You might as well call the Senior Bowl the ‘Houston Texans farm system’ because the team is guaranteed to select at least one player each year from this game. Whether it is the competitiveness to play another game after your college career has ended, or the chance to work closely with these players before the draft, the Texans can't get enough of the talent at the Senior Bowl. Tight end Jordan Akins is a perfect example. The 3rd round pick from Central Florida worked directly with Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff at the game.
Akins was never an overly productive player at Cental Florida. His career highs came in 2017 with 30 catches for 459 yards receiving and four touchdowns. He was a part of the 2017 Central Florida team that went undefeated and beat Auburn and claimed a national title of their own.
When Akins joined the team in the 2018 offseason, the position group was in transition as C.J. Fiedorowicz (another Senior Bowl guy) left the team due to repeated concussion issues and Stephen Anderson didn’t made the progress the Texans had hoped. To give him company, the Texans drafted TE Jordan Thomas three rounds after they selected Akins.
In the preseason, the Texans appeared to have found a gem with Thomas at tight end after he caught two touchdowns against the Chiefs in the first preseason game.
In his first year for the Texans, Akins was only seeing about one or two targets per game. His route tree was relatively short and consisted of mainly post and out routes off play action and short yardage plays. He excels at finding open ground in the defense, but does have issues separating from defenders when initially covered. He ended the season with 17 receptions for 255 yards. I’ll give him another thing, he is a load to bring down in the open field, that is for sure. His yards after catch are purely from effort and forcing the defense to will him to the ground.
He will be 27 entering his second year in the league since he spent several years playing baseball in the Texas Rangers farm system. Age is nothing but a number for Akins. He hasn’t racked up the years of injuries and damage compared to the typical 27 year old tight ends in the league.
Akins’ role on the roster has yet to be decided... mainly because the Texans have a better primary receiving option in each aspect of the passing game. There’s no such thing as too many weapons to have in an offense, but with so many eligible bachelors panting over Watson’s targets, Akins may be capped in his potential. If he can’t evolve or break through as an elite pass catcher, the ground game may be a source of playing time for him. Akins should grade out as the best blocking tight end between him, Jordan Thomas, and rookie Khale Warring, and this training camp will be critical to his development in the run game.
The biggest threat to Akins is the progression of rookie Khale Warring. Warring has the intangibles that Akins yearns for and is only 22 years old. All the reports from camp about Warring have been very positive, which slides Akins down the depth chart right off the bat. Then, there is the threat to Akins’ blocking snaps with Darren Fells in the picture. Akins is a more well-rounded tight end than Fells, but Fells’ reported excellence in the blocking category of the position could put Akins into a free fall on the depth chart.
Akins’ variability is one of the highest on the team. The Texans took him in the third round of last year’s draft for a reason: they see a lot of potential in his game. Akins has a ton of tools he can use and his unique story can get him far on this team. Akins’ will no doubt be an asset in the run game and play action passing attack, but his development in both categories will set the stage for his playing time in the upcoming season. The addition of Warring and Fells onto the roster do not bode well for Akins, but if he can make the leap that many players make from their first year to their second, Akins will increase his offensive productivity.