that's where they see him playing. Coming out of college his senior year he was listed on the Kent State roster at 227 lbs., but pre-draft he trained with an outfit in Cleveland called Speed Strength with Tim Robertson, and bulked up to 234.

Konz has been up there working again this off season and has added more weight, and he's got the frame to add even more over time. This guy is a freak athlete with a crazy combination of size and speed. If he stays healthy, he's going to be useful in numerous capacities in the NFL. The Hawks were working with him last year in pre-season as a special teams gunner.

One of the things that every coach likes when they meet this guy is that he's willing to play wherever or do whatever they want. He just wants to be on the playing field, and as we all know coaches love that kind of attitude. He's certainly a project of sorts with his limited experience on offense at the collegiate level and injury history, but he's got huge upside given his athleticism, ability to play multiple positions, and strong personal character. Konz is out in Seattle right now working out with Hasselbeck, Carlson, and others on the offense."

Once the dust settles, I believe you'll probably see Konz playing the H-back position, a tight end, fullback hybrid that also lines up on the wing to run routes. Here's where Konz could make his pay - if he can develop his blocking in-line as a tight end, lead blocking for the tailback and on blitz pickups out of the backfield as a fullback, you could see him getting a lot of snaps due to his ability to motion out to the wing and catch passes.

Without knowing what the Hawks' new offense will really look like, but going on the assumption it won't change a huge amount as Pete Carroll has stated, you can start to imagine how he'd be used. Last year, we saw plays here or there where Marshawn Lynch or Justin Forsett would motion out to the wing and run routes down the sideline or up the middle of the field. Really, what good is that? How often are you going to see guys like that targeted downfield and if they do happen to get open how reliable are they going to be making the catch? This is not a knock on those guys but they're not paid to be making big catches down the field - their specialty apart from running is catching an occasional swing pass or bubble screen. Also, for what it's worth, Tom Cable loved to use Marcel Reece in this capacity and if he has say in the offense (like I think he does) this is where Konz could prove valuable. 

Instead or Lynch or Forsett, you trot Konz out there - a guy that sort of reminds me of Matt 'The Freak" Jones, to run some routes and make some plays with his athleticism. Matt Jones made the transition from college QB to wide receiver in the NFL after testing off the charts at the Combine and actually put up pretty good numbers before washing out due to cocaine arrests. While Jones has three inches in height on Konz, their numbers apart from that are pretty similar - sub 4.4 forty, about 235-240 pounds. Konz has about 6 inches on Jones in his vertical jump so let's just say they are similar athletes. You put a guy with those abilities out there and you can line him up on the line, motion him out to the wing to run routes, or put him in the backfield and have a number of options available for him to do. 

You saw John Carlson in this role last year and let's be honest, he struggled. He's not the natural lead blocker you'd hope for in a fullback. He's a good receiving tight end for the most part but he's not a burner and he actually dropped some easy passes last year that didn't help his cause. Michael Robinson played some fullback and did well while he was healthy but he may not be back and may not have the receiving chops or ability to play on the line that they're looking for. Cameron Morrah was used in the H-back role at times and has a good chance to stick there but could also be used as a traditional tight end as well. The thing you notice about Seahawk tight ends is that you see them in the slot and even on the outside at times so you know that Pete Carroll isn't afraid to get creative with his formations (or let his coordinator do so). 

We saw the Hawks take a look at and work out several H-back type players pre-draft, including Ryan Taylor (drafted by Packers in 7th round), Shane Bannon (drafted by Chiefs in 7th round), and they even kicked the tires on DT/FB Matongi Tonga so I just have a hunch they plan to develop somebody in that role. Not sure if Konz showed them much before he was hurt early last season but he's certainly got the size and athletic ability you look for in that position. Imagine a guy that can lead block on one play and then the next play swing out to the wing, run a vertical route and go up and get a jump ball in the back of the endzone. That's the potential that Konz has and I'm hoping to see him live up to that. 

In the meantime though, my guess is that they will try to incorporate him into their special teams packages early and often this season.  Coming out of a small program like Kent State, Konz was able to to a part of almost every Special Teams down in his career there, experience that will be invaluable. Playing linebacker for most of his college career will probably help in his physicality and tackling and you have to hope that will help in his blocking. 

Konz's freakish physical ability is not the only thing he brings to the table.  He's got the ideal attitude you'd want for a jack-of-all-trades type bubble player for your team.  When asked what he'd like NFL teams to know about him going into the draft, he replied:

Well, as far as the film, it should speak for itself. I play extremely hard. I'm going to go all-out every single play. But as far as (beyond) film, I would like for them just to get to know me as a person and understand the type of person I am: somebody of high character and integrity... I understand that I'm the type of person who's going to go into a football organization and not only be 150 percent for you on the field, but in the community as well. I understand that, you know, professional athletes are role models for kids growing up - I used to be one - and I take that responsibility to heart. I really just want to be the type of person who can (become) a positive role model for people.

With a good attitude and some offseason work on his skillset, he could find himself working with a number of different units. To make the 53 man roster, though, Konz will need to develop in many areas. He will need to improve his consistency catching the ball, his downfield blocking, his route running, and his speed off the line. These are all coachable problem areas, and Konz's old-school football attitude leads me to believe he'll put the work in. CBS Sports had a very thorough report on Konz coming out last year, listing some of his shortcomings his potential strengths, which I'll quote here:

Release: Average quickness off the line, hesitating instead of exploding. Rarely pressed in KSU's spread offense. Builds up deep speed after a couple of steps with long strides.

Hands: Able to catch the ball away from his frame with his hands. Capable of the circus catch, but also drops passes that cannot happen at the next level. Loses concentration when trying to make a play before securing the ball, with bad body language after the drop. Excellent vertical to go up and over defenders. Must improve catching low throws.

Route running: A bit robotic in his route-running, but flashes the ability to plant his foot and cut at a sharp angle outside. Downfield speed allows him to fake inside or outside and get separation, even though he runs a bit stiff. Good quickness down the seam. Takes time to gather on hitch routes, allowing defender into the play. Does not always finish routes downfield, especially if covered or not the primary option. Could work harder to get back to quarterback when play breaks down.

After the catch: Used on bubble screens to take advantage of his speed and agility. Willing to lower the shoulder to get extra yardage with the ball in his hands. Runs through arm tackles from corners and can avoid cut tackles outside. Could be a matchup problem with linebackers once he's in space. Has enough elusiveness to avoid a defensive back's tackle but lacks great vision in the open field.

Blocking: Gives effort to get to linebackers and safeties at the second level, but isn't as aggressive or physically dominating as you would expect as a former linebacker. Will throw a shoulder instead of trying to sustain. Lacks great flexibility and strength on the edge, and even cut blocks against cornerbacks are severely ineffective. Lines up as motion tight end; good quickness from his stance but hesitates to block, missing targets and struggling to stay engaged. Does not have lower-body strength to anchor on the line or in the open field.

Intangibles: Played multiple positions; from receiver in high school to linebacker, stayed until team's depth allowed the switch back to offense. On-field effort was not always what it could have been, however. Considered more potential than production and a better athlete than football player at this time.

So as you'd expect, he's raw and has some of the issues you see with guys that switch positions late in the game. With some coaching these things can be improved but it could take a while. At this point he could be classified as a low-floor, high ceiling type of prospect that could really do some damage if he puts it all together. He's had a year to learn now so he's one of the guys I'll be watching once this lockout ends. If he makes the 53 man roster I'd expect to see him getting some time on kickoffs and eventually worked into some offensive formations at H-back. We'll see.