Back in 2011, the Washington Redskins utilize a fifth-round pick on University of Nebraska tight end Niles Paul. In his first three seasons in the league, he plays 44 regular-season contests, making 10 starts. He manages to catch just 14 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown.
Then comes his breakout year in head coach Jay Gruden’s first season with the club. Paul made a career-best seven starts. A total of 52 targets adds up to 39 catches for 507 yards and one touchdown. All told, the former Cornhusker looked like an up-and-coming player.
But the past two years are forgettable for the once-emerging performer. He is out for all of 2015 with an ankle injury. In his first eight games this past season, he was a pass-catching afterthought. Paul totaled two grabs for 27 yards and then missed the remainder of ’16 with a shoulder problem. Conversely, he’s now in the final season of a three-year contract extension he signed in 2015 (via Spotrac).
Yes, the Washington Redskins have Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, both capable of big plays. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has used both men to his advantage. But what keeps Paul on the field are his run-blocking skills. Of the five tight ends currently on the roster, he is easily the team’s top option when it comes to this craft (courtesy of Pro Football Focus).
The Redskins’ ground attack has slumped in recent years. But running back Robert Kelley showed some promise as a rookie. Getting a healthy Paul back should make this aspect of the game plan much more efficient.
Russell S. Baxter is the Washington Redskins lead writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @baxfootballguru. Looking for more Redskins news and features? Like our Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_redskins on Twitter.