SI Fantasy analyst Shawn Childs provides his read on this year’s crop of NFL Draft talent at the tight end position
1. Kyle Pitts, Florida
After showing growth in his sophomore season (54/649/5) at Florida, Pitts dominated over eight games (43/770/12) in 2020. His season started with an explosive showing against Mississippi (8/170/4) and ended three more impressive outings (5/99/3, 7/128, and 7/129/1). In early November, he took a nasty hit that led to a concussion and surgery on his nose, costing him a couple of games.
Pitts comes to the NFL with a big wide receiver feel while showing the ability to play inside or outside. He ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the Gators’ pro day while also bench pressing 225 lbs. a mere 22 times. Pitts offers an impact feel to the tight end position when pairing his speed to his already edge in size (6’6” and 245 lbs.). His next area of improvement will come as a blocker, which will come with more bulk and better technique.
His route running has room for growth, along with short-area quickness. Pitts will test a defense up the seam in the deep passing game with the foundation skill set to dominate in scoring in the red zone. His release and movements off the line create easy wins, plus a high level of success in jump balls.
He projects as a top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
Penn State featured Freiermuth as a top-scoring threat in the passing game over his first two seasons. He picked up 15 touches over 25 games with 69 catches for 875 yards. Freiermuth gained an impressive 14.2 yards per catch as a freshman, but he turned more into a possession option in 2019 (11.8 yards per catch). Freiermuth busted out of the gate with 23 catches for 310 yards and one touchdown over four games, but his season ended in mid-November with a right shoulder injury that required surgery.
His short-area quickness or overall speed won’t be an edge, but Freiermuth is a hand catcher who plays with strength and power to finish off his receptions for first downs and touchdowns. He reads defenders well with the vision to see open space. Freiermuth will be a play-action scoring threat with the ability to work the middle of a defense at the end zone. Penn State gave him chances to move behind the line of scrimmage and on jump balls at the goal line.
Ideally, I would like to see Freiermuth land in an offense with top-tier wide receivers, which would allow him to work the interior of a defense as a secondary option in the passing game. The Cowboys would love to draft Kyle Pitts, but Freiermuth would be a much better fit/value a couple of rounds later in the draft.
3. Hunter Long, Boston College
In 2020, Long doubled his output in catches (57) from his sophomore season (28/509/2), but he lost 6.2 yards per catch (18.2 to 12.0). Long finished with 685 receiving yards with five touchdowns. Last year, his best production came in four matchups (7/93/1, 9/81, 9/96, and 8/109/1).
Long has concerns about his release and challenges with press coverage, plus negative grades in his blocking skills. He runs well in space with the ability to attack soft zones and challenge a defense downfield. Long has a chain mover fell with strength in his hands. I expect him to fit well in a spread offense while being on the sidelines on most running plays.
His foundation skill set projects well, and Long has enough size (6’5” and 255 lbs.) to improve his shortfall in blocking to become a three-down player. An NFL team looking to expand the depth of their receiving core will look to invest in Long.
4. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
Over his 19 games with the Fighting Irish, Tremble caught 35 balls for 401 yards with four touchdowns. Only once in his career did he catch more than four passes in a game or gain over 50 yards receiving.
He’ll earn his way into the NFL blocker, but his frame (6’3” and 245 lbs.) isn’t ideal for a lead role at tight end. Tremble continues to improve, and his growth as a pass-catcher at Notre Dame was restricted by a pair of talented players in front of him on the depth chart. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash on his pro day while also showing short-area quickness. His hands look to be in question when facing tight coverage.
Tremble will need time to develop in the passing game at the next level while possibly having the best fit as a move tight end on early downs. His speed will play when overlooked by a defense in the deep passing game. There’s more here than meets the initial eye.
5. Brevin Jordan, Miami (FLA)
Jordan never played more than nine games in any of his three seasons in college. He finished his career with 105 catches for 1,358 yards and 13 touchdowns, highlighted by his success in 2020 (38/576/7) over eight contests. Jordan had the most value in three games (7/120/1, 6/140/1, and 8/96/2) last year.
He brings a playmaker feel to the tight end position. Jordan runs well with the ball in his hands in space while showing the ability to make a defender miss. His route running showed growth in his third season at Miami. Jordan can bounce off a hit and add yards after the catch, but his foundation skill set in blocking isn’t NFL-ready. Jordan needs to prove that he beat tight coverage against safeties.
His speed (about 4.65 40-yard dash) doesn’t separate him from the field, and Jordan is slightly undersized (6’3’ and 245 lbs.). He comes with some injury risk while never playing a full season in college.
Jordan falls in a range along with multiple tight ends, which puts him in play on the second day of drafting.
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