Calling all fantasy football owners: buy now! The Niles Paul hype train is rounding the station and it's time to get on board. After being named the starter and most complete tight end on the roster by head coach Jay Gruden, Paul could be in line for an even bigger role than expected in 2015.
Teammates and fellow tight ends Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen are both dealing with injuries at this time. Reed's injury is of the hamstring variety, and there is no timetable on his return, although it is not expected to be long-term. Paulsen is dealing with a toe issue that might require surgery.
If Paulsen's surgery is of the season-ending variety, and some believe that could be the case, Paul could end up seeing a major uptick in total offensive snaps. Paulsen has served as the Redskins' blocking tight end, often lining up in-line. After adding 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, Paul is up to 252 pounds and has reportedly showed major improvements as a blocker.
Paul could end up serving as the team's primary blocking tight end on all formations, and due to his receiving skills, he could also end up earning the team's primary pass-catching tight end role. This is a lot to handle, and there is potential for Paul to rack up a lot of snaps. So let's break it all down by first looking at how the snaps shook out in 2014 with all three players on the roster*:
As you can see, Paulsen handled 407 snaps in 2014, and he was primarily used as a run and pass blocker on those snaps. This is a role that Paul would likely take over as long as his improved blocking translates to the preseason and then regular season games.
Obviously, part of the reason why Paul lead the tight ends with 585 snaps is because Reed was only able to stay on the field for 377 snaps due to various lower body injuries. However, Reed is already missing practice time with another lower body injury, and he has missed 12 of his first 32 games. He has also only played 75 percent or more of the offense's snaps in two total games in his career.
Although Reed adds an element to the passing game over the middle in the short and intermediate areas of the field, the Redskins have promising rookie slot receiver Jamison Crowder to eventually carve out a role there. Reed can't stretch the seam like Paul can. During Tuesday's practice, Paul capped off one drive with the first team offense by reeling in a 55-yard touchdown pass. When he entered the NFL, he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash--that's a number only achieved by wide receivers.
There is serious potential for Paul to join the ranks of Jason Witten, Heath Miller and other tight ends who eclipse the 1,000 snap mark if Paulsen is ruled out for the 2015 season. Even if the Redskins bring in a blocking tight end, Paul could still see upwards of 850 snaps--nearly 50 percent more than he saw in 2014.
*All 2014 snap data comes from Pro Football Focus