The tight end position has undergone a renaissance of the sort in the modern day NFL. Back in the early days, the tight end was just an extra blocker on the end of the line. Now, they are often times asked to do more receiving then actual blocking.
Last years tight end class featured two first-round picks both of which finished draft season as top 10 overall prospects on my board. Outside of Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, the rest of the 2019 class was considered to be deep and versatile. Sadly, after previewing the 2020 tight end class I am less than impressed. Don’t let that get your hopes down though because we still have the entire 2019 college football season before we can be certain about this classes talent level.
Let’s jump into in my preseason tight end rankings for the 2020 draft class. As always if you have any comments or questions hit me up on Twitter @DanteCollinelli.
Brycen Hopkins, Fifth Year Senior, Purdue
This is by far the hottest take so far in my “prospect preview series”. Hopkins is a relatively unknown prospect with very little recognition outside of the dire hard draft community. I was skeptical of Hopkins at first, but man he won me over with his fluidity and well-rounded game. Most of the tight ends in this class are much more receiver types than blocking types, and Hopkins was by far the smoothest of them all. His ability to flip his hips quickly and snap off routes separates him from the pack. Hopkins is able to do damage after the catch because it usually takes a couple of defenders to bring him down. My only concern with Hopkins is his usage in the Purdue offense. Most of his catches and targets are designed by the offense rather than him uncovering against man coverage. There is a play in the thread below that shows Hopkins getting open against man coverage, so I have some hope for him to improve in that category this year. If he continues to expand his game and gets some more production this season Hopkins could become a household name once the draft rolls around.
Grant Calcaterra, Junior, Oklahoma
Remember when I mentioned that most tight ends in this class are more receivers than blockers? Yea so, Calcaterra is basically just a big wide receiver in the Oklahoma offense. He lines up in the slot and on the outside making him a true mismatch weapon for the Sooners. He’s got way to much speed and athleticism for linebackers to hang with him and he’s big enough to give a lot of safeties problems. Calcaterra has exceptional ball skills which are displayed nicely on the thread below. He wins at the catch point while using his body to box out smaller receivers. It is always good to see a big guy who knows he is big and how to use it. I know the NFL is moving toward tight ends who are purely receivers, but some teams will get turned off by Calcaterra’s inability to be an effective blocker. It wouldn’t surprise me if some teams or draft analyst end up grading him as a wide receiver. I’ll end on a positive note though, Calcaterra is much quicker and fluid than I expected which points to a high ceiling as a route runner.
Colby Parkinson, Junior, Stanford
Mr. Parkinson is massive! He is 6’7 and he uses every bit of that frame for the Stanford Cardinal. Parkinson is an elite redzone threat with his ability to box out defenders and bully them at the catch point. I was expecting Parkinson to be a stiff player because if his massive size, but yet again, I was wrong. Parkinson moves quite well for someone who is 6’7 both vertically and horizontally. Like Calcaterra, Parkinson is essentially just a gigantic extra wide receiver for the Cardinal offering very little as a blocker. Parkinson has yet to be the “starting” tight end for Stanford so it will be interesting to see how he handles being a volume pass-catcher this season. Parkinson does a great job working the seams and sidelines with go routes and fades, but I would love to see his route tree expand a little bit this season. Again, because Parkinson lacks true blocking ability that may turn some teams off from him. Parkinson screams potential, and I can’t wait to see what he does in 2019.
Hunter Bryant, Junior, Washington
Okay so of all the tight ends that made my top five Bryant is by far the purest receiver. Occasionally you will see Parkinson or Calcaterra attempt to stay in and block but Bryant is 100% a receiver. He’s got an excellent athletic profile especially if you classify him as a tight end as Washington does. I would highly recommend going to YouTube and watching his highlight videos because there are some truly fantastic acrobatic catches on there. He’s a matchup nightmare and a legit threat after the catch. Not to beat a dead horse, but again tight ends who can’t block won’t be every team’s cup of tea. Another concern with Bryant is his availability on game days. Bryant has been banged up throughout his career and Washington has him listed at 6’2 and 240 which is smalllllllllll for a tight end. Teams usually like to inflate numbers so that means he may even be shorter and skinnier than what they have him listed. Bryant is due for a breakout season and will have better quarterback play with Jacob Eason becoming the starter instead of Jake Browning. He strikes me as the type of player who wows teams at the combine and shoots up draft boards late in the process.
Micthell Wilcox, Senior, South Florida
I’m very familiar with Mitchell Wilcox as a draft prospect already despite it being so early in the process. He’s a player I got to scout live last season when South Florida visited Temple, and I watched some tape on him for last years draft because there were some rumblings he would declare with the 2019 class. Number one thing that sticks out with Wilcox is his mindset. This man hustles and puts effort into every play whether he is blocking or running routes. He’s one of the toughest prospects I have scouted so far. He works the middle of the field with no fear of taking big hits from safeties and linebackers alike. I saw him haul in some truly impressive catches while getting hammered over the middle. Wilcox is the only tight end on this list who I think has a chance to be a combo tight end. That means he can block and be a receiver. He’s not a great blocker by any stretch of the imagination but there are some good reps on his tape as both a run blocker and pass blocker. Wilcox doesn’t project as a great athlete which why he falls down to number 5 for me. He doesn’t appear to be explosive or very quick on tape which limits his upside a bit. Wilcox is a solid tight end prospect with a somewhat well-rounded game that I think is worth keeping an eye on.
Number 6: Jared Pinckney, RS Senior, Vanderbilt
Number 7: Jacob Breeland, Senior, Oregon
Number 8: Albert Okwuegbunam, RS Junior, Missouri
Number 9: Harrison Byrant, Senior, FAU
Number 10: Luke Farrell, Junior, Ohio State
Number 11: Kenny Yeboah, RS Junior, Temple
Number 12: Brandon Fritts, Senior, North Carolina
Players I need to watch still:
Number 1: Chase Allen, RS Junior, Iowa State
Number 2: Sean Mckeon, Senior, Michigan
Number 3: Matt Bushman, Junior, BYU
Number 4: Jared Rice, Senior, Fresno State,