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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: A.J. Barner (TE – Michigan)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: A.J. Barner (TE – Michigan)

FantasyPros will be taking a look at early NFL Draft scouting reports before the Combine in March. Here’s a look at Michigan tight end A.J. Barner.

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: A.J. Barner

A.J. Barner (TE – Michigan)

6’6″ – 251 lbs.

Background:

A.J. Barner was a three-star recruit out of high school who originally attended Indiana, where he spent his first three seasons. Played sparingly in 2020, but rotated in for over 200 snaps the following year and caught 14-162-1. Was named a captain the following year, but finished with a somewhat disappointing line of 28-199-3 (7.1). He was more efficient overall at Michigan this season, although his overall production is comparable (22-249-1 receiving, 11.3).

Positives:

Two-year starter whose developmental trajectory is favorable. One of the bigger tight ends in the class and a viable inline option. Often lines up as the Y tight end but he will take some snaps from the slot or as a flex option as well. A very consistent, technically sound blocker with the toughness and competitiveness teams look for. Fires out low as a blocker, with impressive functional strength; makes an effort to compete in the leverage battle. Lower-body strength is better than his size would indicate. Nice hand placement inside, with a strong grip for a tight end. Good leg drive after contact and can create some movement when he’s able to attack the outside shoulder. Works hard to stick with opponents and sustain through the whistle. Lines up opponents well in space when stalking in the screen game. Looks effective when retained in pass protection. Shows some hip sink into the stems of his routes. Big target with a relatively reliable pair of hands (five career drops.)

Negatives:

Was never very highly integrated into the passing game at either Indiana or Michigan. Mostly a safety valve who releases into the flats or runs little hook/hitch routes to provide easy completions underneath. Doesn’t have the raw speed to seriously threaten defenses down the seams. Has the occasional snap where he lunges and falls off of a block, but those are relatively infrequent. Didn’t get to see many snaps where he was asked to go in motion and crack on the backside.

Summary:

A big tight end who was asked to line up with his hand in the dirt and take on defensive ends in the run game consistently. In that capacity, shows competitiveness, toughness, technique and lower-body strength to get the job done. As a receiver, his overall usage was much more limited, functioning primarily as a safety valve who struggles to create separation against man coverage. A lack of dynamism in the passing game will probably cause him to slip into the middle rounds, however, his ability to consistently get dirty work done as a blocker should help him carve out a niche as a team’s second tight end at the pro level.

Projection: Round 5

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