Written by Jason Feiner
We are deep in the heart of Pro-day season with the Draft closing in, now less than four weeks away from the Cleveland Browns going on the clock. GM’s and war rooms are scrambling to gather their resources and build their draft boards after putting in months of work for a night that will be full of dreams, stars, and busts. Although this year’s tight end class doesn’t match some of the star prospects that we saw enter the NFL in 2017, this class certainly features big-bodied, athletic players with bright futures on the horizon. There are many teams in the league that will be in the tight end market come April and these prospects will likely hear their name called earlier rather than later. Rob Gronkowski potentially retiring, Jimmy Graham joining the Packers, Marty Bennett packing away his cleats to retire from the game, and former first round pick Eric Ebron heading to Indianapolis all open the door for rookies to come in and produce right away. The Draft will certainly make for an interesting weekend and will provide a team with a big target in the middle of their offense.
Find out who could be potential fits for Blitzalytics top five TE prospects. Could your team be in line to draft the next great tight end?
1. Hayden Hurst
Weight (lbs): 250
Career Stats: 31 Games
Receiving Yards: 1281
Receiving Touchdowns: 3
Yards Per Reception: 12.8
Hayden Hurst joined the South Carolina Gamecocks as a walk on after his brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After learning the system during his freshman season and playing intermittently, Hurst became a star as a sophomore tight end, setting the school record for both receptions and receiving yards as a TE. He is a natural leader and became a perk in the University of Carolina’s locker room as the first sophomore captain in the school’s history. Earning first team All-SEC for his performance on the field this past season, Hurst accounted for 559 yards on 44 receptions while securing 2 touchdown receptions. He played everywhere, opening rushing lanes and dominating the seam. He was an important factor that teams considered in their game plan and exhibited potential to succeed at the next level as a contributor in both the run and pass game.
Hayden Hurst is a versatile weapon with the ability to play split-wide, in the slot, or attached to the line as a base tight end. He is a physical talent that possesses an excellent combination of size and quickness. Standing at 6’4” 250 pounds, Hurst is a fluid athlete with a quick release from the line. His 40-yard dash speed of 4.67 recorded at the combine was disappointing, as he plays faster than his time suggests. Possessing the feet and acceleration to burst out of his breaks, the Gamecocks TE has the ability to separate from a linebacker in coverage. Hurst utilizes excellent body control and subtle movements to shield defenders from the ball. Hurst is a willing and productive pass catcher in all three levels of the defense, as he has elite ball skills and exceptional hands. Credited with just one drop throughout his career at Carolina, Hurst has the potential to be a dependable weapon at the next level. He is a big-bodied player with impressive run after the catch ability. He runs with power and balance with contact in his mind and heart, as he looks for collisions attempting to gain every yard possible. Hurst is a capable in-line blocker with the ability to stick to an effective block when sent in motion. His leadership skills are well documented, and his hard work, dedication and personality will be a great asset to any locker room in the NFL.
Although Hurst may compare to some of the elite tight ends in last years draft he doesn’t come without concerns. Hurst will be entering his rookie season at the age of 25, a fact that is sure to deter teams and possibly push his draft stock downward. Hurst is a good route runner with the ability to run a full route tree; however, he appears to give clues to defenders, as his out-routes tend to get jumped repeatedly. Hurst’s lack of red-zone production may hurt his standing too. A big-bodied prospect with subpar play strength, Hurst struggles with in-line blocking due to his tendency to misplace his hands. After first contact, his hands become wide, losing positioning and leverage. Hurst will need to develop as a blocker, and he has all the tools to do so if he can improve his hand placement and body positioning at the point of attack. Although he can occupy a defender while blocking, his base becomes narrow in contact while utilizing sloppy footwork. He has the ability and talent to contribute in the running and passing game, but he needs to improve his talent, position and play strength to be an efficient blocker.
The versatile tight end possesses the combination of size and quickness teams drool over. He has the potential to be a game changing talent in any offensive system, with the ability to produce right away. He is at his physical peak as he will become 25 at the beginning of the season, and his football intelligence and on-field play is all that will continue to grow. The age is the concern Hurst carries with him into the draft and it may contribute to whether he is a day 1 or day 2 draft pick. Overall, Hurst will make any team that pulls the trigger a better football team, and his potential could lead him straight to the Pro-Bowl.
Projected Round: 1–2
Team Fits: Jets, Ravens, Redskins, Colts
NFL Comparison: Dallas Clark
2. Dallas Goedert
Weight (lbs): 255
Career Stats: 53 Games
Receiving Yards: 2988
Receiving Touchdowns: 21
Yards Per Reception: 15.1
Dallas Goedert has improved throughout his tenure at South Dakota State, blossoming into an NFL-caliber prospect. He has grown significantly since his sophomore season, recording a total 164 receptions for 2404 yards and 18 touchdowns while receiving numerous All-American awards. His 71 receptions, 1111 yards, and seven touchdowns came in 2017 during his senior campaign. He has been a dangerous receiving threat, utilizing his size to dominate his competition. Although Goedert didn’t play top ranked schools he outplayed each opponent and controlled their secondaries. Goedert accounted for 6 games with 6 or more receptions and demolished Missouri State to the tune of 8 receptions for 170 yards and a score. Goedert was everywhere on the field and led the Jackrabbits to a blowout win. He has the potential to be a deadly addition to any team with the ability to produce early in his career.
Goedert possesses outstanding athleticism when considering his size with the versatility to match up anywhere on the field. Utilizing his size and athletic ability, Goedert is a capable pass catcher in all three levels. He was the playmaker for the Jackrabbits and their offensive coordinator used him as if he were playing chess, strategizing on how to get his star player the ball. Goedert possesses a smooth release from the line, as he glides into his route utilizing an excellent first step without wasted motion. He has the ability to gain separation in short and intermediate routes and he knows how to utilize his body to shield defenders from the ball. He uses his large frame to gain plus positioning with the talent and flexibility to adjust in mid-air. Goedert possesses adequate playing speed with the ability to maintain his top gear throughout the entirety of the play. Displaying the ability to work over the top of linebackers, the big-bodied playmaker can find the soft spot of the defense and sit in space waiting for the ball. The Jackrabbit has shown outstanding ball skills throughout his collegiate career, displaying large, strong hands capable of snatching the ball out of the air. Goedert possesses the size, strength and technique to work as an in-line blocker to support in the run game. He strikes with consistent pad level and hand placement. His body control and balance assist in creating leverage in tough battles versus ends. With his talent and surprising athleticism, Goedert has a chance to succeed early in his career, producing in both the run and pass games.
Dallas Goedert is a great player but not one without deficiencies. He has adequate long speed but tends to struggle in gaining separation against faster and more explosive competition. He seems like he became bulkier compared to his 2016 campaign, which affected his quickness, deep speed and movement ability. He moves with a restricted stride length, and struggles to sell the route in coverage. Goedert looks at where he is going and gives his intentions away as he is not a fluid route runner, leaning into each of his breaks and failing to drop his hips. He suffers against man-man coverage in the third level as he fails to utilize leverage and solely attempts to block out the defender. Although Goedert has exceptional ball skills and frequently makes impressive catches all over the field, he seems eager to attempt them one handed, resulting in unnecessary incompletions. He is a good blocker with the size and strength to occupy defenders, but his effort level can be inconsistent. He fails to keep good leverage and his knees bent. Goedert would greatly improve if he could gain fluidity in his hips. A high quality coach will be needed to motivate the young and big-bodied athlete in order get the most out of him.
Goedert is a versatile and talented tight end that has the potential to contribute early in his career. He has the ability to work through each level of the defense and has the ball skills to make spectacular catches. Goedert will have to prove often and early that the lower level of competition wasn’t the reason for his success by consistently displaying the ability to separate from stronger athletes. Goedert has the athleticism and talent necessary to succeed as combo tight end in an NFL offense, but will still need to work and play with a sense of urgency and diligence. If he can become motivated enough to play in each area of the offense, Goedert has a high ceiling and Pro-Bowl potential.
Projected Round: 2–3
Team Fits: Broncos, Lions, Patriots, Ravens,
NFL Comparison: Rob Gronkowski
3. Mike Gesicki
Weight (lbs): 247 lbs
Career Stats: 45 Games
Receiving Yards: 1481
Receiving Touchdowns: 15
Yards Per Reception: 11.5
Mike Gesicki has grown significantly over the course of his collegiate career. He was underwhelming throughout his freshman and sophomore season while playing for a poor Penn State offense, but he possesses game changing athletic ability and helped Penn State to a national rank of nine this past season. He had a productive 2017 campaign that matched some of the top tight ends in the country. En route to an All-Big Ten nod, Gesicki recorded 57 receptions for 563 yards securing 9 touchdowns in the process. Gesicki is a dangerous mismatch who utilizes his size and athleticism to beat defenders across the field. Gesicki features rare athleticism for a prospect his size, as he ranked in the top two players in every category at the Combine while displaying his deep speed with a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. Gesicki started off the season strong, dominating Akron to the tune of 6 receptions for 58 yards while adding 2 scores. He continued this production into Penn State’s week two game versus Pitt where he secured his third and fourth touchdowns of the season. Although he had a cold stretch midway through the season, he rebounded late. Overall, Gesicki was an invaluable weapon for the Lions.
The Penn State product has phenomenal athletic ability, a surprising feature when considering his 250-pound frame. Gesicki possesses impressive body control and quickness while displaying a smooth and fluid release from the line. Blowing up the Combine, Gesicki displayed rare explosion producing a 41.5” vertical and a 10’9” broad jump, a notable feat for an athlete his size. He has sneaky build-up speed with the ability to get to top gear quickly, which is a concern for any linebacker in coverage. Gesicki is a fluid route runner, able to gain separation from defenders in the second and third levels. A hard working athlete, he works in the middle of the field without hesitation and possesses the ability to change his route speed, fooling defenders and masking his intentions. He has the talent to run the entire route tree and the versatility to line-up anywhere on the field. Gesicki’s ball skills are evident — he has strong hands with the ability to extend his arms into a rare catch radius. Possessing natural flexibility and an elite jumping ability, the Nittany Lion can alter his position and make in-air adjustments to the ball. Gesicki has all the traits to become a dominant threat in the middle of any offensive scheme.
Gesicki may be the best receiving tight end in this class, but there remain flaws within his game. He is a lanky athlete with sub-par play strength, as he can struggle through physical contact. He will have to fight to gain separation on short routes near the line of scrimmage where contact is most prevalent, and needs to prove that he can effectively beat a big physical corner jam. A long tight end, Gesicki’s strides limit his quickness and ability to break down and change direction. Although he is a willing blocker, Gesicki is a liability in the run game. He refuses to play with power and will not sustain a block for more than a few seconds. He is not physical and tends to get beaten by athletic ends. He utilizes a passive approach as a blocker and fails to gain any leverage on talented edge rushers.
Gesicki is an exceptional athlete with the ability to contribute early in his career as an effective pass catching tight end. However, his inability to be a consistent presence in the run game will affect his draft stock. He has the ball skills teams crave from a pass catching tight end and the athleticism to gain adequate separation, but he will be a running game liability if he’s on the field. He is a mismatch, as he is too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties. His potential to become one of the high-end receiving threats in the league will cause a team to bite earlier rather than later.
Projected Round: 2–3
Team Fits: Saints, Patriots, Seahawks, Dolphins
NFL Comparison: Coby Fleener
4. Ian Thomas
Weight (lbs): 248
Career Stats: 11 Games
Receptions: 28 receptions
Receiving Yards: 404
Receiving Touchdowns: 5
Yards Per Reception: 14.4
Ian Thomas is a versatile weapon who played all over the field in Indiana’s offense. He began his collegiate career playing for Nassau Community College and transferred to Indiana where he played a minor role in his junior season. Thomas is an excellent athlete but he needed an extra year to grasp Indiana’s offensive scheme. After recording only 3 receptions for 28 yards during his junior year, the Indiana product had a breakout 2017 campaign, accruing 25 receptions, 376 yards, and five touchdowns. Although these stats don’t appear to jump off the page, Thomas had an excellent year for the opportunities he was presented with. Starting off hot, the Hoosier tight end had a coming out party in week one against Ohio State where he dominated the game, grabbing an 18 yard score in the first quarter on a seam route and ending the day with 5 receptions for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Thomas is a focused team leader who can shift the tide of a locker room. He is a humble player and works hard to improve each day. Utilizing his size and athletic ability, the hardworking tight end may prove to be a valuable asset to any team that drafts him.
Thomas has a great combination of size, strength and athleticism. He possesses quick feet and excellent body control with the ability to gain separation from defenders out of his breaks. The Hoosier has a smooth release, utilizing a quick and decisive step without wasted motion. Although he recorded a surprising 4.74 40 time at the Combine, Thomas displays deceptive deep speed with the ability to threaten seams and downfield. The athletic prospect plays faster than his numbers suggest, and his quickness allows him to gain separation in all three levels of the defense. Thomas is a physical player that loves punishing opposing players. He will fight for every inch and utilizes a powerful stiff arm to stay on his feet and gain extra yards. Possessing a strong build and powerful lower body, Thomas can power through arm tackles and smaller defenders with ease. His build, physicality, and strength have helped to improve his blocking ability in the run game as well, as he has shown the ability to bend and maintain leverage against edge rushers. As the season progressed he got more opportunities to work as an in-line blocker, gaining experience and technique in the run game. He is a willing blocker in space and will be efficient when blocking on the outside in the slot.
Although Thomas has improved and developed good power to succeed as a blocker, he lacks the aggression to consistently dominate a defender. A versatile athlete with speed and power will blow by the inexperienced tight end as if he were a practice dummy. He utilizes good initial leverage but tends to misplace his hands, causing him to slip and lose ground in the run game. Thomas is an inexperienced prospect that will need time to grow as a football player. He is a raw athlete with potential to succeed at the next level. He will need to learn a full route tree as he only was required to run a handful of routes, none very complex. Thomas often counts his steps, giving away his intentions in the process. He also needs to work on breaking down and lowering his hips in his routes, as he rounds his breaks, draws the defender in, and creates opportunities for the defense to play the ball in the air. Thomas possesses good hands but he fights the ball, leading to drops.
With the talent Thomas possesses he has the potential to be a star at the next level. He is a raw athlete and will need to adjust his technique in the run game and in route running. He has a long way to go and will need time to learn an NFL playbook to improve his overall knowledge of the game, but he has the tools required at his disposal. Thomas is an intriguing prospect who will certainly get drafted earlier than later. His potential is too great to pass up — it may just take a while for him to reach it.
Projected Round: 3–4
Team Fits: Lions, Broncos, Colts, Bears
5. Mark Andrews
Weight (lbs): 256
Career Stats: 35 Games
Receiving Yards: 1765
Receiving Touchdowns: 22
Yards Per Reception: 15.8
Mark Andrews has been a consistent force over his three seasons in Oklahoma’s high-powered offense. He redshirted as a freshman and broke onto the scene in 2016 as a sophomore. He consistently dominated defenses while working the seam and providing a big and athletic body for Heisman winner Baker Mayfield to target. As tough as they come, Andrews played through an AC joint sprain en route to first team All-American honors while playing in eleven games over the course of his sophomore season.
Healthy, Andrews was even more successful, receiving the John Mackey award for being the best tight end in the nation. Andrews collected 62 receptions for 958 yards and 8 touchdowns, helping the Sooners reach the coveted final four-college football playoff as the 2nd ranked team in the nation. He was a consistent presence throughout the season, recording three 100-yard performances and 7 games with at least 1 touchdown. Andrews has the versatility and talent to succeed at the next level.
Andrews is a big-bodied prospect with solid athleticism. He isn’t overly quick, but he finds ways to gain separation utilizing his size and sneaky build-up speed. Andrews plays with natural flexibility, consistently dropping his hips in breaks and driving toward the ball. He’s also a crafty route runner with the capability to run more complex routes. He adjusts midway through his route to gain positioning against the coverage, and plays with a consistent pace with the ability to gain separation and lock defenders to his hip. Considered a mismatch against defensive backs, he efficiently utilizes his size in order to box out the defender. Andrews will consistently make contested catches over the middle of the field and possesses the ability to line up anywhere. He is a big weapon in the middle of the offense and is also a dominant red-zone target with reliable hands, as he is capable of scooping low throws and high-pointing the ball. He has good size and athleticism for the position with the versatility to play anywhere. Essentially, he looks like a big slot receiver who can make tough catches look easy.
Although there is a lot to like about Andrews’ size and athleticism, he is an inconsistent third-level target as he struggles with gaining separation deep downfield. He doesn’t possess the necessary acceleration needed to pull away from man coverage, and was noticeably bulkier and slower this season. His greatest concerns come in the run game. Andrews has great size but it doesn’t translate as a blocker, as he acts as a dummy in the face of a pass rusher. He is slow to his assignment and lacks enthusiasm. He can’t sustain a block against an athletic or quick defender for more than a few seconds, but he displays the strength to occupy smaller defenders when they are lined up in front of him. He simply lacks aggression and utilizes terrible hand placement to lose leverage almost immediately. Andrews is a big slot receiver who refuses to block in the run game.
Andrews is a reliable target in the middle of the field and a touchdown magnet in the red-zone. He quickly became Mayfield’s go-to option as he led the Sooners in receptions and touchdowns while collecting the second most yards within the offense. He doesn’t have any special traits and only possesses average athletic ability, but he will provide a consistent presence within any offensive team that chooses to draft him. He has a chance to be a good receiving tight end at the next level.
Projected Round: 3–4
Team Fits: Ravens, Broncos, Jets, Lions
NFL Comparison: Brent Celek