The 10: Ranking the Tight Ends of the 2020 NFL Draft

Thank god, it’s draft week. After weeks of sports-less existence, we finally get one of the most exciting sporting events that doesn’t involve a single point scored. Today, we’ll be looking at this year’s crop of tight ends entering the draft. This group doesn’t have any generational talents at the position, but there are plenty of high-ceiling guys that are worth looking into to. Let’s take a look.

No. 1: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic

6’5″, 243 lbs.

2019 stats (13 games): 65 receptions, 1,004 yards, 7 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Ohio State, UAB, North Texas

Analysis: To be quite frank, I don’t think anyone’s tape impressed me as much as Harrison Bryant’s tape did. I absolutely loved watching this guy play. When I think of my ideal tight end prospect, I want a guy who’s both a threat in the passing game and in the running game. There are plenty of great tight ends that are strictly meant for the passing game, and that’s fine, but if he’s a great blocker too? That’s what gets me, and I think Bryant fits that mold to a tee.

As a pass-catcher, he’s a solid route-runner with good 4.7-speed and an scrappiness to fight for every yard after contact. This play against UAB is a good example of that:

As far as contested catches go, he high points the ball well and doesn’t back down from a fight. One of my favorite plays of his came in the matchup against Ohio State, where he got an opportunity to showcase that skill against a smaller cornerback matchup:

That tenacity and scrappiness carries over into his blocking as well. So often, I saw him put his head down and drive defenders backwards. He may need to bulk up a bit, but the power he showcases is very impressive, and he never gives up on a play.

Besides the need to bulk up, the only other issue I found with his game were some bad drops. I counted at least three catchable balls he couldn’t haul in in the three games I watched, with the most frustrating coming against Ohio State; it was a very well-run route, but he just couldn’t hold on.

I’ve mostly seen Bryant placed around a third-round grade, but I have a higher grade on him than that. I personally think he’s a second-round talent. Everyone’s looking for the next George Kittle these days, and while I try not to throw comparisons around too much unless I really see the two players matchup, I think Bryant showcases a lot of similar traits to Kittle.

No. 2: Cole Kmet, Notre Dame

6’6″, 262 lbs.

2019 stats (10 games): 43 receptions, 515 yards, 6 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Georgia, Boston College, Virginia Tech

Analysis: As far as true receiving skill goes, Kmet is probably the most intriguing prospect in this class. A massive 6’6″ target with 4.7-speed, Kmet can cruise past linemen with ease and displays a good catch radius thanks to his superior length and athleticism. He’s a really tough dude to take down and an even tougher dude to defend one-on-one.

I watched a lot of Kmet this season and while he still isn’t incredibly polished as a route-runner, it was hard not to notice just how good he was despite that. His tape against Georgia is particularly impressive because of the talent that was tasked with defending him.

Kmet did most of his work in the red zone, where he thrived. I expect that to continue at the next level.

Where Kmet truly struggles is in the blocking department. Of the tape I watched, Kmet didn’t look like good in either pass or run-protection at all. Too often he gets washed out by a stronger rusher and too often does it feel like the effort’s not there. He gives little to no push on of the plays that I watched.

While the production isn’t as eye-opening as other guys in this class, I look at Kmet and I see pretty big potential that I don’t necessarily see with everyone else. I’m not sure he’s even close to reaching that ceiling yet and, given some time, he could be a real threat on an NFL offense. Still, I think because of his limitations as just a receiving tight end, I see his value falling more in the second round than than the first.

No. 3: Adam Trautman, Dayton

6’5″, 255 lbs.

2019 stats (11 games): 70 receptions, 916 yards, 14 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Jacksonville, San Diego, and lots of Senior Bowl practice footage

Analysis: I’ve already gone in-depth on Trautman in my Redskins-only mock so I won’t reiterate too much of what I said in that piece, but I will hammer home some of the key things I like about him as a prospect. Trautman is still a bit raw as both a receiving tight end and as a blocking tight end, but for what he is right now, he’s pretty promising on both ends. With great size and above-average athleticism, he lit up the scoreboard in his final season at Dayton, working well as both a deep threat and on shorter work across the middle. I really like how he plays as big as he is, never backing down from a contested catch or against an oncoming tackler.

In the run game, he’s a willing and capable blocker who puts the work in to create gaps for the running back to break through, though he does need some work with how he uses his hands. He also tends to get a little flat-footed which leaves him vulnerable on bull-rushes, but overall there’s a lot to work with in that department.

I don’t think you can go wrong with Trautman as a Day 2 prospect. I think we can expect solid, starter-level production from him after maybe a year in the pros, but I do think he’s still a little raw to be considered a high-end second round pick. I think his value falls somewhere late in the second or early in the third.

No. 4: Hunter Bryant, Washington

6’2, 248 lbs.

2019 stats (12 games): 52 receptions, 825 yards, 3 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Utah, Hawaii, Oregon

Analysis: I seriously do not know what to make of Hunter Bryant. Usually when I throw the term “tweener” around, it’s almost always referring to a defensive player, but I think Bryant has become an exception. He’s got the look and build of a power-based running back and the route-running and burst of a slot receiver, but yet we see him labeled at a completely different position. I almost feel weird for putting him on this list. That shouldn’t take away from how good a football player he is.

With experience lining up as a traditional tight end, an H-back and in the slot, Bryant proved that wherever he went, he was a threat for a big play. Seriously, look at this deep ball against Oregon. The speed he displays and the ability to adjust to the pass are so impressive:

Or how about this deep play against Utah, where he creates seperation with his smooth route-running:

I also like the effort he puts in as a blocker, despite it being his biggest flaw. He’s not terrible, but he’s just so small for a tight end that it’s clear he looks outmatched a good amount of the time.

I think Bryant’s success at the next level is entirely dependent on the environment he’s put in. If he’s pigeon-holed into a traditional tight-end role, I don’t know if it’ll work out, but if he’s used in a variety of ways and put in a variety of different roles by a flexible offensive mind, he’ll flourish. I can see him becoming the tight end equivalent to Taysom Hill with the right fit. It’s sort of hard to put a grade on a guy like Bryant. I think he’s more of a third-round prospect, but I can easily believe that a few teams love his skillset enough to have him significantly higher on their boards than other tight ends.

No. 5: Devin Asiasi, UCLA

6’3″, 257 lbs.

2019 stats (12 games): 44 receptions, 641 yards, 4 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Utah, Washington State

Analysis: Usually for me, whenever I do come up with a player comparison, it just sort of clicks immediately and once it does, it’s really hard for me to think of anything but that comparison. That is exactly what happened when watching Asiasi’s tape because all I could think about when watching him play was how close he was to former-Redskins tight end Jordan Reed. I mean it is absolutely uncanny how similar their games are. Asiasi in the two full games that I watched did things that I’ve seen Reed do throughout his entire career, like this awesome leap in the Utah game:

Or this “juke-cut” move he puts on the defender to create space across the middle:

I just can’t not see it. And if you couldn’t tell, I’m a pretty big fan of Asiasi. I think he has legitimate TE1 potential. Not only does he posses good burst off the line, strong breaks in and out of routes and naturally strong hands, but he’s a pretty tough blocker as well.

I think Asiasi’s range will be somewhere in the third round, but I think his potential to be a starter makes him a little more valuable than that to me.

No. 6: Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt

6’4″, 257 lbs.

2019 stats (8 games): 20 receptions, 233 yards, 2 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Arkansas (2018-19), Notre Dame (2018-19)

Analysis: I can almost guarantee you that Jared Pinkney regrets coming back to school for his senior year because Vanderbilt had one brutal season. It’s hard to watch anything from this offense because no one is really able to get anything going. The 2018-19 tape reveals a lot more about Pinkey’s potential though.

Pinkney’s junior season was pretty dominant, pulling in 50 receptions for 774 yards and seven touchdowns, more than double the production he had this season. Despite a pretty poor senior year, I think he has plenty of tape that proves he has NFL potential. Hell, that tape alone probably would have made him at least a third-round prospect in last year’s draft, particularly his play against Notre Dame.

Though he doesn’t possess exceptional speed, Pinkney is a bulky, strong target with good hands and a knack for picking up additional yards after the catch. He sort of fits the Delanie Walker variety of tight ends which makes him an ideal TE2 at the next level. It certainly helps that he’s a pretty serviceable blocker who puts in good effort.

Pinkney may be drafted later than he would have had he left last year, but I see a lot to his game that should translate to decent production in the NFL. I think he’s a very strong potential steal in the fourth or fifth round.

No. 7: Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech

6’4, 253 lbs.

2019 stats (10 games): 21 receptions, 240 yards, 5 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Cincinnati (2018-19), Miami (Fl)

Analysis: While I have been covering Tech football for four years, placing Dalton Keene here is by no means a form of bias, this guy is 100% an NFL player. The numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story with Keene, but the tape certainly does. Similar to Hunter Bryant, I feel weird pigeonholing Keene as a traditional tight end because he really offers a lot more than that. Often times, he lined up as an H-back and even as a full back, and I think that’s where his real value lies.

He certainly has the skillset to be a tight end if need-be however. With a solid full back-build and 4.7-speed, Keene is a quick-footed, yet bulldozing runner when he gets a head of steam. Perhaps his best tape as a receiver is against Miami, where he scored three times through the air.

He’s also not afraid of contact and plays an aggressive, old-school brand of football.

This trend of aggressive play applies to his blocking as well. Keene might be the most underrated blocking tight end in this class. He absolutely punishes defenders, plays low to the ground and really doesn’t give up until the play is dead. His tape against Cincinnati (a game I covered on the sideline) is the best example of this.

Keene should provide good value around the sixth round. I think he’ll be best suited as an H-back, but I could see him playing a more traditional tight end role as well. He’ll also probably be a popular candidate as a special teams contributor.

No. 8: Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

6’4″, 245 lbs.

2019 stats (11 games): 61 receptions, 830 yards, 7 receptions

Tape Watched: Wisconsin, TCU, Maryland

Analysis: With plus-grade athleticism and straight-line speed, Hopkins projects well as a receiving tight end at the next level. It certainly helps that he had a very productive 2019 season. After running a 4.66 40-time, Hopkins further proved that he had the play speed to create separation at the next level. He’s also proven to be a strong deep-field threat as well as a red zone target.

What frustrates me about Hopkins is the drops. Hopkins’ issues with drops is a major concern. In all four seasons at Purdue, Hopkins had at least a 10% drop rate every season. That’s not an easy issue to overcome either.

He’ll have drops like the one above, but also pull in catches like this one against TCU:

I would just like to see more consistency from him. If we were grading just based on athletic traits alone, he easily would be an early Day 2 prospect, but I’m thinking he’ll fall more in the early Day 3 range.

 
 

No. 9: Thaddeus Moss, LSU

6’2″, 250 lbs.

2019 stats (12 games): 47 receptions, 570 yards, 4 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Oklahoma, Alabama, Ole Miss

Analysis: Perhaps due to his strong play in the CFP as well as his family lineage, Moss has received a pretty good amount of hype from people in preparation from the draft. And there is a lot to his game that I like, but overall I think he’s more or less a Day 3 prospect with developable traits.

Even though Moss is just 6’2″, he plays a lot bigger than that thanks to a wide frame and good length. He’s a strong runner with above-average athletic ability across the board. Though not much of a deep threat, he’s at his best across the middle on short-yardage situations, though he has experience lining up wide.

Like his father, Moss has some pretty fantastic hands, with drops not really being a major issue for him. In fact, he showcased those hands with this miraculous circus catch against Alabama:

Perhaps Moss’ most underrated asset is his blocking ability. If anything, that’s what will get him on the field early in his career. He’s a strong, forceful blocker who doesn’t get blown up easily and generally holds his ground.

While Moss is a unique prospect with a legendary name, I think he’s more of a fifth or sixth-round guy at this point. He’s mostly an above-average player and I don’t find any particular flaw to be crucial to him being that low, but he seems more like a developmental prospect than a ready-to-go TE1.

 
 

No. 10: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

6’5″, 258 lbs.

2019 stats (9 games): 26 catches, 306 yards, 6 touchdowns

Tape Watched: Memphis (2018-19), South Carolina, Ole Miss

Analysis: Albert Okwuegbunam certainly passes the eye test when you’re looking for the ideal tight end. With good size and great straight-line speed (ran a blazing 4.59 40-yard dash), he’s got the tools to be a dynamic receiving tight end. The tape tells a different story though.

To be fair, it’s really hard to learn a whole lot about Okwuegbunam as a receiver through his tape simply because Missouri was just not that good through the air. It would’ve been hard to analyze any receiver’s tape from this offense. But really, he was considered probably their most dynamic threat in the passing game, yet he only pulled in 26 catches this past season. Like I said, it’s a hard tape to learn from. He certainly benefited from a great combine, which gave teams a good idea of the kind of natural ability he possesses. He still looks like a pretty raw prospect in my eyes though.

One of the things I can say for certain from his tape is that he needs help as a blocker big time. A lot of the time, he just looked lazy when he had to block on a run play.

I also would have liked to see him play up to his size in terms of toughness. I think he possesses a pretty great build to be a physical down-the-field playmaker but I never really saw it show through.

I think Okwuegbunem is a pretty big boom-or-bust prospect that will drafted high based on his physical skill rather than any on-field production. My grade for him is closer to the fifth round, but I can see teams taking a flyer on him earlier than that.

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