This tight end class is incredible. Only 2 years removed from a class that included OJ Howard, George Kittle, David Njoku and Evan Engram, we are blessed with a class that can be better. Let’s look at my top 5 tight end prospects in the draft.
1. T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
T.J. Hockenson is incredible. One of the two dynamic tight ends at Iowa, Hockenson is a rare talent at tight end. When watching his tape, I couldn’t find a weakness, he’s that talented. Let’s start with his blocking ability. As a run blocker, Hockenson has great functional strength that allows him to be a successful blocker in the run game. As a pass blocker, Hockenson excels. He has great quickness so he can mirror the rusher and has great technique to shut them down. As a receiver, Hockenson is fantastic. He has great burst off the line of scrimmage and has great long speed to beat defenders down field. As a route runner, Hockenson has no limits. He ran several different routes at Iowa, he is quick through his cuts and he is explosive out of them. When he catches the ball, he doesn’t falter. His ability to catch the ball outside of his frame is fantastic, he has flashed incredible ability to high point the ball. He has great contact balance and doesn’t struggle absorbing a few hits after the catch; he always falls forward. Hockenson is a scheme versatile offensive weapon that will help any offense he goes to. He is a top 10 player, and no one should be upset if he is drafted to your team.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Iowa has produced some crazy tight end talent in the last few years; Kittle in 2017, and Hockenson and Fant in 2019. Coming into the years Fant was almost everybody’s TE #1. Fant possesses elite athleticism for a tight end. All throughout the year I’ve been hearing, “Noah Fant is only a receiving tight end, he can’t block,” that couldn’t be more untrue. While he might not be tasked to be an in-line blocker, like his teammate T.J. Hockenson. In the run game, however, Fant does a great job of keeping control of the defender and has good technique. Fant has blistering speed for a tight end and can run away from almost anyone on the defensive side of the football. He does a good job of securing catches and running for some extra yards after the catch. Fant projects as a starter at the next level. He might be used best as a seam buster who can run up the middle of the field between zones, but his athleticism makes him scheme versatile.
3. Irv Smith Jr, Alabama
Irv Smith is an incredibly talented player who was kind of buried by the immense talent at Alabama. I’m here to explain why he should’ve been getting more hype throughout the year. My favorite thing about Smith is his route running. He runs great routes and sells his breaks very well. He’s a great blocker, he always keeps control and looks to finish blocks. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he has a good amount of athleticism, he’s a legit threat in the passing game. One big negative to Smith’s game was that I rarely saw contested catch situations; he has the size and catching ability to succeed in them, he’s just untested. Smith has the ability to be a starter in the NFL, and I fully expect him to be. His mix of blocking ability and receiving ability should be very appealing to NFL teams.
4. Isaac Nauta, Georgia
Isaac Nauta is another story of a talented player that didn’t get enough touches because of Georgia’s cowardly offense.
Nauta is a dominant blocker, both in the passing game and run game. He can block edge rushers in 1v1 situations and lock them up. As a receiver, he can make some great plays. He has no problem extending his hands outside his frame to reel the ball in, he rarely drops balls. He has shown the ability to make some great contested catches, he can make some great adjustments to the ball, and really fights for positioning. Nauta has a few more problems, however. For one, he doesn’t seem too fast, I’m excited to see how he tests. Because of his limited athleticism, his routes lack explosiveness and suddenness. Despite that, he can be a dynamic receiver for an offense. A run heavy team will be attracted to Nauta for his blocking ability, I just hope they use him to his full potential and let him catch the ball as much as he blocks, because he can be a difference maker.
5. Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
Dawson Knox was an upsetting evaluation, not because he disappointed me, but because he never got the ball. Ole Miss probably had the simplest offense in the country, and once you mix that with having A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge in your receiver room, it’s going to be tough to not throw to them. Knox has some intriguing traits. For one, he has great athletic ability; he can run well and has great explosiveness off the line. As a blocker, he’s still developing, he walked on at Ole Miss after playing quarterback in high school, so he’s still relatively new to the tight end position. He has an incredible frame and should have no problem as a blocker once he gets NFL coaching. He does need to develop his routes, he had a very limited route tree at Ole Miss; but he should have no problem with that due to his athletic ability. He has the size and toughness to be good in contested catch situations, he was just never given the chance. I’m looking forward to seeing what Dawson Knox does in the NFL, because his upside is phenomenal.