In an effort to get through all of the positions before the draft goes, I’ll be just shortly naming some of the prospects to watch in this draft class, as well as some potential sleepers and maybe busts. This isn’t nearly as in depth as I’d prefer to go, but for the sake of getting them done, they’ll pretty concise.
This year’s Tight End class is certainly lacking from a depth stand point, but there are some good players to be had from this group. The top two players at the position this year are Maxx Williams from Minnesota, and Clive Walford from the University of Miami. Both men are most comfortable receiving passes, but both are also passable blockers in-line. Maybe most importantly, they are both above average athletically for the position, and in this era of football, they can present mismatches for the defense.
Top TE Prospect: Maxx Williams Minnesota 6’4” 249
Williams is entering the draft as a Redshirt Sophomore, making him one of the younger players in the draft; Williams will be 21 for his entire rookie season. He had a brief, yet spectacular career for the Gophers, leading them in receiving and touchdowns this past season with 36 receptions for 539 yards and 8 of the Gopher’s 12 receiving touchdowns. Williams is an impressive athlete for the position but lacks elite speed, running a 4.78 in Indianapolis. I’d compare him favorably to Jason Witten, a reliable receiving option capable of doing damage, and an able run blocker.
Biggest Bust Potential: Jesse James Penn State 6’7” 261
This is a tough position to pick a “bust” for, because there is so little top end talent, and usually Round 4 and later picks aren’t really labeled as busts if they don’t reach their potential. If I’m forced to pick one, it’s probably going to be James. He’s a huge athlete who looks more impressive physically than he plays. James has all of the size and strength you’re looking for, but he’s just never been able to turn all of that potential into production. He chose to forgo his senior season, which we’ll have to see if it was the right decision. James is certainly intriguing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he struggles to transition to the NFL.
Biggest Sleeper: Blake Bell Oklahoma 6’6” 252
I wrote about Bell in an article previewing the Combine, how he could be someone to watch due to his impressive athleticism for his size. The former Quarterback for the Sooners has an intriguing skill set, running a 4.80 second 40 yard dash at that size. He’s only had one full season at Tight End, so he’s pretty green, but his athletic upside could prove to be worth the investment for a Day 3 selection.
Small School Stud: Mycole Pruitt Southern Illinois 6’2” 251
Pruitt is an intriguing prospect coming from the FCS level. Pruitt is what the NFL calls a “Move” Tight End, a similar role to the one played by the now recently jailed Aaron Hernandez had in New England. Pruitt is too short to be an in-line blocker consistently, rather he can use his speed, best of the Tight Ends at the Combine, a 4.58. He can provide mismatches for the defense, as Linebackers will struggle to stay with Pruitt, either out of the slot or out of the backfield as a “H-Back” role, similar to the one that Chris Cooley used to play in Washington a few years ago.
My Tight End Rankings:
- Maxx Williams Minnesota 6’4” 249 1st-2nd Round
- Clive Walford Miami (FL) 6’4” 251 2nd Round
- Jeff Heuerman Ohio State 6’5” 254 4th Round
- Tyler Kroft Rutgers 6’6” 246 4th Round
- Nick O’Leary Florida State 6’3” 252 4th Round
- Jesse James Penn State 6’7” 261 5th Round
- Ben Koyack Notre Dame 6’5” 255 5th Round
- Mycole Pruitt Southern Illinois 6’2” 251 5th Round
- Blake Bell Oklahoma 6’6” 252 6th Round
- Wes Saxton South Alabama 6’3” 248 6th Round