Next up in our post-draft Q&A, we examine Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell. The Jaguars selected Farrell in the fifth round (No. 145 overall), and he enters a tight end group with a lack of pass-catching threats. While Farrell is also known as more of as a blocking tight end, could he actually be a reliable target for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence?
To get some more information on Farrell, we chatted with Gene Ross, managing editor for Land-Grant Holy Land — SB Nation’s website and resource for all things Ohio State. Is Farrell exclusively a blocking a tight end, or does he have a little more to offer? Let’s find out.
1. The Jaguars have a huge need for a pass-catching tight end. Luke Farrell is known more as a blocking tight end, but has he shown any ability as a reliable receiver in college, and do you think he could play more of that kind of role in the NFL?
Gene: Ohio State, by nature, just isn’t a place where it throws to the tight ends. Every year going into the season, the coaches will lead you to believe that it is finally the year of the tight end, and it simply never rings true. That being said, Farrell was always a reliable target when his number was called upon sparingly. He has very solid hands as a tight end, and has made some big plays in some big moments, including his touchdown reception against Clemson in this past season’s College Football Playoff. He isn’t going to be the next Darren Waller, but he is very capable of catching passes.
2. Speaking of blocking, what makes Farrell stand out in that regard? What can he still improve upon in his run-blocking and/or pass protection?
Gene: As you previously touched on, Farrell really starred at Ohio State as a blocker. The Buckeyes really don’t use all too many heavy sets as they’ve transitioned to more of a pass-happy offense under head coach Ryan Day, but whenever they needed a tight end or two in the game to seal off the edge, you could be sure that Farrell’s name would be called. Standing at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, while still maintaining high-level athleticism, Farrell can more than hold his own against both defensive ends and linebackers as he helps to open big holes for his running backs. It’s tough to say really what he needs to improve on, as nearly his entire role at Ohio State was focused on blocking, so he should be pretty adept in that position. If anything, he’ll need a few more reps in the passing game.
3. Farrell caught 20 passes in 2018, but then only seven passes in 2019 and five in 2020. Was there a reason for his diminished role? Was there a more talented player who passed him on the depth chart, or as you’ve mentioned, is it because tight ends are not really featured in Ohio State’s offensive scheme?
Gene: It was a little bit of both. For starters, Ohio State simply has too many elite wide receivers on its roster to look to the tight ends as a primary option — especially these past few seasons with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave running the show. In addition, the team added five-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert to the mix, and he was a far greater pass-catcher right out of the gate than Farrell, as you may have seen with some of his spectacular one-handed grabs these past couple years. Farrell and Ruckert split time at the tight end position, but Farrell was definitely looked to as more of the blocking tight end, while Ruckert was the guy getting most of the targets. That being said, Ruckert only caught 13 passes himself in 2020, so it really is mostly a function of Ohio State not utilizing its tight ends in that way.
4. Urban Meyer, of course, recruited Farrell out of high school when he was the head coach of Ohio State, and the two are from the same area in Ohio. How much do you think Meyer’s connection to the Ohio State program and to Farrell played a role in making this selection?
Gene: I think it was probably a pretty significant role. Urban Meyer has exhibited a trend — for better or for worse — of hiring his friends dating back to his time at Ohio State. It likely cost the Buckeyes a chance at a national championship in his final season in 2018 when he hired his best man from his wedding (Billy Davis, current assistant coach on staff for the Arizona Cardinals) to coach the linebackers at Ohio State, which was a miserable, miserable failure, in addition to Greg Schiano, whose defensive coordinator job with the Buckeyes didn’t play out all too well, either. There are also reports out there that Meyer was dead set on getting Kadarius Toney late in the first round, which makes sense given his Florida ties, as well as potentially adding Tim Tebow to the roster. It is probably the worst trait that Meyer has as a head coach, and while I don’t want to take anything away from Farrell, as he is a good player, I think it definitely played a part in his selection.
5. It looks as though Farrell may be an underrated athlete, with an 8.62 Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Do you agree with this assessment, and if so, do you expect him to make a bigger impact for the Jaguars than some fans may believe?
Gene: Farrell is definitely a better athlete than people give him credit for. Blocking doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, and when you aren’t one of these tight ends like Kyle Pitts that catches a ton of passes, you kind of get lost in the shuffle of all the great talent around you. Now, obviously Farrell isn’t nearly the type of athlete that Pitts is, but I think he is certainly comparable to the level of athlete you’d see in your prototypical NFL tight end. He is strong, fast and knows what he is doing on the football field, and I think his NFL career will actually probably look even better than his collegiate career if the Jacksonville offense actually uses him more than he was used in Columbus.
6. Is there anything else Jaguars fans should know about Farrell?
Gene: I think the most important thing Jaguars fans should know is that Luke Farrell is not actually 29-years-old. There was a funny thing going around during the draft because when you search his name on Google, his picture comes up next to the Wikipedia entry to the MLB pitcher of the same name, who is actually 29-years-old. I promise you Farrell is 23-years-old, and he tweeted so much himself a few days ago. Other than that, expect Farrell to come in there and work super hard to get onto the field, just like he did at Ohio State. While his opportunities were limited to much more of outside blocking for the Buckeyes, he made the most of it and rarely disappointed. He’s a good kid that’ll go as far as the Jacksonville coaching staff allows him to go.
I am 23 years old— Luke Farrell (@LukeFarrell89) May 2, 2021
Thank you to Gene for his great analysis and insights into what Farrell brings to Jacksonville’s thin tight ends room. Be sure to follow Gene on Twitter and to keep up with Urban Meyer’s previous stop, Ohio State, follow Land-Grant Holy Land as well.
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