2018 NFL Draft Watch: Tight End Overview
The PFF team is going position-by-position to preview the 2017 college football season as it pertains to the 2018 NFL draft. There’s still a lot of football to be played and the evaluation stage is still very young, but a number of prospects are already on the NFL’s radar and you can read up on over 300 of them (to go with PFF signature stats on over 2,200 total prospects) in our first ever Preseason NFL Draft Guide.
We’ve taken a close look at several offensive positions including quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, and also some key positions on the defensive side of the ball including edge defenders, interior defenders and linebackers. Switching back to offense today, we take a look at those tight ends you should know heading into the 2017 season:
Like some of the other positions we’ve highlighted, there are no clear-cut first round options at this point. Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli had a breakout 2016 and he may be the best all-around option in the class, but he’s no lock for the top 32. Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews is essentially a receiver in that offense where his size and speed have allowed him to average 16.1 yards per reception during his career. He may be the best bet as a first-round possibility unless South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert continues his ascent up draft boards. Even with no clear first-rounders, here’s a deeper look at our top five tight ends and their strengths and weaknesses.
PFF Edge stats to know
- Kentucky’s C.J. Conrad ranked third in the draft class with 2.21 yards per route.
- Stanford’s Dalton Schultz had the 11th-lowest percentage of negatively-graded plays against the run and the fifth-highest percentage of positives.
- Penn State’s Mike Gesicki led the draft class with seven catches for 301 yards on deep (20-plus yard) passes.
Can make a big jump
- Hayden Hurst, South Carolina: A former minor league pitcher, Hurst has plenty of room to grow at the positon and he’s already shown what he’s capable of in the passing game. Last season, he averaged 12.8 yards/reception including 7.4 YAC/reception to go with an impressive 83.3 receiving grade. Another step forward in as a run blocker puts Hurst among the best in the class.
- DeAndre Goolsby, Florida: Goolsby is a pass-game weapon in his own right, forcing 14 missed tackles on 55 career receptions. He can do damage after the catch and up the seam, but like Hurst, there’s room to improve in the run game to move him up draft boards.
Sleeper to know
- Dallas Goedert, South Dakota: Goedert has gone from sleeper to top prospect rather quickly as more analysts get to dive into his tape. He has the size and athleticism to make plays in multiple roles in the pass game, and his skills have been evident every time he goes up against FBS competition (five catches for 96 yards and a score vs. TCU in 2016). There will always be questions about his competition level and like the others in the class, run-blocking is a focus for improvement, but Goedert has scouts’ attention and he’s one of the top tight ends in the class.
- Mavin Saunders, Florida State: Saunders saw only 14 targets last season, but he caught 10 of them for 182 yards, good for 18.2 per reception. His 3.19 yards per route ranked second in the draft class and he has the big frame to work the middle of the field. Fellow tight end Ryan Izzo also returns for Florida State, but Saunders could stand to get more looks in the pass game.
Non-Power 5 watch
- Adam Breneman, UMass: After starting his career at Penn State, Breneman has taken off after a transfer to UMass, finishing 2016 with the nation’s top receiving grade at 90.6. He had only two drops of 72 catchable passes, good for the No. 6 drop rate in the nation and he has the catch radius to snag off-target throws as a middle-of-the-field threat. His 139th ranking as a run blocker has to improve to round out his game, but Breneman is one of the better receiving options in the draft class.