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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. Jalen Wydermyer- Texas A&M
Bio: As a true freshman, Jalen Wydermyer started 11 of 13 games and led the team with six receiving touchdowns. The following year he led the Aggies with 46 receptions and tied for the lead with six scores. As a junior he was the team's leading receiver and was a finalist for the John Mackey Award.
Strengths: Good acceleration into breaks. Slick separation on vertical routes. Athletic skills to win jump balls. Showed focus and toughness to make tough grabs through heavy traffic. Dives and scoops up low throws. Corner routes routinely equal touchdowns. Goes up over top of defenders in the red zone. Frame and skillset to improve as a run blocker. Agility to latch on to targets in the open field as a move blocker.
Weaknesses: Too passive setting up blocks for early advantage. Poor backside effort on designed zone runs. Must improve to sustain blocks when on the in line. Too carless getting out of cuts and looking back to the quarterback. Route breaks are stiff and slow towards the end. Needs to do better at dominating at the top of the route. Allows smaller defenders to become nuisances at the catch point. Passive when working back to the ball. Focus drops in 2021.
Pro Comparison: Jermaine Gresham
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans
2. Trey McBride- Colorado State
Bio: A three sport star in high school, Trey McBride chose to stay close to home and attend Colorado State. As a sophomore, he was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference pick and as a senior he won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
Strengths: Great weight distribution and definition throughout his frame. Trusting blocker and works on it as much as catching passes. Good core play strength and base as a blocker. Can help in pass protection. Good footwork on short routes. Solid separation at the top of routes. Stays even on in breaking passes and can snag balls thrown behind him. Focus intensifies in traffic. Balls stick to his big hands like glue. Hand strength to make tough contested grabs. Surprising athleticism after the catch.
Weaknesses: Lowers head into defenders as a run blocker. Has to keep his feet driving after initial contact. No experience as an outside zone blocker. Takes erratic angles trying to secure the edge. Only one touchdown reception as a senior. Poor speed of the release to be a vertical threat. Must be more physical during routes. Feet slow down when tracking deep passes. Allows defenders to get into his frame. Smaller catch radius.
Pro Comparison: Heath Miller
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers
3. Jeremy Ruckert- Ohio State
Bio: The New York State Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, Jeremy Ruckert signed on at Ohio State as the top tight end prospect in the country. By his junior season, he was the fulltime starter and would go on to be a two time All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Strengths:Well built and packed frame. Good skillset that will test well. Toughness as a blocker. Eyes and balance to locate and engage defenders in space. Speeds across the play looking to level backside chasers. Adjusts to stay busy as a run blocker. Decent catch radius. Keeps shoulders level to snag low passes. Sells initial break on double moves. Made some impressive one handed touchdown grabs in college.
Weaknesses: Stiff hips lead to slow breaks out of routes. Little separation burst out of route breaks. Double catches high throws. One speed runner with not much yards after catch potential. Wide hands at the point of attack cause him to lose blocking positioning. Lowers head into contact initially. Needs to keep pad level over his feet when blocking.
Pro Comparison: Dalton Shultz
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
4. Greg Dulcich- UCLA
Bio: Despite being a three star recruit, Greg Dulcich chose to walk on at UCLA. By 2020, he was put on scholarship and led the team with 517 receiving yards and five scores. The following year, he averaged 17.3 yards per reception and was named first team All-PAC 12.
Strengths: Former wide receiver who added nearly 40 pounds of solid muscle mass over his college tenure. Potential to be a dangerous downfield route runner. Demeanor to improve as a run blocker. Physical against press coverage. Long strides create space against linebackers. Gets on top of defenders and tracks passes over his shoulder. Immediately looks to the quarterback out of breaks. Speed and physicality to be great after the catch.
Weaknesses: Poor placement and handwork as a blocker. Blocking lacks fluidity and technique. Slow into route cuts. Leggy and gradual against zone coverage which leads to contested grabs. Poor body control catching on the run. Occasional focus drops.
Pro Comparison: Dawson Knox
Projected Round: 3
Possible Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
5. Grant Calcaterra- Southern Methodist
Bio: After playing three years at Oklahoma, Grant Cacaterra decided to retire from football in 2019 citing concussion concerns. In 2021, he received medical clearance to play and enrolled at SMU. In his lone season, he set career highs of 38 receptions and 465 receiving yards.
Strengths:Team leader. Impressive return to form after not playing football for two years. Keeps feet moving and hands centered as a blocker. Serviceable blocker in the slot and outside. Crisp route breaks at the top end. Calm, composed and athletic when tracking the ball. Uses off hand to his advantage to increase his catch radius. Leaps with elite body control to snag high passes. Quick burst after the catch.
Weaknesses: Not much of a threat as an in line blocker. Slows down into contact on across formation blocks. Physical defenders can knock him off his route plan. Average at getting free from tight coverage. Body catcher. Concussion history will be a red flag for some teams.
Pro Comparison: Cameron Brate
Projected Round: 3
Possible Landing Spot: Houston Texans
Other Notable Prospects
Jake Ferguson- Wisconsin
- Smooth getting out of breaks, must be a more patient blocker
Charlie Kolar- Iowa State
- Massive catch radius, Not a great blocker for his size
Derrick Deese Jr- San Jose State
- Explosive athlete, more a receiver than true tight end
Teagan Quitoriano- Oregon State
- Excellent frame, disappointing control
Isaiah Likely- Coastal Carolina
- Great footwork, slender frame
Cade Otton- Washington
- Reliable short game target, gets rocked by stronger defenders
Cole Turner- Nevada
- Nasty streak in his game, poor balance through contact
Daniel Bellinger- San Diego State
- Maintains control through contact, mediocre athlete
James Mitchell- Virginia Tech
- Polished receiver, poor core strength
Connor Heyward- Michigan State
- Versatile player, scheme dependent
Jeremiah Hall- Oklahoma
- Hard worker, likely more of a fullback than fulltime tight end
John FitzPatrick- Georgia
- Great blocker, not much of a pass catcher