Analyzing Rookie TE Landing Spots
In a draft class that was considered light on talent offensively, the tight end class was actually really solid with a ton of depth available at the position. The tightends started coming off the board early in the draft and there ended up being sixteen drafted in total. There were also several excellent landing spots and a bunch of intriguing ones that have high potential for long tern dynasty value. As far as rookie drafts go there are currently two tightends being drafted in the first round, Noah Fant has a 1:11 ADP and T.J. Hockenson 1:07. There is also a lot of late round value to be had grabbing tightends in the fourth through sixth rounds of rookie drafts in Kahale Warring (4:04), Dawson Knox (4:09), Josh Oliver (4:12), Foster Moreau (5:12), Alize Mack (6:01), and Caleb Wilson (6:02). So don't hesitate to take a shot on one or more of this years tight ends whether it be in the first round or with your last pick. It is also worth mentioning that tightends often take longer than any other position to develop so be patient and plan on using up a taxi squad slot for a year or two.
T.J. Hockenson 1:08 Detroit Lions - For the second time in recent history the Lions used a top ten pick on a tightend this time in Iowa's T.J. Hockenson. The Lions are hoping it works out better than the Eric Ebron selection tenth overall in 2014. Hockenson has the ability to long stride into one step cut to uncover underneath, he's fluid and fast in intermediate and deep routes. Runs clean, sharp routes and stacks tight coverage, he can accelerates out of cuts and turns to separate. Intelligent use of frame to shield opponent from the catch point, also able to create late catch separation then secure the ball with his big strong hands. Above-average catch radius and almost always secures the catch through contact, great inside hands as blocker. Runs through contact as move blocker, and sustains and finishes blocks when he gets locked in. I really like the landing spot in Detroit, I'm not sure any tightend is worth a top ten pick but I believe Hockenson will have long term success.
Noah Fant 1:20 Denver Broncos - The Broncos have drafted a tightend late in the past several drafts in Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman, and Troy Fumagalli. They must have got sick of the lack of results as they spent considerable draft capital using the twentieth overall pick on Noah Fant. He is a superior athlete who has excellent acceleration off the snap for immediate attacks, great initial burst gains him easy separation. Runs with long, smooth strides downfield, possesses the speed and talent to work all areas of the field. Had nearly one touchdown for every four catches at Iowa an insane TD rate, big time vertical with outstanding catch radius. Fant has the speed to open it up and take off after the catch. He's a nightmare to cover near end zone, or to bring down in the open field, also has phenomenal blocking ability as he is able to stay balanced and centered as move blocker. Fant will have to see how the quarterback situation plays out in Denver after this season to fully understand his dynasty value. However I expect rookie quarterback Drew Lock to take over and for Fant and Lock to develop together which could lead to bothb long term and short term success.
Irv Smith Jr. 2:18 Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings appear to have found a successor to current starting tightend Kyle Rudolph in former Alabama star Irv Smith. This should be an excellent landing spot for Smith long term as he can develop behind Rudolph in a quality offense. He possesses great footwork to reach and secure the edge, very effective lead blocker as an H-back or fullback. Smith has speed to create immediate strain on defenses in the seam or downfield, likely be too much for linebackers to handle in man coverage. An extensive collegiate route tree allows him to own all areas of the field. Good route strength pushing through the contact, offers steady reliable target in the middle of the field. Excellent hand strength allows him to secure contested catches over defensive backs. Able to elevate and compete in the air, frequently drags tacklers along for a ride for additional yards after catch. Smith can be had a full round later than Fant and Hockenson and offers the same upside in my opinion.
Drew Sample 2:20 Cincinnati Bengals - Another team who drafted an apparent replacement for their current tightend is Cincinnati Bengals who added Drew Sample with the fifty second overall pick. Sample is a very intelligent player who was praised for task oriented, serious demeanor, possesses NFL size to step into blocking duties of a "Y" tight end. Uses great technique and hand placement as run blocker, creates leverage at the point of attack. He is a patient second level blocker with excellent motor to chase down targets in space, quality initial burst speed into his routes. Uses long stride length for separation speed on crossing and underneath routes. Easily recognizes man vs zone coverage and will cut routes off and drop into space for his quarterback. Sample is viewed as more of a blocking tightend than a receiving threat, but so was Will Dissly last year and he proved to be excellent at both. I like the landing spot in Cincy as I don't thin Tyler Eifert has ever played a full season in his career which could lead to early opportunity for Sample as well as long term potential.
Josh Oliver 3:05 Jacksonville Jaguars - Oliver the San Jose State standout finds himself in an excellent situation landing in Jacksonville. Early in his career he will be catching passes from Nick Foles who loves throwing to the tightend. The Jaguars depth chart is wide open with only Jeff Swaim currently listed ahead of Oliver, which means he may see significant playing time as a rookie. Oliver is a great in line blocker who is an offensive weapon working from the slot. He was heavily targeted in college and used as a primary receiver who was asked to work all three levels of the field. Uses a full route tree, and possesses great balance and attention to detail in his routes. Can alter speed to adjust to throws behind him, and is able to maintain top speed throughout ball tracking if needed. Uses bounding strides to separate and capture high throws in deep middle, he has superb body control and catch radius to turn incompletions into catches. Big quick hands, allows him to make difficult catches even when hits from defensive backs are imminent.
Jace Sternberger 3:12 Green Bay Packers - As is the case with the tightends drafted before him Sternberger finds himself in a great position. He will have the opportunity to learn the position playing behind Jimmy Graham and may be starting as early as next season. The tightend position has been lack luster in Green Bay for years so hopefully they have found a reliable receiving option in Sternberger. He is a talented route runner, eats man coverage up by accelerating past defensive backs. Possesses excellent hand eye coordination for smooth grabs on the run without breaking stride, he runs routes like a big receiver, using quick outside in breaks. Possesses plus in air adjustment ability with a large catch radius. Athleticism and route running ability will create match up issues, and he runs with vision after the catch. The former Texas A&M star finds himself in a favorable dynasty situation and offers great mid round value as a potential favorite target for Aaron Rodgers.
Kahale Warring 3:23 Houston Texans - I really like Kahale Warring a lot and apparently the Texans do as well spending the 86th overall pick on him. Warring joins a fairly crowded depth chart with Jordan Akins, Ryan Griffen, Jordan Thomas, and Darren Fells. Despite the loaded depth chart the Texans obviously have long term plans for Warring spending that kind of draft capital on him. He has blocking toughness and great technique, races off snap and into an open seam with incredible acceleration. Great acceleration to lose linebackers early in his routes, quick feet for sharp directional changes in routes. Talented enough to work all three levels of the field as a receiver, former basketball star and it shows. Able to post up on defenders and win with smart body positioning, makes great mid air ball adjustments. Ability to run past defenders and drag tacklers along after catch, due to his excellent athleticism.
Dawson Knox 3:33 Buffalo Bills - After losing long time tightend Charles Clay in free agency the Bills added an excellent prospect in Mississippi's Dawson Knox. The Bills depth chart is wide open with only Tyler Kroft listed ahead of Knox, I fully expect Knox to be Buffalo's starting tightend in the very near future. He carries an NFL caliber frame, workout freak with good explosion and speed numbers. Knox has flexible hips to sink and expedite his routes, tracks and adjusts to under thrown balls. Build-up speed is incredible, regularly catches it away from his frame in space. He is an impressive and competitive runner after catch who can make a tackler miss or hit them with some power. This is an excellent landing spot for Knox as it offers both short term and long tern dynasty value. Knox offers incredible value as he currently carries a 4:09 ADP which is very cheap for the upside he offers.
Trevon Wesco 4:19 New York Jets - After drafting an excellent tightend in Chris Herndon in the fourth round in last years draft. The Jets are looking to hit again on a tightend in the fourth round with West Virginia's Trevon Wescon. He has a solid athletic frame, is nasty as a block finisher, with impressive play strength at point of attack. Has size and aggression to kick out linebackers and open up a run lane. Was trusted to handle pass protection duties for star quarterback at West Virginia. Proved capable of staying in front of edge rushers and blitzers, was an excellent pass catcher. Also provides special teams value as a blocker on kick return unit. He will likely be more of a blocker in the short term but offers excellent long term potential as a receiving option in two tightend sets opposite of Herndon. So overall I like the landing spot as you can't have enough quality receiving options for developing quarterback Sam Darnold.
Foster Moreau 4:35 Oakland Raiders - The Raiders addressed a need on the offensive line by drafting an excellent blocking tightend in LSU's Foster Moreau. Moreau is a feisty, committed run blocking TE with solid technique and great footwork to find proper angles in line or on the move. He's tough enough to battle at the point of attack, but is at his best when he's a lead blocker on isolated, wham blocks, and outside zone with his ability to locate and land on second level targets. He lacks finesse as a route runner and is content to be covered when matched up against a linebacker. He's not dynamic, but he should find snaps as a run blocking option who can be moved around formations. This is not a tightend that should be drafted in rookie drafts as he isn't likely to see many targets. He will probably be an excellent NFL player just not much of a fantasy option.
Zach Gentry 5:03 Pittsburgh Steelers - The Gentry was recruited as a four star recruit top 10 nationally at his position (QB) by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh but by the time his red shirt freshman season began, was a promising tight end prospect. He offers great size with excellent potential as a combination tight end, with run blocking duties, as well as a receiving threat. When blocking he has quality hand placement at the point of attack, the former quarterback has maintained his athleticism. Natural speed to attack seams and climb past linebackers, runs routes with precision and is smooth out of turns. Leverages the middle of the field open very well, and is a nightmare to bring down in the open field due to his size, speed combination. This is an interesting landing spot as traditionally Pittsburgh has been a beneficial fantasy destination for tightends. He will likely take a few years to develop but the Steelers do have a wide open depth chart with only Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble on the roster.
Kaden Smith 6:03 San Francisco 49ers - Smith finds himself behind arguably the best young tightend in the NFL in George Kittle landing in San Francisco. Smith is considered a prototypical "Y" tight end who possesses quality run blocking talent with safety valve ball skills. He has the ability to win on contested catches with strong hands and athletic frame. He is without a doubt dynamic enough to rise to a TE1 status in the league. Has inline experience in pro run game concepts, and Displays grit and tenacity to stay engaged in blocks. Hand strength is above average, and is able to swivel hips for additional leverage. Has size and strength to kick out linebackers on the edge, and can be very physical at the top of his routes. Able to make tough catches in traffic, and understands how to leverage his routes, to maximize his athletic ability. If you do end up with Smith on your dynasty roster you will likely have to be very patient as he only possesses handcuff value at this point.
Isaac Nauta 7:10 Detroit Lions - The Lions used both their first round draft pick and seventh round draft pick to select a tightend. In the seventh round 216 picks after taking T.J. Hockenson eighth overall they selected Georgia product Isaac Nauta. He accelerates through the turn to gain space on defender, quick to find gaps between linebackers and safeties. Doesn’t gear down when locating the football, great hands catcher with soft mitts. He catches away from his body, runs away from linebackers when he catches in stride, and makes necessary adjustments as blocker in space. Hustles on blocks in the second and third levels. If the Lions hadn't spent such considerable draft capital on a tight end early on in the draft the Nauta pick would be very promising. But his only chance for relevant playing time early on is to pass Jesse James on the depth chart to work out of two tight end sets.
Tommy Sweeney 7:14 Buffalo Bills - The Bills are another team who doubled down on the tightend position, drafting both Dawson Knox in the third round and Tommy Sweeney in the seventh. The two play the position very differently and offer completely unique skill sets when compared to each other. Sweeney was the first Boston College tight end to be drafted since Dallas selected Sean Ryan in the fifth round in 2004. He has great ball skills, and runs clean smooth routes for a big man. He offers great speed and above average athletic traits. Produced three consecutive seasons for B.C. Puts coverage in his hip pocket and shields defenders well, presents himself as a target as soon as he clears coverage. Physical throughout his routes to gain separation, possesses soft reliable hands. Puts good effort into his blocks, to clear pathway over tackle. Sweeney has all the athletic traits to succeed in the NFL and it may just be a matter of time before he is Buffalo's TE2 playing on twi tightend sets opposite fellow rookie Dawson Knox.
Alize Mack 7:17 New Orleans Saints - Ever since Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle during the 2015 NFL draft the Saints have never had a true receiving threat at the tightend position. Every player that finds themselves as New Orleans starting tightend has traditionally been over drafted due to hopes the Brees to Jimmy Graham connection will somehow be recreated. With that being said I love the landing spot for the former Notre Dame star as he is an excellent receiver and the Saints got great value drafting him this late. The first thing that jumps out at you with Mack is his impeccable routes, he also isn't one to shy away from the physical requirements asked of him in the run game. He has great straight line speed, to go along with his dynamic route running, he is also very comfortable working from the slot. Incredible athletic ability will likely become a much better move blocker as he's willing to get his nose dirty. Shows solid concentration to track and make impressive body adjustments to haul in difficult passes. Has great hands to go along with his ability to absorb contact and finish the catch in traffic.
Caleb Wilson 7:40 Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals essentially spent the entire draft addressing the offensive side of the ball and that continued right through until their last pick. AS they selected UCLA's Caleb Wilson with their final pick in the draft. Don't let the late draft capital fool you Wilson is an offensive weapon and the only reason he slid so far is due to his sub par blocking. Wilson is essentially a pass catching tight end only, with exceptional ball skills. Being a son of an NFL coach who was a 1992 draft pick, is evident in his football IQ. Has the ability to work the seams and run deep out routes, his freakishly long arms gives him a huge catch radius. For a tall tight end he is great at dropping down to make the shoestring catches. Excellent build up and top end speed, allows him to make catches in stride. Runs with determination after the catch, and is a problem to bring down in the open field. Was used regularly used as a blocker working out of the slot. Wilson will be able to work on his blocking and learn to be a more complete tightend playing behind Ricky Seals-Jones, and Charles Clay for the immediate future.