NFL Draft Primer: Tight Ends

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 21, 2017

Alabama’s tight end O.J. Howard seems to be the consensus No. 1 tight end on the board, but Miami’s David Njoku could very well be the first one off the board.

We’ve made it through much of the NFL Draft prospects over the last few days, catching you up on which skill position players you should expect drafted, as well as which round they should be drafted in. If you missed any of them, you can view the quarterbacks right here, running backs here, and the wide receivers here.

That leaves us with only tight ends to cover, a position that typically requires years before you start receiving dividends on your investment. In 2017, however, there are a few names that you need to be aware of because they should contribute to their future teams almost immediately. We’ll cover those names, as well as those who could be taken in the later rounds. You’ll find my pre-draft rankings at the bottom of the article.

Overview

It’s very possible that we hear three tight end’s names called in the first round of the NFL Draft that begins next week. The most obvious choice is Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who is quite possibly the most NFL-ready tight end that we’ve seen drafted in the last five years. He’s a solid-enough blocker, though he will need to hit the weight room to defend some of the bigger defensive lineman in the NFL, and he can run like the wind despite being 6’6” and 251 pounds.

The next tight end off the board will be Miami’s David Njoku, who looks like the tight end version of Calvin Johnson. He’s got amazingly long arms, used to high-jump in high school, and is one heck of a target to try and tackle. He isn’t known to be a blocker and is just 20 years old, but his ceiling can rival a player like Jimmy Graham, which says a lot. If he lands on the Saints, lock him in for TE1 production.

The last of the big three is Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, who’s more like a wide receiver than he is a tight end. Just 6’3” and 235 pounds, it’s unlikely that Engram will be used as a blocking tight end, which is a good thing for his fantasy prospects. Just think of a player like Jordan Reed, who isn’t known to stay in to block very much at all. Engram is the only one who may last into Day 2 of the draft.

Other tight ends that’ll have a chance at being drafted on Day 2 include South Alabama’s Gerald Everett who is also built like a wide receiver (6’3”, 239 pounds), and Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges who is a massive touchdown threat standing at nearly 6’7” and 257 pounds. Today’s NFL is much different than it was 10 years ago and teams want pass catchers at the position. Both players can add playmaking ability in the passing game, but likely not be enough for them to make an immediate impact in fantasy.

Sleepers

One thing that you want to be guaranteed when drafting a tight end, it’s that he’s actually going to see the field. High ceiling-type players are great in doses, but sometimes you want to ensure you’re getting a player that’ll stick around in the league, and Michigan’s Jake Butt will do just that. He isn’t flashy or anything, but he does everything well. His hands are about as sure as they come, he’s a solid route runner, and he can help block. From a guy expected to go in Rounds 4-5, you can’t ask for much more.

Despite coming out of a small school, Ashland’s Adam Shaheen has made an impression on me. He’s been given the nickname “Baby Gronk,” and it’s easy to see why. He’s 6’6”, weighs 278 pounds, and caught 16 touchdowns in just 11 games in 2016. While I won’t compare him to Gronk, it’s easy to fall in love with the big fella who looks to be a massive target in the passing game. His blocking still has room to grow, but with some NFL coaching, he’ll get there.

Pre-Draft Rankings

  1. David Njoku, Miami
  2. O.J. Howard, Alabama
  3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
  4. Jake Butt, Michigan
  5. Adam Shaheen, Ashland
  6. Jordan Leggett, Clemson
  7. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
  8. Gerald Everett, South Alabama
  9. Jonnu Smith, Florida International
  10. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.


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