Tight Ends represent an offenses greatest mismatch on every down. In the modern game, a great tight end can block in the run game and catch passes like a wide receiver. Not only must a TE prospect have multiple skills they must also be used in a multitude of ways. Modern NFL offenses will line the tight end up anywhere from the backfield to outside WR. Last season I thought the tight end class was overall pretty solid. I thought Hurst, Gesicki, and Goedert all had some first-round talent even though only one was selected in the first round. Recently it has been made clear to me that rookie tight ends have trouble getting onto the field and they have to be groomed for at least a year before they make a huge impact. This class does not look very good to me so far so I expect this to be true again this season.
- Noah Fant/ Iowa
Noah Fant is far and away the best TE prospect in this class. He is so far above the rest that I have watched film on I would bet he is my TE 1 when I do final grades in the spring. Fant looks the part of a modern tight end as he combines speed with size. He has good soft hands to top it all off as well. Playing in the Iowa offense gives him a huge advantage because they run a pro-style system. His blocking as an In-line tight end is okay but could use some improvement. Fant often just ran by cornerbacks and safeties on deep vertical routes which will make some scouts drool. He screams mismatch at the next level and is the only TE I saw who has a chance of getting selected in the first round. Fant also dealt with some bad QB play and still looked good so he is an excuse to watch a bad offense at Iowa.
- Kaden Smith/ Stanford
Stanford should really be considered tight end university for all of the Pro talents they have pushed to the draft recently. Austin Hooper, Zach Ertz, and Coby Fleener all come from Stanford. Kaden Smith is next in line for the Cardinal and he shares some of the traits that have made those players successful. Smith runs a solid route and has good hands rarely will you see him drop a pass. Playing in the Stanford offense is also a benefit because like Iowa it is a Pro style. Smith can line up on the line and provide some decent blocking but also in the slot as a pass catcher. Unlike Noah Fant, Smith lacks the speed to make him a real mismatch threat. At the next level, he will have to use play action and route running to get open which makes him less of a threat on offense. This season I would love to see him get more passes because his numbers are a bit low.
- Tommy Sweeney/ Boston College
Figuring out the last three spots for this list was difficult for me because none of these players popped on tape. Sweeney looked solid in a lot of areas so he fits here. He is used mostly as a blocker on the end of the line which he does a solid job of. Sweeney also lined up in the slot for some snaps and caught the ball when it was thrown to him. His most impressive catch was a tip drill he completed in last years Pinstripe Bowl. My biggest gripe with Sweeney is that he does not show much in the terms of athleticism. His hips are stiff and he runs really damn slow for a modern tight end. He reminds me of Anthony Fasano who has a solid career but is not going to blow you away in any one area. I expect that to be Tommy Sweeney at the next level, solid but will not blow you away.
- Albert Okwuegbunam/ Missouri
Good luck trying to say this kids name 5 times fast because I’m not even sure I can say it once (I’m working on it though). Okwuegbunam is an interesting TE prospect because he almost never lines up like a TE. Most of the time you will find him in the backfield in the fullback/H-back spot which is a bit strange. If he is not in the backfield than he is most likely in the slot. My actual notes on him point out that he is a good athlete with good hands as well. He was able to win on a lot of seam routes this season in Missouri’s wide open offense. I do have some very real concerns with Okwuegbunam though. My top one is his frame. He is very very skinny to be an NFL blocker which makes him one dimensional. He reminds of a worse version of Evan Ingram (current starting TE for the Giants) who was a first round pick and has seen some success early in his career. Overall for him to move up I am gonna need to see him make some actual blocks on the end of the line.
- Alize Mack/ Notre Dame
Yes, I am aware of the fact that Mack has struggled with some off the field troubles with the Irish. He was suspended for the team’s bowl game because of an “internal team issue” and has struggled with academic eligibility. The reason I have him here at number five is because I see tremendous upside in his game. Mack is tall and built like a modern day tight end and next to Noah Fant is the only player I saw break away from defenders with pure speed. He was used in a limited role for the most part because of Notre Dames bad QB play and dominant running game. Speaking of that dominant running game, Mack showed the ability to make a good block just not on a consistent basis. Mack oozes potential but has a lot of things working against him on and off the field that might keep him from realizing his true talent. With a tight end class that lacks so much of the athletic talent, we see in the position these days I thought it would be good to give Mack a shot as a guy with that talent.