New York Giants 2016 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*These rankings and grades are based somewhat on NYG schemes and perspective.
WHERE THEY STAND
Starter Larry Donnell missed 8 games with a neck injury but has been cleared to come back for 2016. He still shows the look of a guy that has rare ability when attacking the ball with his combination of body control, leaping ability, and length. Backup Will Tye stepped up and finished the season with 32/368/3 over the final 7 games, very solid numbers. Jerome Cunningham will compete for the third spot now that Daniel Fells will walk in free agency. Manning likes to use the tight end and McAdoo has them as an important piece to the puzzle within his scheme. There is enough talent here to stay put personnel wise, but no one that should prevent them from trying to grab a guy they like.
TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1 – HUNTER HENRY – 6’5/250 – ARKANSAS: 82
Junior entry. 2015 Consensus All American and John Mackey Award winner, given to the nation’s top tight end. Henry has all the tools and skills an every down tight end needs in the NFL. His size and speed to go along with his smooth moving and catching can get him on the field right away. Henry needs to get stronger, however. His power presence will be a weakness among NFL defenders that can easily be exploited. He is a tough, gritty player that performed well despite nagging injuries in 2015. His approach and skill set are there. He will be a starter in the NFL that performs better as a receiver than a blocker.
*Henry is the top tight end in this group by a pretty decent margin. After him there is a significant drop off and considering that along with the fact that the TE has become a very important piece to NFL offenses, I think Henry is going to go earlier than some think. He is potentially a top 15 pick that very few are discussing. Henry’s blocking is good enough but I wouldn’t call it a strength. He needs to live in the weight room if he is going to reach his Jason Witten ceiling. But man this guy is as smooth a pass catcher as you will find and with his size and speed, has the potential to be a star.
Upside Pro Comparison – Jason Witten/DAL
2 – NICK VANNETT – 6’6/257 – OHIO STATE: 77
Fifth year senior that only started for a year, but was a part of the offense for the past three seasons. Vannett has been a slight victim of an offense that doesn’t feature the tight end often. The talent elsewhere overshadowed the skill set of Vannett. He can fill different tight end roles right away for a team. He has all the size, strength, and flexibility to handle blocking duties right away but he has also shown sneaky ability to run up the seam and make difficult catches on the move. There is some hidden talent and potential with Vannett. At the very least he can handle blocking duties but there are several starting tight ends in the league that Vannett favorably compares to.
*Taking Vannett in round 2 or 3 (which is about where I have him) would be a bit of a gamble based on tools and limited exposure to the action in college. If you watch him workout, you have no choice but to be impressed. He has size and athletic ability. He catches the ball well. He runs good routes. There is a lot to like with him. I know he doesn’t have a ton of impressive tape but like the report said, he really didn’t get the chances that he would have if he was in another scheme. High upside player.
Upside Pro Comparison – Coby Fleener//NO
3 – DAVID MORGAN – 6’4/260 – TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO: 76
Fifth year senior that was forced to redshirt in 2012 because of a leg injury. Team captain and emotional leader of the offense. Morgan was a high school wide receiver that has put on over 45 pounds since his freshman year. He is an underneath weapon for the passing game because of his ability to use quickness and strength to out-maneuver defenders when the ball comes his way. He shows the elite-level toughness and grit over the middle that is needed on those vital 3rd down passing plays. Morgan is an asset to any kind of offense that likes to use their tight end as a blocker and receiver equally. He may need a year to develop more NFL-caliber strength to handle duties in the trenches but he has the upside of a starter at the next level.
*Interesting story with Morgan. I casually watched a UTSA game and five minutes in I was hooked on this kid. Made a few calls and very few knew who he was. Fast forward a few months and I am helping this kid get in to the East/West Shrine game. Unfortunately he tweaked his knee and could not play in the game. Morgan is not a burner and he doesn’t have elite size, but his short area quickness and ball skills need to be considered. He far exceeds his talent level when it comes to producing as a blocker and 3rd down target. I think he has starter potential but even if he doesn’t, he will find a way to contribute.
Upside Pro Comparison: Luke Wilson/SEA
4 – BEAU SANDLAND – 6’4/253 – MONTANA STATE: 74
Fifth year senior that was overlooked in high school and started off playing at a Junior College. He played a year Miami after several schools were coming after him. Didn’t last long there and transferred back home to play for Montana State where he became an FCS All American with tools that would make anyone want to get a second look. His grade will revolve around upside more so than currenty ability, as he is currently still growing in to his body and trying to improve the skill side of his game. Sandland is going to be a guy NFL coaches want to work with.
*Sandland showed explosion and NFL size/power at the combine and it made me take a deeper look in to his game tapes. This kid has the upside that most TEs in this class don’t. He can be an every down guy with his currently ability to block in the trenches but sneaky ability in space to run away from defenders. I wouldn’t consider him a natural pass catcher just yet but he has the tools and good-enough ability to be a factor in year one.
Upside Pro Comparison: Brent Celek/PHI
5 – JERELL ADAMS – 6’5/247 – SOUTH CAROLINA: 72
Fourth year senior. Has a freakish frame and shows flashes of being an absolute terror to cover. Size and speed are there. Looks like he is easily adding the needed bulk to his frame. Adams is still considered a raw prospect that is long on talent and tools, but short on skills. He still shows awkward movement in short space at times. Adams is a high effort player that can get up the seam in a blink and easily catches the ball with his hands. He doesn’t make a big impact as a blocker but he gets after his man hard. He bends well and he knows how to use his long arms. Adams has the upside to be an all around tight end if he can continue to add weight and refine his route running. There is an upside here that very few tight ends possess.
*I was ready to have a 2nd round grade on Adams. Talent wise I think he has the goods to be a big time matchup problem for opposing defenses. Speed and length with nice ball skills are always a good combination. I got some information on Adams inability to stay consistent off the field, however. He doesn’t work hard and didn’t take care of his business. People from his own camp were pretty down on him. That’s rare because it’s usually the other way around to a fault. Upside is enormous with this kid if he can turn that around.
Upside Pro Comparison – Ladarius Green/PIT
6 – AUSTIN HOOPER – 6’4/254 – STANFORD: 71
Third year sophomore entry. 3rd Team All American. Hooper lacks the ideal height for the position but his frame and length slightly make up for it. He has enough athleticism and size to pose as a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties alike. His raw ability is intriguing and the skill set continues to improve, therefore his upside is high. If he can add strength while maintaining his speed, he can be molded in to a starter. Hooper is a hard nosed player that can overcome his few physical shortcomings.
*This is the kind of guy I can see NYG going after if they wanted to add to their TE group. I don’t think he will be an early pick but I think he can be an early contributor. He isn’t a huge upside guy but he will be able to block in the NFL day one and he is a safe, reliable underneath receiver.
Upside Pro Comparison – Anthony Fasano/TEN
7 – TYLER HIGBEE – 6’6/249 – WESTERN KENTUCKY: 70
Long and lean tight end that needs physical development if he plans on playing in the NFL trenches. Higbee was a top tier receiving threat for Western Kentucky’s all time leading passer Brandon Doughty. He was the offense’s security blanket that was incredibly reliable all over the route tree. Very good hands catcher that can bring the ball in away from his body and on the move. Very good space athlete. Higbee isn’t a very good bender and had an obvious lack of strength and power when blocking. He will need to beef up if he plans on sticking around. He isn’t special enough as a receiver to neglect that.
*If you want a tight end to develop over the next few years, Higbee could be your guy. He has WR caliber ball skills and hands. Very capable of turning and twisting his body in the air to come down with the ball. With his height and length that can be a dangerous weapon in the passing game But this is a guy that needs to live in the weight room and cafeteria. He isn’t ready for the physical side.
Upside Pro Comparison – Ryan Griffin/HOU
8 – JAKE MCGEE – 6’5/250 – FLORIDA: 68
Sixth year senior that missed a year because of a gruesome injury where he broke both bones in one of his legs. Came back strong to his steady self in 2015 with his short passing game prowess. He started off at Virginia and put together a nice career there, leading the team in receiving in 2013. McGee is a body-controlled mover that can be hard to cover because of his size and short area quickness. He catches a lot of contested balls and will show no hesitation over the middle. He is a tough guy, blue collar type. His body still needs more girth and strength. There is a strength deficit when blocking, especially from his lower half. He can be a solid backup type in the league soon.
*A few years ago I thought McGee was heading towards an eventual 1st round pick. I really liked him at UVA despite poor QB play. A few years later I am still concerned about his strength and power. He may not ever be an every down TE and his receiving skills aren’t good enough to be drafted for that area alone. I would still like him as a backup on my team.
Upside Pro Comparison – Rhett Ellison/MIN
9 – TAMMARICK HEMINGWAY – 6’5/244 – SOUTH CAROLINA STATE: 66
Fourth year senior that saw steady production progress throughout his career. Smooth athlete that can be explosive up the seam and has a sense of violence about him when he’s around defensive backs. Easy hands catcher that shows WR caliber ball skills and body control. High ceiling player that creates matchup problems. Shows a lot of effort as a blocker but there are definite technique issues there and he wasn’t asked to do a lot there in college. Might be a practice squad guy for a year but teams will like his athletic ability and size.
*I didn’t get to see as much as Hemingway as I hoped. Oh well. His ability to dominate defensive backs is apparent, however. He can be a bully in space and we aren’t talking about your average TE movement ability. He can really get going and he can change his direction on a dime. He has the ceiling of a guy that can make an impact on passing downs.
Upside Pro Comparison: Jordan Cameron/MIA
10 – BRYCE WILLIAMS – 6’6/257 – EAST CAROLINA: 65
Fifth year senior that spent his redshirt season at Marshall. Came on to the scene in 2013 and put together a productive career. Williams has a nice frame with even more room for additional weight. He has a wiry frame and carries the weight with ease. High effort, intense guy that will be brave over the middle and make touch catches in traffic. Good catcher of the ball underneath and near the end zone. Williams doesn’t dominate the point of attack as much as you think. He plays with a high pad level and doesn’t have a high level of quick twitch. He has some straight line ability though. If he can get stronger and more fluid beneath the waist, he has starter or backup potential.
*I like the frame here. Williams is a tough blue collar type that just needs time to make himself a more powerful athlete below the waist. If he can do that you are talking about a guy that could start. He has the mindset of all the good TEs in the league that are dangerous over the middle and reliable in the trenches.
Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Pettitgrew/DET
THE REST (11-18)
11 – HENRY KRIEGER-CABLE – 6’3/248 – IOWA: 65
12 – STEPHEN ANDERSON – 6’2/230 – CALIFORNIA: 64
13 – BEN BRAUNECKER – 6’3/250 – HARVARD: 64
14 – THOMAS DUARTE – 6’2/231 – UCLA: 64
15 – DARION GRISWOLD – 6’5/255 – ARKANSAS STATE: 63
16 – RYAN MALLECK – 6’4/247 – VIRGINIA TECH: 63
17 – DAVUD GRINNAGE – 6’5/248 – NC STATE: 63
18 – MATT WEISER – 6’5/255 – BUFFALO: 63
I think NYG will go in to the season with their current three TEs and I don’t think it’s a bad approach. I am still in the camp that says we haven’t seen the best of Donnell as long as he can stay healthy. And Will Tye intrigues me. Manning has done well with TEs like him and I think his best days are ahead of him as well. This TE class as a whole is very weak. But, and this is a big but, if Hunter Henry is there in round 2 (which I doubt to be the case) it would be very hard to pass on him. It may be a waste of a valuable resource because he may not start in year one, but I really think Henry is going to be a good one. He doesn’t lack size, speed, or hands. He has them all. Behind him the guys in the draft are pretty much able to be found any year however I do have a thing for David Morgan and I bet he could be had on day three. Some of the other project types aren’t worth making any major plans around. If the team thinks they can keep Jerell Adams’ head on straight, you could have a big time value there. All in all, I don’t think NYG will be using a pick on any of these prospects.