2019 Season Countdown: #18 Sean McKeon

2019 Season Countdown: #18 Sean McKeon

August 14, 2019
Sean McKeon (image via MLive)

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Name: Sean McKeon
246 lbs.
High school:
Dudley (MA) Shepherd Hill
Tight end
Jersey number:
Last year:
I ranked McKeon #20 and said he would have 25 catches for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns (LINK). He made 14 catches for 122 yards and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating:

After leading the team in receptions in 2017 – during an abysmal passing year – McKeon took a step back in 2018, catching fewer than half as many passes (31 to 14) and going from an unimpressive 9.7 yards per catch to an even less impressive 8.7. One factor in those unimpressive numbers stems from the fact that Michigan had a 6’8″ future 5th round pick in Zach Gentry. Gentry was the downfield threat (16.1 yards/catch in 2018), while McKeon was the underneath guy.

The buzz on McKeon has been positive. He reportedly dropped weight this off-season to improve his speed, and he has turned into a leader. I expect improvement from year one to year two or even year two to year three, but by the time you’re a third-year guy going into your fourth year, I have a hard time buying marked improvement. On top of the mediocre athleticism McKeon has shown, he also has some big gaffes (Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina) and bad drops. While the Outback Bowl thing wasn’t his fault, sometimes McKeon just looks like a deer in headlights whenever he’s out of his comfort zone.

Can he flip the mental switch from part-time player to big-time dude? I think my comments above probably indicate which direction I’m leaning, but the possibility exists. McKeon is a solid blocker but I have yet to see evidence that he can do much more than that. We might see a similar role for him in 2019 while the more athletically gifted Nick Eubanks takes on the Zach Gentry role of downfield threat from the tight end position.

I posted this tweet a few days ago:

Jim Harbaugh knows how to find good tight ends. Gentry, Bunting, and Butt are all in the NFL; Asiasi and McKeon are regarded as a couple of the top tight ends in the nation; and Eubanks could very well be on that Mackey Award watch list going into 2020. McKeon does not appear to be on the path to getting drafted like Butt and Gentry; he’s a good guy to have on the roster but not someone other teams have to gameplan around.

Prediction: Starting tight end; 30 catches for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1722
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Aug 14, 2019 at 10:57 PM

    The drops and other issues have me wondering just how much Gattis exaggerates, after saying we have the best TEs in the nation. I mean, one can’t catch and the other can’t block

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 1722
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Aug 14, 2019 at 11:00 PM

    There’s some issues with posting. Among quite a few other occasions, I commented 2-3 times on the JKP post, and none showed up. After a while, I gave up. I know I’m not the only one

    “If you’re a lurker, join the discussion by making a comment!”

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 5721
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 15, 2019 at 9:50 AM

    I believe seniors can improve significantly but I don’t think anyone is going to change a fundamental trait. You can work on some deficiencies in your game but you’re not going to all the sudden turn Mike Hart into a track star or Denard Robinson into a WR.

    McKeon seems like a good player and I trust our coaches have played him for good reason. They’ve consistently raved about his blocking and praised his athleticism. He doesn’t see to have any issue getting open. The problem seems to be that he is just not a natural pass catcher.

    I don’t think it’s just an issue of hands but how he tracks the ball and adjusts to throws. Instincts and timing. You have to know how to use your body to create separation from the defender. Wall him off, push off with your hands, jump to the high point, know when to get your arms up, etc. This is why Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallons could win jump balls despite being shorter WRs. Functional catch radius is not just a physical trait.

    Anyway, Mckeon doesn’t seem to have any of that. He’s gotten some downfield chances to improve his YPC significantly and it just has never worked out. Maybe it’s not on him but we’ve seen enough missed opportunities over the last 3 years to think so.

    Can it be taught in an offseason? I’m skeptical. But I do think he can improve to challenge for all conference honors. OTOH I think Eubanks is a pretty decent player too – so we’ll just have to see.

    I expect something like a 50/50 rotation between a couple of solid college TEs but nobody the NFL will be drooling after. There’s enough talent around them that this is perfectly fine. They just need to execute not scare anybody’s pants off.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 28
    Joined: 9/24/2017
    Aug 15, 2019 at 11:52 AM

    Semi lurker here.

    I just can’t get too excited about McKeon at this point. I think incremental improvement is the best we are likely to see.

  5. Avatar
    Comments: 1310
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 15, 2019 at 9:31 PM

    I frankly don’t think any of our TEs should be this high. Other than the default preferences giving to seniority on Harbaugh rosters, no one guy really stands out from the others, and the TE will hopefully not be that impactful of a position this year anyway.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3481
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 15, 2019 at 9:34 PM

      I’m not sure we have much beyond the top two tight ends right now. Also, if you listen to people talk about the offense this year, there’s a lot of talk about 11 and 12 personnel…and not a ton of talk about 20 personnel or 10 personnel. The tight end position is still going to be involved.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1310
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 16, 2019 at 7:30 AM

        Unless we’re going to be sticking with the run-first, put two WRs in the pattern on 3rd and 12 offense that Harbaugh has been so fond of, we don’t need more than two decent TEs. The rest are just bodies. Even our best TE isn’t going to be targeted that much, certainly not to the extent that he’s going to get 45-50 catches. Our starting TE this year will be less impactful than the reserves at a lot of other positions.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3481
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Aug 16, 2019 at 7:59 AM

          Well…I disagree.

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