NFL Draft

The Extraordinary 2022 Draft Class of Tight Ends

At the risk triggering draft day PTSD for our regular readers, who here can forget those long, weary years when we pined away for a proper Tight End? The months of helpless frustration at classes full of glorified WR’s who were too big and slow to play that position, but had no idea whatsoever about how to actually block? I can’t, that’s for sure.

The exasperation got to the point where many of us developed elaborate theories about looking for the blocking-first college TE who surprised with excellent athletic testing. “Route running is relatively easy to learn if you have the native tools. It’s the blocking that takes hard work and time to develop…” I will also admit to being an avid supporter of that approach too, even though I have always recognized the vague scent of desperation underneath. Yes, Tight End is an enormously complicated position because it requires duties ranging from “extra offensive lineman” to “extra wide receiver,” but is it really that much harder to learn than the other multiple-duty positions like Linebacker, Safety, and slot-Corner? The long learning curves seem to say, “Yes,” but I am a fan at heart. Does it really have to be? [Sigh]

It’s been so bad for so long that no one could really complain when the Steelers passed over our favorite Center in 2021. “At least they finally got us a Tight End worth rooting for!”

Enter 2022 and a class that, by my count, includes some 10-15 old fashioned, throwback TE’s who can do the complete job as blockers, catchers, and route runners. It just isn’t fair. Where is the room on the roster now that Freiermuth has begun to blossom, Gentry has matured into a goliath-sized blocking TE and red zone weapon, and Kevin Rader continues to impress as an NFL-badger whenever he sees snaps? This year we need a Wide Receiver or two instead.

OTOH, there is no one on this site who supports the old rule more than me: We must pick players rather than positions. And I can make that argument for this year’s TE class without much effort. Isn’t the team after a “receiving weapon” more than a pure receiver? Why not go with a TE-heavy formation if you have a surfeit of good ones? What’s wrong with a steady diet of 12- and 13-personnel looks if you have TE’s who can win as mismatch receivers against Linebackers and blockers against Safeties? How hard would it be to stop an offense that features two or even three Pat Freiermuths at the same time? Wouldn’t that be a great way to enhance the running game too, and to cover for any lasting weakness on the O-Line when it comes to dig-’em-out run blocking?

All of that makes sense. I can almost convince myself, except for the fact that neither Freiermuth nor any of this year’s horde has the game breaking potential of the modern “freak athlete TE”. These are good, reliable, safety-outlet chain movers, with impeccable hands, and the ability to seriously contribute as both run- and passing game blockers. They aren’t going to get you any quick scores from a distance. Which is, of course, why old fashioned throwback TE’s tend to go in the middle rounds rather than up in the 1st with the likes of Kyle Pitts.

So here is my view of the bottom line. When one of my all-too-common online mocks comes out with a good WR on Day 2, I don’t actively look for a TE with the picks for Round 6, 7a, and 7b; but I definitely keep an open mind. And it isn’t all that rare to see a major bargain! Just look at the list below. There is a huge grouping of Round 3-4 talent, and it comes from neither typos nor laziness. Yes, there might be one or two TE’s with a 2:24 grade if Freiermuth hadn’t been picked last year, but I doubt that any would reach 2:12. That cluster exists because there really are that many talented prospects who deserve to go off the board at the end of Day 2 or the beginning of Day 3.

I doubt the Steelers will pick one, but hope springs eternal. With that much talent there is a real chance of seeing someone fall to late on Day 3. And I do love those old-fashioned, smash-mouth football players who really can do it all.

3:01 TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA. (RS Junior). 6’4”, 243 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and 9⅞” hands. Burst onto the scene with a dominant day of practice at the Senior Bowl. “Dulcich was as smooth as an athlete could possibly be with his athletic profile. A big-bodied pass-catcher who wins off the LOS as a technical route-runner with sneaky burst, I can’t express enough how impressive he was each and every rep he received.” Daniel Jeremiah agrees that Dulcich flat out won the Senior Bowl practice week. More of a pass catching TE than a blocker, but even the usually-critical Lance Zierlein agrees that he “has the demeanor to get better” in that facet of the game too. Tested as a Top 20% athlete, but that score would be much higher if it had not been downgraded significantly for size.
3:01 TE Trey McBride, Colorado St. (Senior). 6’3⅝”, 246 lbs. with 32½” arms and big 10⅛” hands. Another actual TE who both catches and blocks, though he’s more developed as a receiver. Was actually his team’s primary target, which says something. Good, TE-level hands, sufficient size, and the basic toughness to be a special teams ace as well. Excellent basketball and baseball player in addition to football. This nice scouting profile ends in a Round 2 grade and a comparison to Brent Celek for this “Throwback tight end who excels at the catch point and in the run game [and has a] substantial floor.” Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile agrees: “McBride is solid in all phases and should appeal to every team looking for a combination tight end with early starting potential.” His comp is Austin Hooper.
3:01 TE Cade Otton, Washington. (RS Senior). 6’5”, 247 lbs. with 32¾” arms and 9½” hands. Will be a 23 year old rookie. A dual purpose TE who’s actually better as a blocker? You bet! The one thing he lacks as a receiver is next level speed, but he makes up for that with next level separation ability based on sudden quickness and excellent hands. Steelers Nation would be head over heels for a prospect like this if 2022 wasn’t the first year in living memory when the room was somewhat stacked. Lance Zierlein’s gif-supported scouting profile has nothing but praise for his route running, hands, and even his blocking fundamentals. “[Otton is] an ascending combination tight end with starting talent.” This nice looking scouting profile agrees, calling him an “all-around tight end who can impact both the run and pass game,” and ending in a Round 2 grade with a comparison to Tyler Eifert.
3:01 TE Jelani Woods, Virginia. (RS Senior). 6’7⅛”, 253 lbs. with long 34½” arms and 9½” hands. Sleeper alert! Woods was a H.S. QB who only moved over to TE in 2017, and has made major and consistent strides in all parts of his game. Earned recognition as a good blocker in college, which is usually the hard part. Hitherto known for his massive size and blocking talent, Woods recently displayed newfound “serious route running” skills that allowed him to “flat out dominate” during Shrine Bowl week. Josh Carney even went on to call him “just an insane mismatch in the middle of the field.” That certainly warmed the soup. On to the Combine… and a historic Top 99.6% athletic score. Now we’re cooking with serious gas. The scouting profile describes him as an ascending talent whose “breakout 2021 could foreshadow more to come as an in-line backup with upside.” The film says Round 4 according to this Bleacher Report scouting profile, which came out before Woods blew up the world with his athletic testing. This goes to a film-supported scouting report from a Giants POV. This late-March PFN scouting profile by Tony Pauline sees a talent who “continues to ascend from an unknown to one of the most talked-about tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.” If you want a taste of the post-Combine hype, see this gif-supported march scouting report from a Bills POV: “There’s been some debate recently over chasing Rob Gronkowski or Evan Engram. But why fight to get these overpriced TEs when Jelani Woods can be had for a fraction of the price and can be productive for longer?”
3:12 TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’5½”, 252 lbs. with 32⅝” arms and big 10⅛” hands. ‘Tis a good year for people who like old fashioned, dual-threat TE’s who win as both blockers and receivers while featuring outstanding, security-blanket hands. Enter the one with an Ohio State pedigree, who often gets compared to a certain current Steeler and former Penn State star. The scouting profile compares Ruckert to Dalton Schultz as a TE2 with the potential to be more, particularly admiring his “toughness… radar and balance to find and tag targets in space, [as he races across formation[s] looking to flatten backside chasers.” The Bleacher Report scouting profile joins others in its repetitive use of adjectives like “competitive,” “tough,” and “above average.” The Draft Network scouting profile, one of those that uses Freiermuth as the comp, adores him as an above-average player in almost all facets who should excel as a security blanket receiver. Here is a somewhat critical gif-supported scouting report from an Ohio State site.
3:24 TE Charlie Kolar, Iowa St. (RS Senior). 6’6½”, 252 lbs. with long 34½” arms and 10” hands. Very much the basketball player in football pads, right down to the “where’s the beef?” wire-and-cable build. An exceptionally smart player who excels in both a box-out receiving role and as a get-in-the-way positional blocker, he could be a draft pick gem if professional training can add some bulk. Tested as a fantastic Top 3% athlete. The scouting profile sums it up as,”He has the tools to improve but needs to add a glass-chewing mentality to match up against NFL defenders.” LOL. Kolar’s base assets are all there: great hands, height, length, and body control make him a serious red zone threat as well as a potentially good blocker. A good enough athlete to be too fast for LB’s and too physical for DB’s, but not a modern miracle athlete. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a late-3rd grade for “a well rounded prospect that can impact the game in all levels.” The Bleacher Report scouting profile describes him as a “high level developmental prospect” whose main flaw is that lack of consistently powerful blocking. This March scouting profile agrees with the consensus: a massive bodied, potentially special receiving threat who needs to improve his blocking, but has the native ingredients needed to do so.
4:01 TE Daniel Bellinger, San Diego St. (Senior). 6’4⅞”, 253 lbs. with 32½” arms and 10⅛” hands. Every year we look for a pattern that’s hard to find: the TE with good hands, who learned how to block in college, and then showed some really surprising athleticism at the Combine and other events. That’s Bellinger, and we’d be going wild for this kid if Pittsburgh hadn’t addressed the position last year. The blocking is already good, with room to get better, and he put up a 96th percentile athletic score, that would have been even higher if 6’5” wasn’t “short for a TE.” The more important numbers for speed, explosiveness, and agility were downright special. Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile only asks for “a little more grit at the point of attack” and maybe a coach/culture to “keep the motor running hot.” I particularly liked this scouting profile/article because of the useful observations from reporters and analysts who followed his Mountain West career.
4:01 TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M. (Junior). 6’3⅞”, 255 lbs. with 33⅛” arms and 9¾” hands. A true, dual threat TE who can both block and receive, though he’s a little better on the receiving side. Has the TE security-blanket hands that we require. Plays faster and smoother than the laughable bottom 1% testing profile from his botched pro day, but no one would ever confuse him with the modern ‘miracle athlete’ types. Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile has an air of disappointment, because Wydermyer’s 2019 freshman year was awesome but then he sort of plateaued: “If he doesn’t get run-blocking issues corrected, he’ll likely never rise above the level of a TE3 in the league.” This Bleacher Report scouting profile worries that “his route-running ability on third down might always be limited due to his lack of quick-twitch speed.” The composite Draft Network scouting profile ends in a healthy Round 4 grade. This good looking, Packers-oriented scouting profile notes that Wydermyer was a Mackey award finalist in 2020 before plateauing in 2021. That author’s main question is about that plateau: “I really do worry about the lack of development and the blocking.” This March scouting profile is as positive as they get, ending in a Round 2 grade for someone described as “a playmaker at the tight end position [in a] run heavy scheme.” This February scouting profile, by contrast, ends in a Round 5 grade.
4:16 TE Chase Allen, Iowa St. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 251 lbs. with long 34⅛” arms and 9⅝” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] This is a generous grade compared to many other boards because there’s something about this profile that gives me a strong hunch that he’s going to outplay most predictions. A tall and gangly coach’s son with a multisport background, Allen is a good, sound blocker who will be even better if he adds some grown man muscle. Somewhat clunky receiver despite proper TE hands and a top 15% athletic profile headlined by good agility scores. Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile prefers a comp to Foster Moreau. Likely to be especially popular among the feminine contingent of the fan base, which may be the best reason to avoid him (“Hair that no man deserves, just the right amount of naughty twinkle in his eye” according to the very Mrs. Hammer). The marks for football character simply couldn’t be higher. This November article from a local paper calls him the “dependable, durable and never-quit face of Iowa State football” after listing some astonishing physical challenges he’s overcome, and then quotes his offensive coordinator as follows: ““When I think about Iowa State football, I think of Chase Allen, just in terms of how he does everything, and the passion he plays with. I’m going to miss the kid the most.”
4:16 TE Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin. (RS Senior). 6’4⅞”, 250 lbs. with 32⅝” arms and 9½” hands. A good, old fashioned, throwback TE who loves to block, serves well as a receiver, has proper TE hands, is a decent enough Top 35% athlete, and thus can stay on the field in almost any formation. Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile only complains that Ferguson could use more physicality and nastiness in his game. “Durable, reliable and consistent… [with] outstanding ball skills, including a rare level of concentration to make challenging catches in the face of oncoming collisions… [but] while he gives effort as a blocker,… he’s likely to be overmatched [against NFL] defensive ends.” As summarized by this Giants oriented scouting profile, “Ferguson is something of a throw-back to a previous era of offensive football” who will be graded more harshly by teams “looking for a ‘hybrid TE.” The PFN scouting profile contains some good background and reaches the same conclusion: steady, consistent, and reliable, but also limited compared to some of the recent super-athletes we’ve seen at this position. Here is a briefer, late-March scouting profile. Had a very good Senior Bowl.
4:16 TE Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina. (RS Senior). 6’4½”, 245 lbs. with 31⅞” arms and 10” hands. Dominated low level competition as a primary receiving weapon, and should be able to succeed against NFL athletes as a special teams ace while he learns the multifaceted professional craft of this difficult position. As Lance Zierlein puts it in his scouting profile, “He lacks a prototypical tight end frame and is an inconsistent blocker, but he runs well and filled up his career stat sheet with big plays. It could take Likely a year or two to find his footing against stronger, faster coverage, but he has the [intangibles and the] tools.” The Bleacher Report scouting profile is more concerned about the lower level of competition and rawness than the ceiling, because Likely is an eager, aggressive, and battling blocker even if “his lack of length and technique show up often.” The Draft Network scouting profile ends in a Round 3 grade because of the big play ability. The PFN scouting profile makes special note of his versatility. This February scouting profile compares him to Dawson Knox, and concludes that “[h]e is an excellent option on the second day of the draft.” This admiring scouting profile enthuses that he could be a better-blocking Evan Ingram. According to this late March scouting profile, “Likely is a well-rounded tight end that blocks at a very high level and possesses big-play upside in the passing game. He would fit best in a tight end-centric offense and has a case to be the first player drafted at the position.” Here is a decent overview piece from a Packers POV (the Packers are a TE-needy team this year). This March scouting profile describes him as a very high-ceiling prospect “that will likely take a few years to breakout.”
6:01 TE Austin Allen, Nebraska. (RS Senior). 6’7⅝”, 253 lbs. with 33⅝” arms and 9½” hands. Think of Zach Gentry in his second year, when he’d filled out his body a bit and learned how to block. That comp is good enough that he might grade higher if Gentry wasn’t on the team already. Allen put up an impressive 88th percentile athletic profile at the Combine, which included some astonishing agility times for a man this big. That alleviates the concern about “heavy and plodding release(s) and route running” in the scouting profile, which also notes that “Despite his tall center of gravity, Allen will flash as both a down blocker and as an athletic, moving shield when blocking in space.”
6:01 TE Cole Turner, Nevada. (Senior). 6’6½”, 249 lbs. with 33” arms and 9¾” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] An old fashioned TE with solid receiving ability and hands, plus the willingness to mix it up and block. Will require a few years of professional strength training and coaching to hit his peak, but there’s definite potential if things come together right. Here is a good interview he did with TDN. Earned a late-Day 3 grade in Lance Zierlein’s scouting profile, mostly due to major issues with his strength and lesser issues with his pass catching.
7:01 TE Lucas Krull, Pitt. (Senior). 6’6⅛”, 253 lbs. with 33⅜” arms and 9⅛” hands. A local product worth a Day 3, stash-and-develop pick because he put up a remarkable Top 10% athletic profile despite the testing that pointed out his one major flaw: a very noticeable lack of play strength. But who can say how that will turn out if you drop him on a practice squad for a year or two of professional strength training? This brief scouting profile makes the point: it complains about some factors the athletic testing belies, while pointing out that he has a frame with room for at least 10 additional pounds of good muscle.
7:16 TE Ko Kieft, Minn. (RS Senior). 6’4”, 259 lbs. with 33” arms and 9 ½” hands. Someone our own Jonathan Heitritter has known since playing against him in H.S., and now describes as “one of the most physically dominant blocking TE’s in all of college football.” High floor, but low ceiling given the very moderate athletic gifts when measured on an NFL grading scale.
7:16 TE Nick Muse, S. Car. (RS Senior). 6’4⅜”, 259 lbs. with short 31¾” arms and 9¼” hands. This goes to a gif-illustrated interview with Owen Straley at the Shrine Bowl that is well worth the read. Muse, the younger brother of Tanner Muse, is generally viewed as a solid, do-it-all TE who can be a crafty route runner, but will be held back by the reality of his T-rex arm limitations. Good odds of making a career on the basis of #3 depth and special teams performance. Unlikely to break through into a starter role.


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