Jelani Woods Put Himself On The Map At Shrine Bowl

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Out of all of the position groups in Las Vegas for this year’s Shrine Bowl, none shined quite like the tight ends. The 2022 group featured an especially diverse bunch of tight ends including Ohio University’s Armani Rogers, a high school and college quarterback transitioning to the position hoping it will help forge his path to the next level. Another standout was Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo, a true tight end who showed off his skills as an excellent pass-catcher with big YAC upside.

The one guy from that tight end group in Vegas who stood out most—both with his skills and physical stature—was Virginia graduate transfer Jelani Woods.

From just a stature standpoint, no other tight end attending this year’s Shrine Bowl came close to rivaling Woods. The tight end measured in at a touch under 6-foot-7 and 259 pounds. In fact, only four players on either team’s roster measured taller than the Virginia product, and all of them were offensive linemen. Even out of those four taller offensive linemen, only two had longer arms and a greater wingspan than Woods (with measurements over 34 and 82 inches, respectively). In practically every huddle he was a part of, the tight end towered over everyone.

If the size of Woods wasn’t enough to convince scouts of his NFL potential, the skill set he pairs with it should do the trick.

The Georgia native really excelled as both a blocker and pass-catcher in his final year of eligibility—his one year at Virginia. After three years as a primary blocker at Oklahoma State, Woods added a lot more receiving tape with the Hoos this season.

His large frame and catch radius made him a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. While he wouldn’t always create tons of separation with his route-running this season, it still felt like Woods was always open. He was just so much bigger than whoever was on him in coverage. The tight end wasn’t really a huge creator when running after the catch, but he did show potential in creating bonus yardage when he lowered his shoulder through initial contact.

Woods finished the 2021 season with 44 receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns—all career-highs—while continuing to show off his skills as a blocker in the run game.

Everything Woods showcased in his time with Virginia was present during Shrine Week. He looked strong as a blocker with good footwork, physicality, and competitiveness in the run game. As a pass-catcher, Woods kept demonstrating how dominant he could be, with his huge body and wide catch radius—not to mention his great hands—coming into play often as a big mismatch in one-on-one and team drills.

Not only did the Virginia product keep showing what we knew about him, but he also demonstrated some big improvements in the passing game that only further raised his draft stock. Chief among them was his route-running.

Woods wasn’t only relying on his size and contested-catch ability all week. He was showing off some nice moves at the top of his routes—most often a good stutter-step—and creating separation doing so, something that wasn’t his strong suit in college.

That extra separation was something he was able to create on seam routes as well as in his out routes and digs over the middle in one-on-ones. When it came to team drills, Woods was doing more of the same while also consistently finding holes in zone coverage, so he was a wide-open receiver on more than a couple of occasions.

With Woods’ improvements as a route-runner combined with his mismatch potential, the tight end was nearly impossible to cover in Shrine Bowl practices. When game day rolled around last Thursday, he was rewarded for his ability to get open with an easy touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Woods’ improved skill set and physical stature were on full display and led to great results in Las Vegas. That put him among the players demanding the most attention at the Shrine Bowl, and it bodes well for his potential to contribute as a versatile tight end at the next level.

Written By:

Jack McKessy

Staff Writer

Jack McKessy is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who grew up in Washington, D.C. As a student, he covered Northwestern’s football, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Previously, he was in charge of social media and contributed to both written and multimedia content creation for La Vida Baseball in Chicago. He has also assisted in the production of promotional content for the Big Ten Network. Jack initially joined the TDN team as an intern during the 2020 season. Now, he writes columns—primarily analysis of the New York Giants—and helps run TDN's YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.