As we found out on Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping to address their tight end situation in the second round of the draft, targeting Maxx Williams, the consensus top player at his position, but the Baltimore Ravens traded up one spot ahead of the Steelers to draft him.
At least, that was the narrative that we were given, but Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert denied that during the team’s post-draft press conference, saying that they “targeted a corner in the second round” and “considered trading up for Senquez Golson”, whom they ended up drafting, “just to set the record straight”.
So perhaps the Steelers were not going to draft their tight end at that spot, if Colbert is to be believed, but three of the next top targets at the position were taken off the board in the third round as well.
It wasn’t until the fifth round that Pittsburgh got their tight end, but it seems to be one that they are more than content with, adding Penn State prospect Jesse James. The 6’7”, 261 lbs. team captain is physically reminiscent of Matt Spaeth and projects to be in a similar mold, perhaps with a higher upside as a receiver.
Amazingly, however, the rest of the division absolutely gobbled up bodies at the position, with each other team drafting two tight ends, for a total of seven throughout the AFC North.
While the high number is a fun one to gawk at, the fact of the matter is that tight end was a position of need for all four teams, and only the Cleveland Browns actually added a body through free agency in Rob Housler. All four teams lost at least one tight end, all of varying degrees of quality, with the biggest loss being Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron.
Baltimore locked up the top target with Williams, but they doubled down later in the fifth round by adding Nick Boyle, who has the size but perhaps lacks the mentality to feature as a blocking tight end. He brings some receiving ability along with him as a complementary number two tight end.
The Cincinnati Bengals already have a first-rounder in Tyler Eifert, but with Jermaine Gresham’s future uncertain, they seemingly have chosen to move on, adding another Tyler in Tyler Kroft with their third-round pick, who is a prospect that I liked in particular with good size and blocking ability with upside as a pass catcher. But they went back to the position in the fifth round with C.J. Uzomah, who is a player the Steelers looked at. The Bengals took him three spots ahead of James.
Finally, the Bengals, with their loss, looked for versatility in their two sixth-round tight ends, first adding Malcolm Johnson, who figures to feature more as an h-back long-term, and then adding USC’s Randall Telfer, who once was seen as having a much higher ceiling earlier in his college career. Will, Housler figures to be the featured target.
Despite this being regarded as a fairly poor draft class for tight ends (Williams at 55th overall was the first off the board), the AFC North really hammered home at the position, with each team in the division having its own specific tight end needs, and seemingly being able to find them.