Let’s see what rookie tight ends could have some fantasy production in the 2019 season. Normally tight ends take time to develop, but there might be some fantasy gold in this year’s draft. The most important thing about the tight end position is the system. I have two great examples of what I mean. Eric Ebron went from a bust in the Detroit system, which favors the wide receivers, to pro-bowler in Indianapolis, where Luck’s favorite target is the tight end. The other example is Julius Thomas and his production with Peyton Manning in Denver versus what he did in Miami with Tannehill. There was a big drop-off in production. He was a pro-bowl player in Denver and out of the NFL in Miami. So when putting one of these tight ends on your draft board, make sure you evaluate the quarterback and the system that he is in. That being said, let’s dive in.
First, we have the pass-catching tight end. Normally these type of tight ends do not block a lot, but they can run good routes and are often looked at as mismatch when going against linebackers and DBs because of their height and speed. Some good examples of these types are Jimmy Grahm, Shannon Sharpe, and Kellan Winslow Sr. There are two that fit the bill. One really improved his draft stock at the combine: Noah Fant. He ran a 4.5 forty at 6’5 while running some great routes at the combine. He also showed a strong pass-catching ability. Keep an eye on him in the draft; if he goes to a good system, he could have a great first year. The second one on the list is Caleb Wilson. He’s 6’4 running a 4.56. He looked rather stiff running but was still able to run all the routes at a high speed. He didn’t give up on overthrown balls which I really liked.
Next, we have the “tweeners,” which is a made-up football word that is thrown around loosely, but it works for these guys. They can block a little, but they won’t pancake too many defensive players, and they have good speed. Their opportunity to play the first year is a mystery, mainly because the system has to fit them, but two great examples of this type of tight end are Eric Ebron and Zach Ertz. Irv Smith tops this list, but it was really close for me. Running a 4.63 40 at 6’2, he’s not very tall but shows great effort and runs solid routes. Josh Oliver, who also ran a 4.63 40 but at 6’5, was very impressive as well. He ran solid routes and showed great effort going after the ball. I think he needs to get nastier at the position when it comes to blocking. Dawson Knox needs to be noted because, when you throw on the tape, he really pops in games. He is a very smooth runner, but he didn’t run the forty at the combine. Know did the catching drills and he looked very nice in and out of his breaks. He is 6’4 260, which is a great size. I can’t wait to see where he goes.
Now it’s time for the freak of the draft. It’s not hard to spot a tight end freak, but for those who don’t know, it’s the Gronk-type. I give you another John Mackey. These tight ends are very different because they are nasty when it comes to blocking, can run a solid route, and have solid hands. They are three-down tight ends. These guys never come off the field and they are also game breakers. T.J. Hockenson is that guy. I mean really! He won the Mackey Award for the best tight end in college. He is 6’5 250 and ran a 4.7 flat 40. This doesn’t blow you away but he ran it smoothly. And when you see him block, that’s what’s going to get him on the field fast. He looked like he wants to eat that blocking bag. That’s very important because, in everything you do in life, it’s the little things that separate you from the pack, and he is a nasty blocker.
So those are the tight ends. It wasn’t a very deep class, but there is some serious talent at the top. Just make sure you watch the draft and see what teams pick these guys up. The system will dictate their success.