Be honest with me.
Have you heard a word about a tight end in this upcoming draft class?
Star-studded defensive ends, lousy quarterback prospects and an abundance of quality receivers are the stories oft-repeated day after day.
Tight ends? Not a word.
I would go so far as to say that the casual draft fan wouldn’t be able to whisper the names of some of the top prospects available in this current pool. It’s a collection of quality guys, but none possess the pizzazz that resonates with the top prospects often mentioned in daily draft coverage.
It’s one of the most low-key positions in recent memory.
Last year, Kyle Pitts kept the pulse on the position after finishing fourth overall for the Atlanta Falcons. His unicorn abilities have kept him among the elite of the entire 2021 draft class. Pitts joined Hall of Famer Mike Ditka as the only two rookie tight ends to ever go past 1,000 yards in their campaigns. of recruits.
Second-round pick Pat Freiermuth became Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red-zone target in Pittsburgh, finishing second on the team with seven touchdown receptions for the Steelers.
Then the crickets.
The other 10 remaining tight ends drafted were unseen during their rookie seasons.
Pitts and Freiermuth had more combined output than the rest of their position mates. The pair collectively had 128 catches for 1,523 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
1st Round Atlanta Falcons | Kyle Pitts | 68 – 1,026 – 1
2nd Round Pittsburgh Steelers | Pat Freiermuth | 60 – 497 – 7
3rd Round Miami Dolphins | Hunter Long | 1 – 8 – 0
Carolina Panthers 3rd Round | Tommy Aspen | 20 – 180 – 1
Los Angeles Chargers in the 3rd round | Tre’ McKitty | 6 – 45 – 0
4th round Washington commanders | John Bates | 20 – 249 – 1
Indianapolis Colts in the 4th round | Kylen Granson | 11 – 106 – 0
4th Round Los Angeles Rams | Jacob Harris | – – – – –
5th Round Jacksonville Jaguars | Luke Farrell | 7 – 56 – 0
5th round Houston Texans | Brevin Jordan | 20 – 178 – 3
Kansas City Chiefs in Round 5 | Gray Noah | 7 – 36- 1
5th Round Minnesota Vikings | Zach Davidson | – – – – –
The other 10 barely made an impression and two never caught an NFL pass in their rookie debut. Their production resulted in 92 receptions for 858 yards and six touchdowns, miles from what Pitts and Freiermuth were able to show.
While it might seem normal for the most touted players to overtake those seen as least likely to succeed, that’s not the toll we’re used to seeing as careers unfold from tight position. .
You could say that last year was an anomaly.
A coveted prospect like Pitts delivering his draft doesn’t happen.
A line of first-round flops haunts this position with one bad review after the next by some of the NFL’s brightest minds.
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The small sample size of tight ends helps distinguish first-round failures from later successes. Compare these players in conjunction with the selected year and round.
2019 | 1st round | 8th overall | TJ Hockenson | Detroit Lions
2019 | 3rd round | 96th overall | Dawson Knox | Buffalo Tickets
2018 | 1st round | 25th overall | Hayden Hurst | Baltimore Ravens
2018 | 3rd round | 86th overall | Mark Andrews | Baltimore Ravens
2017 | 1st round | 19th overall | OJ Howard | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2017 | 1st round | 23rd overall | Evan Engram | New York Giants
2017 | 1st round | 29th overall | David Njoku | Cleveland Browns
2017 | 3rd round | 100th overall | Jonnu Smith | Tennessee Titans
It’s easy to identify over the past five years that the pattern of first-round flops is giving way to much more valuable mid-round picks.
That brings us to the incoming group of rookie tight ends.
It is also very likely that no tight ends will be drafted in the first two rounds of this draft.
How rare is this event?
The last time that happened was in 1987 when the St. Louis Cardinals selected Robert Awalt 62nd overall. His possible claim to fame is that he played with the Cardinals in their senior year in St. Louis and in their first season in Phoenix.
Traditionally, some of the best prospects at this position have come out of obscurity while many first-round busts have never reached their intended potential.
In 2010, Jermaine Gresham placed 21st overall.
Any idea who followed?
Rob Gronkowski in round 2, Jimmy Graham in round 3 and Aaron Hernandez in fourth. Another example of first-round tight ends falling far short of expectations.
So, it could be a blessing for these tight future 2022 recruits to be out of the spotlight.
It seems the recipe for success for tight ends to thrive is to come off the board late on Day 2 of the draft.
Who is likely to be drafted first?
1. Cade Otten, Washington, R-Senior, 6-5, 247 — With no clear No. 1 tight end, Otten gets the nod in my opinion as the best tight end coming off the board in 2022. A savvy road runner with angry runner demeanor after capture. Drew Sample, Will Dissly and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are all former Huskies drafted since 2014.
2. Trey McBride, Colorado State, Senior, 6-4, 246 — His line blocking is outstanding. That’s what gets him noticed first, then you sprinkle in pass-catching skills and you end up with the best tight end in the class.
3. Greg Dulcich, UCLA, R-Junior, 6-4, 243 — A walk-on at UCLA, Dulcich went from a receiver (210 pounds) to tight end. His best attributes are in the vertical passing game, and teams considering a monster line blocker will bypass Dulcich in the draft. His calling card makes big plays on the pitch.
The twinkling, glowing lights of Las Vegas can keep them hidden until late Friday night when the third round opens and that seems to suit the position best.
No spotlight shines on these midterm picks before the draft, but months later, when the stadium lights are on and the regular season begins, these guys often take center stage.
Graham and Travis Kelce entered the league via the third round of the draft.
Will there be another pearl in this group?
Time will tell us.