Once considered to be pseudo offensive linemen, the role of a tight end has evolved and changed noticeably over the last ten years. While pass protecting and run blocking are still essential attributes of a coveted tight end, these versatile athletes are now expected to be trusted receivers that can make plays over the middle and down the sideline. Athletes such as Evan Engram and David Njoku epitomize the physical traits and receiving abilities of what tight ends are now expected to possess to be utilized consistently in the NFL. Although a bigger frame is still expected and ideal, athleticism and quickness are becoming an accepted part of the makeup of today’s pro tight end. This years draft class exemplifies the intriguing evolution of the tight end position as most if not all of these prospects possess above average to exceptional pass-catching abilities.
10. Caleb Wilson, UCLA
Regarded as a bigger and taller Jordan Reed, Caleb Wilson proved to be a dangerous receiving weapon for quarterback Josh Rosen. A fantastic route runner with exceptional separation skills, Wilson was a reliable receiver that could do serious damage after the catch. Although he may go relatively unnoticed because of the plethora of talent at the position this year, Wilson has all of the physical tools and ability to be a starter in the NFL.
9. Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
Although his paltry numbers may concern some draft experts (15 receptions, 244 yards, and a touchdown), this was due largely in part to Durham Smythe playing in an offense that featured a run-first quarterback. Luckily, this allowed Smythe to hone his abilities as a blocker. When he was featured as a receiver, Wilson flashed some athleticism, which should help him be successful at the next level provided he can stay healthy.
8. Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
A steady contributor for the Chippewas, Tyler Conklin was a constant receiving threat that was featured frequently in Central Michigan’s offense. If the reliable pass catcher can improve his blocking skills, he could rise up draft boards to become a potential steal in one of the middle rounds of the draft.
7. Adam Breneman, Massachusetts
With 64 catches for 764 yards, Adam Breneman is a workhorse receiver that has the ideal frame and hands to be a trusted and highly physical receiver. While Breneman needs to show more as a blocker, he has everything else going for him in terms of reliability and production.
6. Dalton Schultz, Stanford
Drawing comparisons to Jason Witten, Dalton Schultz is essentially a do it all tight end. A good route runner with excellent hands, Schultz could very well become a favorite target for a quarterback that loves to utilize a sure-handed tight end as an intermediate receiving weapon. A great blocker as well, Schultz could become the steal of his draft class if he can show off his abilities at both the combine and during his pro day.
5. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
One of the faster tight ends in the draft this year, Troy Fumagalli is a great route runner that is highly athletic and quick. Although Fumagalli is solid as a blocker, his hands and separation skills give him elevated appeal as a three-down starter at the next level.
4. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
A highly dangerous receiving threat that is vastly underrated because of where he played during his college career, Dallas Goedert may be the most impressive receiving tight end in the draft. With 72 receptions for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns, Goedert’s exceptional production is ideal for a league that is in love with anyone that can make impressive catches consistently. With his heightened athleticism, Goedert could explode onto the NFL scene to become the next well-known and beloved tight end for whatever teams he suits up for.
3. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
A physical blocker, Hayden Hurst is a multi-dimensional athlete that may slip in the draft because of his lack of production and age (will be 25 years of age as a rookie). However, given his prototypical size and versatility as a multi-sports player (played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates briefly), Hurst should be able to jump into any system and use his natural abilities to excel sooner rather than later.
2. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
A constant threat in the end zone (nine touchdown receptions), Mike Gesicki was a favorite target for quarterback Trace McSorley throughout his career at Penn State. A great blocker as well, Gesicki has the potential to be the next Greg Olsen as one of the more reliable pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
1. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
A favorite target of quarterback Baker Mayfield when he played at Oklahoma, Andrews has the size, athleticism, and quickness to be a dangerous receiving threat down the seam. One of the few tight ends in this year’s class that can make impressive plays deep downfield, Andrews will be a constant miss match receiver that will continually frustrate defenses at the next level given his vast arsenal of abilities as a reliable receiver.