Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects - Tight End
These guys will be asked to be blockers in the run game and reliable pass catchers for quarterbacks. Today I rank the top five tight end prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Bio: After spending two years playing minor league baseball, Hayden Hurst walked on to South Carolina in 2015 playing wide receiver and tight end. The next year, he set school records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end with 48 catches for 616 yards.
Strengths: Good combination of size and quickness. Lined up all over field. Fast and loose in his play. Quick release into breaks. Athletic with above average play speed for the position. Willing and capable pass catcher on all three levels. Has the feet and acceleration to burst open from routes. Separates from average linebackers in coverage. Instant opener when sinking into holes in zone coverage. Hands are sticky and ball focus is elite. Caught 99% of passes thrown to him(one drop.) Reliable down the middle. Makes subtle moves to shield catch window from linebackers. Catches in traffic. Runs with power and balance after the catch. Will fight for extra yards rather than running out of bounds. Has frame and toughness to improve as inline blocker. Capable move blocker able to adjust to targets.
Weaknesses: Will be 25 years old when the 2018 season starts. Tends to give route clues to defenders at times. Doesn't manipulate defender often enough from breaks and stems. Defenders have been able to jump on his out routes the last two seasons. Had safeties run his routes on multiple occasions. Blocking technique needs improved. Hands go wide into first contact. Can improve his play strength at point of attack if he gets his hand placement right. Lowers head into contact. Won't always look to improve positioning with quality footwork after contact.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Dallas Clark
Possible landing spot: New Orleans Saints
2. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Bio: A record setting wide receiver in high school, Mark Andrews moved to tight end when he joined the Sooners. As a redshirt junior, he was awarded the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end after recording 62 receptions for 958 yards and eight touchdowns.
Strengths: Bulked up frame from when he first arrived at Oklahoma. Mismatch up the seam. Smooth strides in routes allow him to finish at the top of breaks. First option worthy. Good combination of speed and strength for the position. Surprisingly elusive. A bag full of open field moves to make defenders miss in the open field. Capable blocker on screen passes. Creates separation by sinking hips into breaks without giving away the routes intentions. Disciplined footwork. Extremely productive for a college tight end with 22 touchdown receptions in three seasons.
Weaknesses: Overly stiff as an athlete. Average at best hands. Often see a lot of body catches or double grabs. Focus drops could be a concern. Fails to extend play when quarterback has to improvise outside the pocket. Takes plays off from time to time, especially when the play isn't on script. Still has a lot to learn about the position. Would rather avoid contact rather than powering through for extra yardage. Limited route tree at Oklahoma. Inline blocking needs refined. Can handle blocking defensive backs and smaller linebackers but has struggled against power edge rushers or larger linebackers. Could afford to spend time in NFL weight room to build up upper body as a blocker.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Travis Kelce
Possible landing spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Bio: Despite being born with a birth defect that resulted in the amputation of most of his left index finger, Troy Fumagalli was still a productive player for Wisconsin. As a junior, he was named second team All-Big Ten and was named the Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP.
Strengths: Competitor at point of attack. Understands optimal angles on down blocks and backside cutoffs. Works hard to sustain and secure his blocks. Clever with route releases. Starts route with good acceleration from release. Sees linebackers try to redirect his routes and makes early adjustments. Has ability to work second level as a pass catcher. Feels zone pressure and will sit down and protect in traffic. Good foot stutter for sharper start and stop from with breaks. Talented at tracking the ball. Plucks passes and has hand strength to overcome loss of index finger on left hand. Doesn't mind catching in traffic and works his way back to the ball.
Weaknesses: Long torso with thin lower half. Not much of a knee bender. Doesn't have desired anchor in his base. Body control is tested when facing off against power edge rushers. Inconsistent at finding and landing on targets when in the backfield. Tight strider whose feet barely seem to come off the ground when he runs. Doesn't have much sink into breaks and out-breaking routes tend to drift. Allows defenders a chance to break on the ball. Athletic ability is average at best. Rarely is able to redirect defensive backs off his routes.
Projected Round: 2-3
Compares to: Luke Willson
Possible landing spot: Baltimore Ravens
4. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
Bio: Staying in his home state of South Dakota, Dallas Goedert had developed into an elite pass catching tight end for the Jackrabbits. As a junior, he was a finalist for the for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS.
Strengths: Runs with good knee bend up the field and into routes. Can lineup all over the field. Capable three-level worker as receiver. Offense looked to find creative ways to get football in his hands. Carries good strength in frame and plays through physical challenges in his routes. Gets good separation with short and intermediate routes. Maintains top gear speed when working vertically. Able to work over top of linebackers. Former high school basketball player with advanced ball skills and body control. Huge, strong hands. Highlight reels are filled with acrobatic, one-hand catches. Uses frame to gain position and can make in-air adjustments. Has size and technique to work with as inline blocker. Strikes with good pad level, knee bend and hand placement. Looked stronger at point of attack in 2017. Possesses balance to hang in against rugged edge rushers if he plays tough.
Weaknesses: Somewhat stiff stride length. Doesn't sell his routes. Gives route intention away with early leans into breaks. Rarely relies on leverage and head fakes to create separation. Looked bigger on tape in 2017 and quickness appeared to suffer because of it. Would benefit from adjusting route speeds. Too eager to try for one-handed spear attempts rather than two handed snares at times. Agility with ball in his hands is average by pro standards. Effort level as blocker can be an issue. Needs to get better hip roll into first contact. May need motivation in order to handle blocking duties as a pro.
Projected Round: 2-3
Compares to: Zach Ertz
Possible landing spot: San Francisco 49ers
5. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Bio: The New Jersey Player of the Year out of high school, Mike Gesicki played all 13 games for Penn State as a true freshman. In four years as a Nittany Lion, he registered 118 catches for 1,384 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Strengths: Smooth as butter in his release. Generates vertical concern for cover linebackers with sneaky buildup speed. Long, athletic strides and loose hips help him create separation on second and third level routes. Puts extra effort and work into route running. Works the seam without a second thought. Changes route speeds and works head fakes effectively to mask route design. Able to run more complex patterns than most tight ends. Ball skills stand out amongst other prospects. Confident and focused pass catcher. Great overall athlete who was a star at volleyball and basketball. Uses length and jumping ability to create large catch radius. Makes in-air adjustments to the ball and is in optimal position to pull it in when it gets in position. Hasn't had a legitimate dropped pass in two years.
Weaknesses: Built more like a track star than an NFL tight end. Long and lanky with a stride length that limits quickness in and out of cuts. Will struggle to shake coverage on shorter routes near the line of scrimmage. Could afford to spend time in weight room as play strength is below average. Needs to prove he can handle press jams and route redirection. Can be slow to get head around and find the ball. Passive approach as blocker puts run plays in immediate danger. Hand use is poor in run game. Rarely sustains blocks against legitimate edge rushers.
Projected Round: 2-3
Compares to: Jesse James
Possible landing spot: Dallas Cowboys