It's been three years since Niles Paul was taken in the 5th round of the 2011 Draft by the Washington Redskins. At that time, he looked like a promising young Wide Receiver out of Nebraska. As his career began to unfold, he found himself being converted into a Tight End; a position where players must become a jack of all trades.
It hasn't been easy for him, and for some time, it looked as though Paul would become one of those players that we all forget about in due time. He doesn't have the prototypical size of a modern day Tight End in the league (he is 6'1", 225 lbs.), but he has improved almost every aspect of his game, and it is paying off in 2014.
Unfortunately, the Redskins are riding a three game losing streak, and are now sitting at the bottom of the NFC East at 1-4. These bad team performances sometimes make us forget about how great some of these players are becoming, but we can't let this get in the way of looking at the silver lining.
Niles Paul is the second leading receiver on this team with 22 receptions for 319 yards and a touchdown. He is only second to DeSean Jackson, a Pro Bowl caliber Wide Receiver. On top of that, he is a Special Teams ace and really knows how to lay the wood against an opposing return-man.
So, what gives? Why is Niles Paul suddenly bursting onto the scene like this? Please take notice that Paul was drafted during the Mike Shanahan era, and he may not have been used to his potential by the previous regime. Head Coach Jay Gruden seems to like using Niles Paul for his offense, because he is fast and has the ability to create mismatches.
What of Jordan Reed, the starting Tight End in Washington? Well, it's because of Jordan Reed's hamstring injury in week one that Paul even got his shot to start on this team. Reed's status was Questionable leading up to week five against the Seahawks, but he wasn't ready to go. Unless Paul starts playing like a madman and becomes the next Shannon Sharpe; Jordan Reed's starting job isn't in jeopardy.
More than likely, the two Tight End's will probably be used together in some formations to make things even tougher on opposing defenses. If Niles Paul can get open and make plays without any other real threat at Tight End, it will be exciting to see how he fares when the other team must also cover Jordan Reed.
The way Niles Paul has been playing as of late; he seems to be legit. However, this is the last year of his rookie contract. If he continues to produce and churns out some spectacular numbers by the end of the season, Washington may not be able to keep their diamond in the rough. Make sure to keep your eye on this versatile 4th year Tight End. He is becoming a very valuable asset for the Washington Redskins.