Lately the NFL Draft class of tight ends has been a pretty boring group. Usually we get one borderline first round prospect, a few intriguing guys and a lot of “meh” prospects. This year we have five super athletes at the position and probably three first round picks.
As far as the Eagles perspective, tight end will be a luxury pick. They don’t need to add a tight end in 2017. Zach Ertz is the starter and one of the top targets in this offense. Brent Celek is a solid number two and Trey Burton is your number three and also a special teams standout. They will be just fine in 2017 if they don’t draft one, but they certainly shouldn’t avoid the position altogether if they really like a player. They’ll need one to pair with Ertz long-term, but they don’t necessarily have to find that guy this year.
Tight End Rankings
1) O.J. Howard/Alabama- The obvious choice at number one. He has the size and blocking skill of a NFL tight end, but he runs like a NFL wide receiver(4.51 40, 6.85 3-cone). He’s also really well-polished coming from Alabama’s pro style scheme, so the adjustment period for him will be short. He can immediately improve both your run and passing game from day one.
2) David Njoku/Miami- An outstanding athlete who is a very natural receiver and a pretty decent blocker for his size. Doesn’t have quite the speed Howard has, but he makes up for it with his elite leaping ability and versatility.
3) Jake Butt/Michigan- Butt suffered an ACL tear on December 31st during Michigan’s bowl game against Florida State. If he was healthy now he would be a borderline first round prospect, but for now he is a day two risk depending on how he recovers from major surgery. Butt at 100% is a NFL-ready tight end that can split out wide, play in the slot or as your traditional in-line tight end. He catches everything, be blocks extremely well and he separates quickly on routes.
4) Evan Engram/Ole Miss- Engram is a near 240 pound monster receiver who runs like a speedy slot receiver. I don’t love him as a blocker, but I honestly have no idea how defenses are going to cover this kid. He’s either too big or fast for any defender to handle in space.
5) Gerald Everett/South Alabama- Similar to Engram, except he isn’t quite as fast. Everett is a pure receiving tight end that won’t make a living as a traditional tight end, but will be a match-up nightmare on Sundays.
6) Bucky Hodges/Virginia Tech- You could also label Hodges as a wide receiver as that is where he primarily lined up for in 2016. He’s a 6’6, 250 pound receiver with okay speed(4.57 40) who has elite leaping ability. I don’t think of him as a tight end so much as I think of him as a bigger version of Kelvin Benjamin. He’s not a guy who will run a wide variety of routes in your offense, but he is a guy you will want to throw at a lot anytime he has single coverage.
7) George Kittle/Iowa- Kittle is your typical Iowa tight end. He’s an outstanding blocker, well coached and an underrated athlete because he is so badly under-utilized in college. He’s the best blocking tight end in this class, even better than Howard, but it’s his speed that really makes him intriguing.
8) Jeremy Sprinkle/Arkansas- This is where the dropoff at tight end really hits. The first 7 prospects are all legit number ones, but after that you are looking at guys who can help you out depth wise. Sprinkle isn’t a scary athlete, but he’s big and a nasty blocker. He’s an ideal number two tight end for teams that like to run a lot of 12 and 22 personnel.
9) Jordan Leggett/Clemson- He’s not a great blocker and is a below average athlete, but he is a crisp route runner, can line up in the slot and has outstanding hands. His role will be limited, which hurts his overall value, but he’s a quality receiver to have on 3rd and longs and in the red zone.
10) Michael Roberts/Toledo- I was really disappointed in his blocking, especially based on his 270 pound frame and the level of competition he faced. He’s still a willing blocker, but at his size and movement skills he really should be showing us much more on tape.
11) Darrell Daniels/Washington- Really good athlete, versatile, but at this point he doesn’t quite have an exact role or knows what he is doing just yet. He’s raw, but projects as a good special teams player and there is plenty to work with.