With NFL offenses becoming more pass-heavy every year, tight ends are consistently asked to be more athletic and adept at running a full route tree. However, high-level run-blocking tight ends are still important, and this draft class is full of players who can do both. This class may not have an elite standout at the top, but the depth is as good at tight end as it is at any position, and there are plenty of prospects with upside available well into Day 3.
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- Relative Athletic Score Standouts At Each Position
#1: Trey McBride – Colorado State
Trey McBride has been one of the most productive tight ends in college football over the past couple of seasons, and he accounted for a whopping 38.1% of Colorado State’s passing yards over the last two years. The winner of the 2021 John Mackey Award for the best tight end in the country, McBride is a polished pass-catcher who will be a productive addition to any NFL offense.
- Solid frame with a thick lower body, boosts his blocking profile
- Very reliable hands, comfortable making catches away from his body
- Polished route-runner with an expansive, NFL-ready route tree
- Good football IQ, solid understanding of defensive concepts
- Solid athleticism but nothing special, limited YAC creation
- Average play strength hurts his ability to sustain blocks
- Lacks consistent physicality throughout his routes and at the catch point
- Red-zone production was lacking – only one touchdown on 90 catches in 2021
Summary: Trey McBride isn’t going to flash as an elite athlete like Kyle Pitts did last season, but he’s a sure-handed receiver with a polished route tree. Despite the lack of an outstanding dynamic element to his game, McBride is a steadying presence in a passing offense who wins with technical mastery, body control, and sure-handed catching.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#2: Greg Dulcich – UCLA
Greg Dulcich has been one of the biggest standouts in the pre-draft process after his breakout 2021 campaign. His combine, Senior Bowl, and pro day have all boosted his draft stock considerably. Dulcich has solid size and experience at H-back, slot receiver, wide receiver, and an in-line tight end. With his expanding route tree and athletic upside, there’s plenty to like about Dulcich as a Day 2 pick.
- Big-play threat – 37 catches of 10+ air yards per Sports Info Solutions
- Excellent long speed – going to be a seam-busting threat in the NFL
- Athleticism for a far more advanced route tree than he currently runs
- Great hands with the ability to make catches away from his body
- Blocking technique needs refinement especially with his mediocre play strength
- Route-running lacks polish, can be expanded
- Catch focus lets him down as he can struggle with drops
- Lacks elite quickness in and out of breaks
Summary: Dulcich has a large frame that he was able to add 40 pounds of lean muscle to while at UCLA, but he’s still not a standout player in terms of play strength. Nonetheless, he has the upside to be a true three-down pass-catching threat with the athleticism to play all over the formation. He’s a solid Day 2 pick with starting-caliber production and tons of athletic upside.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#3: Cade Otton – Washington
Cade Otton is capable of much more than he could show at Washington as he was hamstrung by one of the least efficient offenses in the country the last two years. He was mainly used as an underneath receiver with a 6.8-yard average depth of target per PFF, but he’s capable of a much more expansive role once he reaches the NFL.
- Among the most versatile run-blockers in this class
- Can get after it against edge defenders – great blocker on the move
- Excellent hands and solid length to make catches away from his body
- Smart route-running and quick feet to work himself open
- Limited play strength hurts his ability to sustain blocks
- Mediocre athleticism limits his YAC talent
- Some drops on film but can be attributed to poor QB play
- Not an elite straight-line speed player
Summary: There aren’t many holes in Cade Otton’s game as he can win as a pass-catcher and run-blocker in the NFL. His lack of elite athletic traits limits his ceiling somewhat, but he’s also incredibly polished with intelligent route-running, excellent hand usage, and polished technique across the board.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#4: Jelani Woods – Virginia
In case you missed it, Jelani Woods just became the most athletic tight end prospect of all time at his pro day. That’s not an exaggeration. After transferring from Oklahoma State, Woods has a breakthrough senior season at Virginia. Then, he dominated his Pro Day with a better vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle, and 3-cone drill of any tight end that tested at the combine.
- Elite athlete – best RAS score at tight end all-time
- High-end length and size with long strides to cover ground
- Toughness and physicality to improve as a run-blocker over time
- Excellent YAC potential with his speed, agility, strength, etc.
- Narrow route tree and route-running lacks polish
- Drops on film resulting from a lack of concentration
- Blocking technique is inconsistent and needs work
- Unnatural hands as a receiver hurts his catch radius
Summary: Jelani Woods is a traits-based evaluation as he still has plenty of technique to improve on after his one-year breakout. However, with the best Relative Athletic Score of any tight end of all time, Woods is soaring up draft boards. He will be a coveted mid-round pick with those athletic numbers, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team take a chance on him on Day 2.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#5: Charlie Kolar – Iowa State
With a 6’7″, 252-lb frame, Charlie Kolar is built to play the tight end position. He finished as a Mackey Award finalist in 2021 with 62 receptions for 756 yards and a team-high six touchdowns, and it’s a credit to him that he was able to produce at such a high level with mediocre quarterback play from Brock Purdy.
- Elite measurables with excellent height/length combination
- Great body control to create leverage in his routes
- Soft hands, rarely drops on-target throws – 3% drop rate since 2019
- Unafraid of catching through contact and uses physicality to box out defenders
- Blocking technique needs work, especially with minimal strength/toughness
- Linear route-runner with minimal lateral athleticism
- Lacks dynamic element to create yards after the catch
- Inconsistent footwork hurts his route-running creation
Summary: Charlie Kolar has many attributes that NFL teams look for in receiving tight ends with his size, smooth route-running, physicality, and reliable hands. Kolar may not have the power or strength to be an elite run-blocker, and he’s not a vertical threat or a dynamic YAC athlete. Still, his reliable receiving and intelligent route-running will be ideal in picking apart zone defenses.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#6: Jeremy Ruckert – Ohio State
Jeremy Ruckert didn’t have an expansive role as a receiver while at Ohio State, as his career-high came in his senior season with just 26 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged under one yard per route run for his career per PFF. However, he’s one of the best run-blockers in this tight end class, and his potential growth in receiving gives him some nice upside.
- 14 big-time run blocks, third-most over the past two years in FBS per PFF
- Powerful frame boosts his tackle-breaking YAC ability
- Solid hands and an adequate catch radius suggest potential for more receiving production
- Bone-crushing run-blocker who loves to hit defenders
- Too out of control as a blocker at times as he looks for the kill shot
- Limited receiving experience – just three routes run per game at OSU
- Narrow route tree, might only be an underneath safety valve receiver
- Average athlete overall with limited top-end speed and agility
Summary: Ruckert is a rocked-up 250 lbs with lean mass and power for days. He’s a hard-nosed blocker who plays with a competitive edge and will be a big-time contributor in blocking in the NFL. Ruckert was an afterthought in the Ohio State passing offense, and it’s hard to project him having a significant role as a receiver in the NFL. Still, his powerful run-blocking and underneath receiving can make him a quality TE2 in an NFL offense.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#7: Isaiah Likely – Coastal Carolina
Isaiah Likely was one of the most productive tight ends in FBS over the past few seasons with high-level route running and athletic talent. Likely averaged 2.42 yards per route run for his career per PFF, and that production outshines the rest of this class. Likely’s profile is a bit tougher to project to the NFL with his lack of size, but creative offensive coordinators will find a role for his athletic talent.
- Attacks the ball in the air with a 36″ vertical that’s rare for his size
- Elite big-play threat – five career touchdowns of 50+ yards
- Smooth route-running with balance and twitchiness in and out of breaks
- Speed and explosiveness to create YAC
- Limited size profile at 6’5″, 245 lbs, questions over quality of weight
- Lacks play strength to sustain blocks against NFL defenders
- Schemed production at Coastal Carolina – route tree is not expansive
- Focus when running over the middle could be improved
Summary: Isaiah Likely is a unique tight end prospect who needs to put up lean mass to sustain an NFL career. His elite production often came in schemed looks in college, and his lack of in-line blocking damages his overall projection. However, Likely has rare athletic tools for the position with the ability to run smooth routes and create explosive YAC.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#8: Jake Ferguson – Wisconsin
Wisconsin hasn’t been known for having a prolific passing offense, but that hasn’t kept Jake Ferguson from producing consistent numbers over the past few years. With 400+ yards in each of his full seasons and excellent run-blocking reps on film, Ferguson is as solid as it gets as a tight end prospect.
- Impressive concentration and catch focus with great ball skills
- Physical lead blocker who will be an asset in movement offenses
- Crisp route-runner with an expanding route tree
- Lateral quickness to hold up in zone blocking
- Play strength can improve to help him sustain blocks
- Plays too high as a receiver, hurts his YAC ability
- Route running lacks consistent precision and sharpness
- Average athletic traits overall, not a particularly dynamic player
Summary: Jake Ferguson is a highly durable and consistent football player who holds the Wisconsin record for consecutive games with a catch. He may not be the most explosive athlete, but his all-around game helps his profile as a productive run-blocker and pass-catcher at the next level with room to improve.
Draft Range: 5th Round
#9: Chig Okonkwo – Maryland
Chigoziem Okonkwo didn’t break out until his senior season at Maryland with 52 receptions for 447 yards and five touchdowns in 13 starts. That was his first season as a full-time starter after serving as a part-time role player his first two years and missing the 2020 season after being diagnosed with myocarditis.
- Explosive with the ball in his hands with YAC ability
- Downfield route-running boosted by agility and quickness
- Climbs up and over defender on jump ball – contested-catch upside
- Upper-body strength and agility to improve as a blocker
- Missed 2020 season with myocarditis, could be a medical red flag
- Lack of length hurts his blocking and contested catching
- Blocking instincts and discipline can improve
- Route tree is not expansive and stiff hands limit his catch radius
Summary: Okonkwo is a dynamic YAC player who ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the combine, and his 35.5-inch vertical highlighted his ability to make leaping catches through contact. He’s not a polished player, and the myocarditis will likely hurt his draft stock, but he’s debatably the most athletic tight end prospect in this class with plenty of receiving upside.
Draft Range: 5th Round
#10: Jalen Wydermyer – Texas A&M
Once regarded as the top prospect in a weaker tight end class, Jalen Wydermyer has seen his draft stock tank through poor collegiate production and an underwhelming combine and pro day. Wydermyer had 32 catches for 447 yards and six touchdowns in his freshman season in the SEC, but his lack of progression hurts his draft stock considerably after that point.
- Fluid movement with excellent agility and loose hips
- Consistent red-zone production – 16 touchdowns in three seasons
- Athletic talent to win at the catch point with great hand security
- Size and tools to improve as a blocker long-term
- Underwhelming pro day, especially with a brutal 5.03-second 40-yard dash
- Way too many drops for a chain-moving tight end – 10% career drop rate
- Lacks killer instinct and competitive edge in run-blocking
- Lacks play strength to sustain blocks or fight through contact
Summary: Jalen Wydermyer still has all of the fluid movement and elusiveness that made him a highly-regarded prospect following his standout freshman season, but the lack of consistent progression is concerning. Wydermyer’s poor pro day testing only further tanks his stock, but a team might be getting a steal on Day 3 with his movement ability and red-zone production.
Draft Range: 5th Round