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New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends
Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.
*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS
QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW
If there is one position on offense that I think NYG can look past, it is tight end. With that said, there are long term question marks here. Evan Engram, when he’s on the field, has been a productive and dangerous asset to the offense. With his 4.44 speed on his 240 pound frame, he presents matchup problems for the defense and offers a weapon no other receiver on the current NYG roster can. The glaring issue, however, revolves around his durability. He missed 5 games in 2018 and 8 games in 2019 while battling through injuries in several others. Engram had surgery on his foot this past December, now making knee / hamstring / foot issues on a guy who is overly reliant on burst and quickness.
Because Engram really can’t hang in the trenches as a blocker, NYG signed Levine Toilolo from SF in free agency. He is known for his blocking and even deeper than that, known for being able to help rookie offensive tackles. Something to consider there. Kaden Smith was signed off the SF practice squad last season and provided really solid, albeit limited play. And lastly, CJ Conrad (who impressed throughout 2019) will be competing for a job with journeymen veterans Eric Tomlinson and Garrett Dickerson.
90+ All Pro Projection
85+: Pro Bowl Projection
81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away
79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter
77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter
74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter
71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter
68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: Undrafted FA
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
- Cole Kmet / Notre Dame / 6’6 – 262
Summary: Junior entry from Lake Barrington, Illinois. A one year starter who was the team’s number two receiver despite missing the first two games with a broken collar bone. Kmet is one of the more NFL-ready tight ends in the class. His size, strength at the point of attack, and soft hands will make him an every down player. He won’t be able to get open against NFL safeties and cover linebackers, but his length and ability to box out defenders like a power forward can make him at last pose as an underneath and red zone threat. His upside is limited, but will come in with a high floor and ability to play right away.
*In a weak tight end class, Kmet stands out as the most NFL-ready and capable. The potential issue is, however, some teams aren’t valuing the Y-tight end as much as they used to. The “Y” is what most of us grew up on, the guy with his hand in the dirt most snaps. With the amount of offenses that are using their tight end in motion and split out wide, a guy like Kmet could see a draft day fall whereas 10 years ago I think he is a first round lock. He is a safe player, one who will get the job done but not one who is going to make a huge, notable difference.
- Harrison Bryant / Florida Atlantic / 6’5 – 243
Summary: Senior entry from Gray, Georgia. Three year starter who made the move from offensive tackle to tight end as a senior in high school. Went onto earn 2nd Team All Conference USA in 2017 and 1st Team in both 2018 and 2019. Was also an All American and the Winner of the John Mackey Award as a senior. Bryant was the only tight end in the country to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving. The volume of the Florida Atlantic passing game helped a bit, but his production was no fluke. He has a lot of tools that translate well to the next level. He is tougher than nails, has an outstanding lower body when it comes to quickness and agility, and will look to take a defenders head off when he can. This overly physical pass catcher may have some size and strength limitations, but he has the tools to really make a difference in the passing game right away.
*Bryant is an interesting player. He was on my short list of guys to watch early in 2019 and I didn’t like him against Ohio State. I kept on seeing his numbers throughout the year increase and I gave him another look midseason, didn’t like him against Western Kentucky. However as the postseason scouting process when deeper and deeper, I got my hands on my tape and he impressed me. Coming from a low place in regard to my view of him, Bryant really shined. He is tough and feisty. He is really quick and subtle. He is a top notch second level blocker. I think a team can use him the way SF and BAL uses their tight ends, meaning a lot of motion and favorable matchups. He can’t be an in-line tight end every down, but I do think he can make an impact if used correctly.
- Jacob Breeland / Oregon / 6’5 – 252
Summary: Fifth year senior entry. Three year starter from Mission Viejo, California. Breeland was well on his way toward a top tier season not only for his career, but among the 2019 Pac 12 tight ends. However a torn ACL suffered in October ended his season early and he is currently rehabbing with the hope to be ready for training camp. Breeland has the size and strength to play in line, but also proved he can be a factor in space in Oregon’s wide open attack. He can be viewed as a but of an unknown but a look at his tape over the past two years will create the solid notion he is a starting caliber pro tight end. He does everything a team would want from the position. He is tough, hard nosed, and will catch everything within his reach.
*I am taking a bit of a chance here on Breeland. First, he is coming off a torn ACL and is questionable to be ready for training camp. Second, he wasn’t a feature guy in the Oregon offense. However with the way they run the ball, he got so much experience as an inline blocker and it was a role he impressed. However he is not just a blocking tight end, he can be a credible threat to the passing game as well. I like his style and I think he ends up being a better pro than he was a college player.
- Hunter Bryant / Washington / 6’2 – 248
Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Issaquah, Washington. Bryant’s career got off to a hot start in 2017 but he suffered a knee injury that he re-aggravated months later, forcing him into surgery that kept him out of all but 5 games in 2018. Bryant was still fighting through lingering issues from that injury in early 2019 but he played every game (other than the decision to sit out his bowl game) and earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors, falling just short of re-writing the program’s all time tight end record book. Bryant is a plus athlete, route runner, and ball catcher who lacks ideal size and strength. He has the look of a tweener but this role is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. If his knee checks out and stays healthy, Bryant can be a chess piece-receiving option for a team looking to create mismatches.
*Bryant is going to need to pass a few medicals to be drafted day two, but this grade is assuming he will. He is a cheap version of Evan Engram. Not the same caliber athlete but he plays a similar style. He gets open on all three levels of the route tree, he can make the spectacular play, and he can be a mismatch for both linebackers and defensive backs. High risk, high reward guy.
- Adam Trautman / Dayton / 6’5 – 255
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Williamsburg, Michigan. Four year starter who made the transition from quarterback to tight end in 2016. From there he was named All PFL three straight years and was a FCS All American in 2019 in addition to being named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Trautman is one of the top small school prospects in the draft and rightfully so. His potential impact on the passing game stems from his ability to create mismatches and capitalize on the ball being in the same zip code as him. He has soft hands and a basketball player’s type ability to coordinate himself with balance and precision in traffic. There is a lot of weight room in his future, where he will need to be given a key and sleeping bag because his power presence in the NFL trenches won’t be existent in year one. He has the frame, however, to improve there and be a quality starter.
*If you are scouting Trautman’s upside as a receiver, it is very likely you could end up with a 2nd round grade on him. He has size, decent speed, and excellent ball skills. He was really impressive down on Mobile at Senior Bowl week. When I really broke him down, though, I saw a guy who is a year or two away from consistent impact. Maybe a team can use him specific packages early on, but he won’t handle the physical side of the game early. Add in the fact he will be getting a late start to the strength program because of what is going on, 3rd round is the best I can give him.
- Devin Asiasi / UCLA / 6’3 – 257
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Shoreville, California. One year starter who began his career at Michigan in 2016 and was forced to sit out all of 2017 because of the transfer. Asiasi didn’t really pop onto the radar until 2019, where he earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors. He finished second on the Bruins in receiving and averaged a hefty 14.6 yards per catch. Asiasi is a really gifted athlete who moves with easy fluidity as a route runner all over the route tree. He can get onto the defense in a hurry and when the ball is near him in traffic, he almost always comes away with it. He doesn’t look ready for NFL blocking duties just yet, but he shows the necessary effort that coaches can work with and will impact the passing game in the mean time. The risk here revolves around a lack of experience, giving him a bit of a boom or bust label.
*This kid has as high a ceiling as any TE in the class. If he went back to school and put up a big year, we would likely be talking about a top 40 pick in 2021. Asiasi will have some questions to answer in regard to some work ethic concerns, but I’ve been told it is nothing serious. He can really get in and out of his breaks, he has excellent ball skills, he tries hard as a blocker. I think we are going to hear about this kid in a few years if he stays clean.
- Jared Pinkney / Vanderbilt / 6’4 – 257
Summary: Fifth year senior from Norcross, Georgia. Four year starter who peaked in 2018, earning 2nd Team All SEC honors. Pinkney spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot. He is not a traditional Y-tight end, as he struggles to maintain quality contact as a blocker in the trenches. However when it comes to making an impact as a receiver, he can beat man coverage against linebackers and defensive backs alike. He is the kind of tight end who can be moved around the formation pre-snap and make things happen in space. He is a reliable pass catcher in traffic on all levels of the route tree and could be one of those guys who becomes a much better pro than what he was in college because of the talent deficit he was dealing with being a part of the Vandy offense in the SEC.
*Pinkney may go higher than where I have him, I would even say it is likely. He was given a 1st round projection by the NFS before the 2019 season. I watched him plenty and just don’t see the upside but he may be able to get on the field right away as a slot tight end. Like I have spoken about a few times, teams that want to move the TE around a bit will like him. Reliable route runner and hands, just a limited guy. Doesn’t stand out to me and I don’t see a ton of upside.
- Colby Parkinson / Stanford – 6’7 – 252
Summary: Junior entry from Simi Valley, California. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors in 2019. Parkinson comes from a pro-style offense that utilized the tight end in multiple ways. They have produced several solid pros from the position and Parkinson should be next in line. His main contributions will come in the passing game, as the power forward has shown the knack for boxing defenders out and attacking the ball with a wide radius. While his power presence in the trenches won’t ever make a big difference, he can hold his own. He can be a part of a solid 1-2 package at the position right away.
*It sounds like Parkinson is heading toward a day 2 selection. I have him slightly below that but I can see why some teams see the matchup nightmares he can present for a defense. He is an athletic, fluid, agile receiver who stands over 6’7 tall. Those guys don’t come around often. His pad level is an issue in the trenches and beyond his size, I don’t see a special athlete. He will catch some touchdowns for you but I’m not sure I see a guy who will be on the field for even half the plays.
- Albert Okwuegbunam / Missouri / 6’6 – 258
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Springfield, Illinois. A three-year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2017 and 2019 while finishing as a Mackey Award finalist in his injury-shortened 2018. Okwuegbunam has the size and ball skills that are going to be a problem for defenders in the NFL, most notably in the secondary. His length and thickness alone are tough to handle, but he proved to be an efficient and savvy receiver of the ball, bringing in 23 touchdowns over 33 games. However he isn’t an every down threat right away, as his blocking and down-to-down contributions are a ways away. He never played a traditional tight end role and his effectiveness in the trenches needs a lot of work.
*Another one who has a good chance at being drafted higher than where I have him. Okwuegbunam is massive but shows soft hands and plus body control. He can be an asset to the passing game, for sure. However don’t be fooled by his size, he isn’t a physical guy and will get eaten alive in the trenches.
- Stephen Sullivan / LSU / 6’5 – 248
Summary: Senior entry from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Two year starter who has been a part of the consistent offensive rotation since 2017. The former top 10 wide receiver recruit evolved into an athletic, tools rich tight end prospect who is going to be a bit of a project in the NFL. He is gifted with what few others can match when it comes to size and speed, but he never quite put a lot of consistent production together at LSU. He has a ways to go as a blocker but the effort seems to be there and he flashed during Senior Bowl week as a matchup nightmare in the passing game.
*For a team that has a spot on the depth chart to develop at tight end, Sullivan on day three makes a ton of sense. Still relatively new to the tight end position, he has ridiculous size. 35+ inch arms and a 85+ inch wingspan is huge for a tackle. Then he jumps put of the building and runs a 4.66. Sullivan is a little too straight-line for me but he can get you excited when all things are considered. Just need to be patient.
- Brycen Hopkins / Purdue / 6’4 – 245
Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who really blossomed in his final year on campus. Earned 1st Team All Big 10 and All American honors in addition to being named the conference’s Tight End of the Year in 2019 after being named Honorable Mention in 2018. Hopkins is a flex tight end who can be moved around pre-snap. He can pass the initial eyeball test when lining up in-line and in the backfield, but his ideal fit is split out where he can out-quick a linebacker and out-muscle a defensive back. He has production on all levels of the route tree but his hands aren’t consistent enough to be considered a big time threat in the passing game and he won’t ever be an impact-blocker. He has the look of a second or third tight end who can be effective in specific portions of the playbook.
*I see Hopkins as a guy who will get on the field early. He is really smart and does a lot of things right. I don’t think he ever gets past the backup/number 2 spot, but he can make things happen underneath. Solid 3rd down option for teams that may be thin at WR.
- Thaddeus Moss / LSU / 6’2 – 250
Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A one-year starter for LSU after playing one season at NC State. Missed all of 2018 while rehabbing a foot injury . Son of former NFL receiver Randy Moss. Moss was a key part of the elite passing attack LSU put on display en route to their National Championship. He really started to emerge over the course of the second half of the year where he put on plus-ball skills and grit on tape. While he lacks ideal experience and physical tools, there will be a place for him on a depth chart. He won’t ever be a feature tight end but there is reason to believe he can add something to a passing attack as an accessory piece.
*Moss had a really solid season in 2019, but I do think a decent portion of his production was the result of the offense he was in and defensive attention being elsewhere. At the end of the day he isn’t that big and he isn’t that fast. He does have lineage, which teams like, and he has a good feel to find the vacant holes in the coverage, something teams also like. I don’t see a starter, but instead a rotational asset to the short passing game.
- Dominick Wood-Anderson / Tennessee – 6’4 – 261
Summary: Senior entry from San Diego California. Two-year starter for Tennessee after spending two seasons in junior college. Wood-Anderson is an intriguing athlete when considering the tools he brings to the table in addition to the upside he shows as a blocker. When his head is in the game, he can be depended upon to man a defender up whether it is a defensive end or linebacker, and take him out of the play. There is some natural pop and explosion that comes from his hips paired with heavy hands. In addition, he flashed both at Tennessee and during Shrine week as a receiver who can overmatch linebackers with quickness and safeties with strength. He projects as a backup until he can prove he is maturing and will apply himself but if he does, there is a lot of potential in him.
*Wood-Anderson comes with a buyer-beware label. He is talented and tough, but there weren’t exactly glowing reports on him coming out of school. If not for the character issues, I would have likely had him 3-4 points higher into round 3/4 territory. He didn’t run well at the combine, though. I could see him going undrafted but if someone wants to take a chance, he may be worth it.
- Gio Ricci / Western Michigan – 6’3 – 234
Summary: Fifth year senior from Loveland, Ohio. Three-year starter who made the transition from wide receiver to tight end in 2018. A 3rd team All MAC selection in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Ricci is still developing his frame into pro tight end-caliber and he may never be ideal size. With that said, there is enough toughness and grit in his game to work with if a team can find a way to move him around pre-snap. He is a versatile athlete and quality pass catcher who can line up in the backfield, split out wide, or into a H-Back type spot. At the end of the day, he can be a weapon in the passing game for a creative mind.
*There are a handful of these undersized slot tight ends who I have a draftable grade on. The best route runner is Ricci, who was playing wide receiver less than 2 years ago. He gets out of his breaks exceptionally well and locates the ball with hands up and ready. He rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. Ricci is small though, and will struggle to impact the game as a blocker. However he can get open, a trait coaches are looking for.
- Dalton Keene / Virginia Tech / 6’4 – 253
Summary: Junior entry from Littleton, Colorado. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All ACC honors in 2018. A former running back who primarily played tight end / H-back for the Hokies, Keene was used as a Swiss army knife gadget. He lined up all over the offense, saw a lot of pre-snap motion, and got the ball in his hands a variety of ways. The instability of the Virginia Tech offense over the past tree seasons may have hurt his production, but he showed enough to prove he can make a roster via versatility and athletic upside. Keene is quicker than he is fast, which plays to his position well. He isn’t strong enough to handle pro linebackers and linemen yet, but he should be a multiple-use player who can also help on special teams within a year.
*Keene was a bit of a surprise early entrant. I thought he had some potential to be a 2021 day two pick if he went back to school and got featured more. He simply never got to display his potential as a threat in the passing game enough but there are glimpses where you can see his ability to play a versatile role. He does a lot of little things well and should be around late day three.
- Charlie Taumoepeau / Portland State: 69
- Josiah Deguara / Cincinnati: 68
- Cheyenne O’Grady / Arkansas: 68
- Mitchell Wilcox / South Florida: 67
- Sean McKeon / Michigan: 66
- Ben Ellefson / North Dakota State: 64
- Charlie Woerner / Georgia: 64
- Jared Rice / Fresno State: 64
- Eli Wolf / Georgia: 63
- Parker Houston / San Diego State: 62
I think this is the time to share some thoughts on Evan Engram. He is going to be on his rookie contract another two seasons (assuming NYG picks up the 5th year option in May). Ever since I first saw him at training camp in 2017, I’ve thought this kid could be the wildcard of the offense. His gifts are among the best in the position across the entire league. At 240 pounds he has proven to have wide receiver caliber speed and leaping ability. He is agile, explosive, and adjusts well. Now that he has played three years, we can probably make a highlight reel of plays he’s made and there would be every reason to hope this kid has a career in blue because plain and simple, he is a threat. However, I think it is time to consider a trade.
Engram doesn’t fit into a power offense. I think we can agree he won’t ever be an effective enough blocker in the trenches to really pave a dependable outside path for Barkley. So knowing that you need someone in-line to make a difference, that means NYG will need to split Engram out wide. Do you really want him on the field over a wide receiver in that regard? You also have to consider he has multiple lower body injuries on his record, he’s missed 13 games in 2 years in addition to being banged up in others, and he has struggled with drops.
If there were ever a time to trade Engram, it is before the 2020 season. His economic value will remain somewhat high because of his rookie contract and proven production. The issue will be his health, as teams may not be confident in trading a prime asset for a guy coming off a foot surgery. With that said, if a team is willing to offer a top 75 pick for him, I think it would be worth going for and then NYG could view this tight end group with more focus on the future and what NYG has to build around in Barkley and Jones. I don’t bang the table for trades often, but this is one I would strongly consider. Teams that I think would be interested based on scheme and need, BAL (#55 or #60), HOU (#57), GB (#62), CIN (#65), ARI (#72), IND (#75).