(image credit: Adam Hagy - USA Today Sports)
Written by: Joseph Yun
The offseason draft process is rapidly coming to a close with Pro Days going hot and heavy as we meander through the month of April. Welcome to the 2021 edition of the positional big boards!
The 2021 tight end class features one really “elite” prospect but some hidden gems can be had if teams can draft and develop them right. Who will rise up and carry the water for a class that is light on firepower but heavy on depth? Is there a Kittle, Kelce, or Ertz among them?
If you missed the previous articles in the series, you can find them linked below
Note: All RAS scores were courtesy of relativeathleticscores.com and @MathBomb
1. Kyle Pitts Florida
- Pitts is by far the top tight end prospect in the class after a monstrous 2020 campaign that netted him the John Mackey Award and other numerous honors. Florida used him in a variety of roles such as outside receiver, traditional tight end, and in the slot to get open. He’s simply a game changing match-up nightmare for any defenses trying to stop him. The athleticism is elite level as the RAS score indicates and on film. He’s not just some oversized receiver, either as he uses his size and physicality to dominate smaller defensive backs. Pitts is a guy you draft as a future long term player and sort out the more technical nuances later. He has Russell Westbrook level of bounce and agility in a big man’s body. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was drafted over the top three wide receivers in the top ten. The popular comparison for him is Darren Waller but I see Noah Fant in his game along with a growing sense of George Kittle.
Draft Projection: Top Ten
NFL Comp: Noah Fant / Taller Delanie Walker
2. Pat Freiermuth Penn State
- The presumptive TE1 until the explosive emergence of Pitts, Freiermuth was the go to guy for multiple PSU quarterbacks. However, the shoulder injury in 2020 is a bit concerning. He possesses all the tools you want in a number one receiving tight end option including plus hands, route running ability, and great ball skills. Penn State used him in a variety of roles including slot, in the backfield, and as an in line tight end. He’s not TE1 in the class but a reliably great TE2 on the board. Could he emerge as a top tight end option for a franchise? Possibly in the right situation with the bright offensive mind. Teams like Atlanta who pass on Pitts, could draft PT on Day 2.
Draft Projection: Second to Third Round
NFL Comp: Jonnu Smith
3. Brevin Jordan Miami
- An athletic as heck tight end from the University of Miami, you say? Well, the trend of uber athletic, largely unfulfilled potential from the sunny beaches of South Florida continues. Jordan is truly a nightmare for opposing defenses to deal with given his size and athleticism. He’s tougher than he looks on film and is willing to lay the hammer when necessary. The bread is buttered when he’s in space though as he has that lateral agility some receivers crave. Jack Doyle he ain’t but Jordan is a serviceable blocker. Still, the athletic and mismatch potential should have him go no later than early Day 3 at the latest. A team with the right creative mindset would love to have him on their roster.
Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round
NFL Comp: Gerald Everett
4. Kenny Yeboah Ole Miss
- Yeboah has had an interesting career path as he transferred to Ole Miss from Temple for the 2020 season after being an underused weapon for the Owls. He’s still a developing talent that emerged during the 2020 campaign under Lane Kiffin’s watch. He’s a capable blocker albeit not refined yet so more of a pass catching option for the team that drafts him. I do have some concerns about his frame being so slender (relatively speaking). Yeboah can project to be a reliable TE2 option at the pro level and with some luck, he can pinch hit as a TE1 when necessary. Athletically and body wise, he looks like former Oregon Duck Jacob Breeland. He’ll likely begin his pro career as a developmental prospect. The talent is tantalizing though.
Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round
NFL Comp: Jacob Breeland
5. Hunter Long Boston College
- Long is smooth and fluid route runner from a variety of positions including in line, the slot, and the outside as an “X” type. He’s not the greatest of athletes and doesn’t have that extra gear to pull away so he does well to make every catch a memorable one. Blocking skills are well above average since BC essentially requires it. The Golden Eagles offense is still primarily a pro set one so he’s well nuanced in the finer details of the pro style game. While Long won’t win any races, he’s serviceable enough to make the downfield pass a credible threat. He’ll fit in as a bona fide TE2 in any scheme at the next level.
Draft Projection: Fourth to Sixth Round
NFL Comp: Tyler Eifert
6. Tre McKitty Georgia
- Speaking of underused tight ends, textbook example in Mr. McKitty. After a couple of good years with Florida State, he transferred to Georgia where the production was whelming to say the least. It wasn’t his fault entirely as the Bulldogs offense isn’t really conducive to tight ends. Still, he did enough throughout his career that he earned a Senior Bowl invite, where he broke out. A really good athlete who can move like a receiver with the ball in his hands. Size and athleticism wise, he compares to former Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack.
Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round
NFL Comp: Alize Mack
7. Tommy Tremble Notre Dame
- The latest tight end prospect from South Bend is a great athlete and has been getting a lot of love lately. His production isn’t the greatest but put into context, it’s solid given all the assets around him. The lack of production dings him on my board but not too much. Tremble’s athleticism is what sticks out. He can flat out move around wherever he wants / needs to as seen on his RAS score. While he has some significant development time ahead of him to turn into a TE1 for a team, he can be a great TE2 mismatch. Stylistically and the testing numbers are similar to former UNC and first round selection Eric Ebron.
Draft Projection: Sixth to Seventh Round
NFL Comp: Eric Ebron