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Inside the War Room: Tight End Preview

Last years’ tight end class was one of the weaker positions in the draft with no tight end being drafted in the first round, and only 12 being drafted overall. This year’s class is significantly better than last year’s though, as we could see two first round picks in this group and could see as many as 16 tight ends drafted overall. The class is led by juniors Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth and also offers a few sleepers in Josh Pederson and John Bates. Along with taking a look at this year’s tight end class Inside the War Room highlights a couple of cornerbacks who are seeing their draft stock on the slide, and as always keeps you up to date on all the latest news on draft prospects.

 

Top Five Senior Tight Ends

 

Matt Bushman, BYU

The top senior in this class of tight ends is BYU’s Matt Bushman, who is also one of the best receiving tight ends in this year’s class. Bushman has led BYU in receiving yards for three straight years, including last season when he had a career-high 688 receiving yards. As a receiver, Bushman displays outstanding hands, not dropping a single pass last season. He also has the size the NFL loves, coming in at 6-5, 245 pounds. He is an impressive athlete for his size and can adjust poorly thrown balls. One area he is a little limited in the passing game is speed. He will need to post a strong 40-yard dash in order to be a day two pick. He will also need to up ability as a blocker to earn that day two grade.

Nick Eubanks, Michigan

One of the more athletic tight ends in this year’s senior class is Nick Eubanks of Michigan. Eubanks shows the speed and quickness to be a threat in every area of the passing game. He also displays wide receiver like hands in this area. He does a great job of snagging the ball with his hands, adjusting his body to make tough catches, and catching the ball in traffic. One of the reasons Eubanks came back to Michigan is to improve as a blocker, which was a smart move for him. He was far from a physical blocker last season. Overall, I think Eubanks has the skills to develop into an NFL starting tight end especially if he improves in the run game.

Cary Angeline, North Carolina State

One of the biggest tight ends in this year’s class is North Carolina State’s, Cary Angeline, who comes in at 6 foot 7, 250 pounds. To go along with his impressive size, Angeline has proven his consistency as a pass catcher, and is a mismatch in the passing game. He has impressive athletic ability for someone his size, which is one of the reasons he averaged 15.2 yards per reception last year. While he is a good athlete he possesses only average speed and likely won’t be someone you see lined up in a slot position in the NFL. He will also need to improve as a blocker if he wants to see significant playing time in the NFL.

Josh Pederson, Louisiana-Monroe

Not very often do you see Louisiana-Monroe producing one of the top players at his position, but that is the case with tight end Josh Pederson. Pederson is someone who will intrigue scouts with his ability to help out in the passing game. In 2019, he led all Sun Belt tight ends in touchdowns with nine, and caught a total of 43 passes for 567 yards. He was also able to produce versus a high level of competition, catching six passes for 85 yards against Florida State, and adding three receptions for 40 yards against Iowa State. As a receiver, he shows nice hands, athletic ability, and the talent to stretch a defense. I currently grade Pederson as a high, day three pick, which would make him the highest draft player in Louisiana-Monroe history.

John Bates, Boise State

The sleeper in this year’s tight end class is Boise State’s John Bates. Bates is one of the more well rounded tight ends in this class, having the size, hands, and blocking ability to be a great value pick come April. Bates comes in at 6-5 255 pounds. As a receiver, he shows soft hands and is a reliable target in the medium-range passing game. His best asset might be his blocking ability though as he plays with great technique, especially when it comes to hand use. While Bates will never be a big play threat, he is the type of player who can have a long career as a blocking tight end who helps out in the passing game.

 

Stock Market

 

Stock Up

Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green

Morris made the switch from wide receiver to tight end last year, and this move puts him in position to be a player who should have a chance of making it on to an NFL roster next year. In his one season as a tight end, Morris caught 55 balls for 649 yards and forced teams playing Bowling Green to adjust their defense. Morris is more of a natural fit for the tight end position, as his speed matches up better versus linebackers than it does defensive backs, and his size allows him to hold up to the blocking duties of a tight end. Like most receivers making the switch to tight end, Morris is going to have to continue to improve as a blocker.

Mitchell Brinkman, TE, South Florida

Brinkman is a prospect who had a breakout year in 2019. Going into the season he only had 11 career receptions for 130 yards. However, he was able to triple his production in each of these areas last year as he caught 34 passes for 445 yards. Brinkman will look to continue to increase his production next year with a new team, since he transferred from Northern Illinois to South Florida this off-season.

 

Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri

Davidson is a small school prospect who started to shine last year at the Division II level. As a junior, he caught 40 passes and had the seventh most touchdowns in D2 with 15. This was quite an improvement from his first two seasons when he never caught more than 11 passes in a season, and was counted on more as a punter than as a tight end for the Mules. To go along with his production, Davidson also has the size to catch NFL interest coming in at 6-7 and 245 pounds, and is someone who moves well for his size. It will be critical for Davidson to earn a Senior Bowl invite if he wants to be anything more than a late round draft pick next April.

 

Stock Down

Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

Adebo was gaining first-round draft buzz going into the 2019 season, but unfortunately an up and down 2019 saw his draft grade lower throughout the year. Some of the struggles we saw him face during his redshirt sophomore year included letting up several big plays in the third game of the season against Central Florida, and missing the last three games of the year due to injury. On the positive side, he was still able to record four interceptions on the year and be named to the All-Pac-12 team. If Adebo can come back and have a more consistent season this year there is no reason why the six-foot-one cornerback can’t regain his first-round draft grade.

Dylan Soehner, TE Iowa State

Very rarely do you see a player third on the depth chart going into his senior season listed as a legitimate NFL prospect, but that is exactly what you get with Iowa State’s Dylan Soehner. Last season, Soehner played behind junior TE Charlie Kolar, who was the most productive tight end in the Big 12, and Chase Allen, who has been named to the All-Big 12 team two years in a row. Despite seeing somewhat limited playing time, Soehner still made honorable mention All-Big 12, as he excelled as a blocker in both a fullback and tight end role for the Cyclones. Unfortunately, his season was cut short last year though as he broke his leg against Kansas State.

Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU

Teams that love the big long athletic corner-backs are going to take a hard look at BYU’s Chris Wilcox. Wilcox comes in at 6-2 and 195 pounds, and has the nice long arms to go along with his size that teams crave. To go along with his size Wilcox also has the speed and athletic ability to matchup against most receivers he will see in college. While teams will be impressed with the measurable he brings to the field, his production and durability leave a lot to be desired. So far in his BYU career, he has yet to record an interception and has only broken up seven passes. The main reason his production has been down is due to the injuries he has battled at BYU. He had a season ending ankle injury in 2018 and missed all but one game last year due to injury. BYU will be counting on him to stay healthy and produce this year though as he is penciled in as the team’s top cornerback.

Miller Forristall, TE, Alabama

Forristall is a player who could see a decreased role next year for the Crimson Tide. His playing time will likely go down now that Carl Tucker has transferred from North Carolina and is the favorite to win the starting tight end role. While Forristall was a serviceable tight end for the Crimson Tide last season, his lack of blocking ability hurt the running game. As a blocker he tends to lower his head while blocking and also needs to add strength to be able to get some push against his defender. I currently give Forristall an undrafted free agent grade, but think some team will bring him in due to his pass catching ability, size, and the fact that he started at Alabama.

 

Scouting Notes

— A tweener in this year’s tight end class is SMU’s Kylen Granson. While Granson, has the talent to make an NFL team as a tight end he may lack the size for that position. Granson, comes in at 6-2 and 235 pounds which would make him one of the shortest tight ends in the NFL, and also raise serious questions about how well he would be able to hold up as an in-line tight end. While most tight end prospects with his measurables would be taken off teams draft boards, that would be a mistake with Granson. One of the reasons this would be a mistake is he shows soft hands and is a reliable receiver in the short to intermediate passing game. Another reason this would be a mistake is that he has the football IQ to find open space in the passing game, which will allow him to get open in the NFL. While I can’t see Granson being a traditional tight end, I think he can carve out a role as a utility player who lines up as a fullback, sniffer back, and in-line tight end at the next level.

 

— The top receiving tight end eligible for the draft is Florida junior tight end Kyle Pitts. Last season was the first season Pitts saw significant action and it was quite a year for the ultra athletic tight end, as he led SEC tight ends with 54 receptions. As a receiver he shows the playmaking ability teams love, as he routinely was able to cash in on seam routes down the middle of the field. He was also able to make the contested catch on a regular basis finishing second in the nation in contested catches according to Pro Football Focus. One area he could work in the passing game is on focus since he has had a few drops during his college career. However, the biggest area he needs to improve on and the reason I give him a late first round preseason draft grade is his blocking ability. He seems to have very little interest in blocking and lacks the bulk to do much in this area. This weakness makes me think the NFL team that drafts him will be getting more of a pass catching tight end like Evan Engram compared to a complete tight end like George Kittle.

 

— If you are looking for a tight end more in the George Kittle mold then Penn State junior Pat Freiermuth might be your guy. While Freiermuth lacks the overall athletic ability Kyle Pitts possesses, he is the more complete tight end, in that he can help out in both the passing and running game. As a blocker he shows the strength to block linebackers or help out blocking a defensive end. He also does a nice job of blocking in space, something Penn State had him do on a regular basis as they often lined him up as an H-back. While Pitts is a much more dangerous receiver, Freiermuth does do his share of damage in the intermediate passing game. He is a proven red zone target who has already tied the school record for career touchdown receptions from a tight end with 15. Overall, Freiermuth lacks the upside of a guy like Pitts has, which is why he will likely be the second tight end draft.

 

— One of the more overrated players in this year’s class is Duke’s, Noah Grey. While Grey has been productive in college, I am not sure how his game translates to the NFL. My biggest concern with him is a lack of speed. Last year, he only averaged 7.7 yards per catch and was not used as a downfield threat for the Blue Devils. When watching him it became increasingly evident he did not have the ability to separate against linebackers in coverage. He needs to improve his blocking ability as well, and was far from dominant in the running game.

 

—An NFL team that is looking to add a blocking tight end in the 2021 draft would be wise to take a look at Iowa’s Shaun Beyer. Beyer excels in this area as he plays with great technique, has the strength to hold up at the point of attack, and the athletic ability to block in any type of blocking scheme. To go along with these traits he has the size the NFL looks for coming in at 6-5 and 244 pounds. One area Beyer needs to be more involved in is the passing game, as he has only caught seven passes in his career. Another downfall with him is that he has battled some injuries while at Iowa, including a torn meniscus in 2018.

 

Senior Overall Tight End Rankings

 

Preseason First Round Grade:None
Top Small School Prospect: Zach Davidson
Most Underrated: John Bates
Most Overrated: Noah Grey
Biggest Risk: Jamal Pettigrew
Underclassmen to Watch: Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth

Overall Rankings

1. Matt Bushman, BYU
2. Nick Eubanks, Michigan
3. Cary Angeline, North Carolina State
4. Josh Pederson, Louisiana-Monroe
5. John Bates, Boise State
6. Jack Stoll, Nebraska
7. Luke Farrell, Ohio State
8. Chase Allen, Iowa State
9. Noah Gray, Duke
10. Briley Moore, Kansas State
11. Kylen Granson, SMU
12. Zach Davidson, Central Missouri
13. Shaun Beyer, Iowa
14. Tony Poljan, Central Michigan
15. Cade Brewer, Texas
16. JC Chalk, Clemson
17. Mitchell Brinkman, South Florida
18. Dylan Soehner, Iowa State
19. Quintin Morris, Bowling Green
20. Jordan Wilson, Florida State
21. Carl Tucker, Alabama
22. Jamal Pettigrew, LSU
23. Miller Forristall, Alabama
24. Zac Lefebvre, Buffalo
25. Austin Pope, Tennessee
26. Erik Krommenhoek, USC
27. Ryan Luehrman, Ohio

News and Notes

Former Texas DT Gerald Wilbon has transferred to Louisiana Tech. Ohio State TE Luke Farrell was named an Ohio State Scholar-Athlete. Mississippi State offensive lineman Stewart Resses is transferring to Florida. Michigan WR Nico Collins ran a 4.4 40-yard dash in the winter according to Wolverines offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. North Carolina CB  is transferring to Iowa State.

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