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Raiders 2023 preview: Keep an eye on Jesper Horsted

Tight end must continue to impress in suddenly crowded position group

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Jesper Horsted was a reserve tight end for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022. He’ll need to showcase his talent on offense and special teams to make the 2023 53-man roster.
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Jesper Horsted is always at the ready. It’s that mentality which helped the three-year veteran carve out a roster spot with the Las Vegas Raiders after being an early June free agent addition last season.

The wide receiver-turned-tight end needs to stoke that fire of a mentality this offseason. It’s served the undrafted free agent well thus far, but with a suddenly crowed tight end room, Horsted has a whole other set of proving to do.

The Princeton product will contend with free agent adds Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard, 2023 second-round pick Michael Mayer, 2022 undrafted free agent Cole Fotheringham, and 2023 undrafted free agent John Samuel Shenker (even though the team hasn’t officially announced his addition yet). That group of six will vie for the opportunity to be the Raiders tight ends as the team re-tooled the position after having Darren Waller and Foster Moreau as TE1 and TE2 this past season.

By The Numbers

  • Jesper Horsted
  • 26 years old, 6-foot-4, 241 pounds
  • 2022 Stats: 3 catches, 19 yards on 57 offensive snaps; 190 snaps on special teams

At the midseason point of 2022, Horsted spoke glowingly of learning from those two aforementioned tight ends.

“I mean, Darren is an extremely talented pass catching tight end and his routes are really impressive to watch. And so, I know during camp, when he was healthy and during OTAs, I was doing a lot of studies on the releases that he’s getting,” Horsted said during media availability the week before the Raiders’ Week 11 matchup with the Denver Broncos. “Because that’s the level I want to get to, of course. I don’t have the same physical skill set as he does, but you can shoot for the best.

“And then Foster, he’s an amazing pass blocker while still maintaining a really good pass catching skill set as well. So I think he’s helped me the most with pass blocking and run blocking, stuff that I haven’t done so much of in my career and I’ve improved a ton as a result.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Perhaps another strong preseason showing will keep tight end Jesper Horsted (top) in the mix for a 53-man roster spot in Las Vegas.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

A prolific pass catcher during his collegiate days (196 receptions, 2,703 yards and 28 touchdowns as a big wide receiver for four seasons), Horsted’s aptitude for learning was apparent at Princeton and during his initial season with the Raiders — which saw him arrive as a late OTA add. But with Waller and Moreau in front of him, his offensive snaps were severely dampened and he hasn’t been able to showcase what he has to offer as both pass catcher and blocker. The 6-foot-4, 241-pound 26-year-old only played 57 snaps offensively (six percent of the Raiders offense’s total) and caught a meager three passes for 19 yards — all of which came in Las Vegas’ 30-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.

Horsted’s biggest contribution arrived on special teams where he garnered 190 total snaps (48 percent of the units work) and finished with four tackles. His willingness to do whatever the team asks him may give Horsted his best shot of making the 53-man roster in 2023. But it’ll be a steep climb especially with Hooper, Mayer, and Howard in tow.

Expect Howard and Horsted to battle for the TE3 spot. Howard has more experience as a pass catcher and blocker and that may give him an edge. But Horsted is an apt special teamer and has more experience in that department as an incumbent Raider.

And special teams work is expected from reserve tight ends.