Patriots Draft Previews: Tight Ends

Current Roster: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Troy Niklaus, Jacob Hollister, someone who answers to name Will Tye

Positional Overview: I’m laboring under the assumption that in 2018 Gronkowski will in fact be receiving Tom Brady passes and not tags from Mojo Rawley or dialogue cues from The Rock. But even with Gronk coming to his senses and coming back to the Patriots, tight end is a draft priority. Because it always is in Foxboro. As I’ve pointed out a couple of times recently, in 18 drafts Bill Belichick has selected 11 tight ends to only 15 wide receivers, with two of them first rounders. Josh McDaniels search for a viable, versatile second option to bookend Gronk continues, even with Allen coming back for a second year. Because Brady pretty much treats him like that guy who you see at a supermarket who looks vaguely familiar but not enough to remember how you should know him so you keep turning around and going the other way to avoid the awkward small talk. If that makes sense.

So yes, an other weapon who can play close tight to the formation or flex out to create mismatches is always welcome here. (We had a really good one before he decided to go all John Wilkes Hernandez on everybody.) More and more NFL teams are splitting tight ends out solo in 3×1 formations, and the Pats have led the way. Unfortunately, like I said about offensive tackle, this is not the year to be trying to fill that position. (I’m starting to see a pattern here.) Last year O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku and Gerald Everett all went in the 1st Round and two more went in the 40s. It’s unlikely any TEs will go in the 1st this year. But with the Pats sitting on three picks between 43 and 95, there is plenty of opportunity to move around and get a solid pro prospect they need.

The Consensus Best in Show and Borderline 1st Rounder:

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State. 6-foot-5, 256 pounds, 4.70 40-time

The pride of the Jackrabbits had the best hands in this group, with the ability to catch the ball away from his body and can haul passes in with defenders hanging all over him. He was only 205 pounds when he showed up on campus and apparently had never been in a workout program. Or, I’ll assume, stepped foot in a GNC. He could still stand to add some mass but has the frame for it as well as the work ethic. Even with that, he led all TEs at the Lucas Oil Olympics in bench press with an impressive 23 reps. He’s primarily an in-line, Y-type tight end, but had experience sliding outside. As a receiver, his production speaks for itself, with an NCAA-best 72 receptions last year, 2 11-catch games and six with over 100 yards. One concern is his junior year was better than his senior, as he had 92 catches for 1,293 yards. Another is that he played for the South Dakota State Jackfrickinrabbits. But then again, so did the Chargers Steve Heiden, and he had an 11-year NFL career.
Compares to the leading brand: Jason Witten

The Best at Playing Detached from the Formation:

Mike Gesicki, Penn State. 6-5, 247 lb, 4.54
Gesicki is the best pure route-runner of the bunch. He not only posted the best 40-time in this group in Indy, he had a remarkable 6.76 in the 3-cone. “Sure,” you’re saying. “But who gives shits about the 3-cone?” and my answer will be “the Patriots, that’s who.” They have a long history of targeting guys with sub-7.00 times in the seemingly goofy drill because they put so much value on precise footwork and controlled, sharp breaks. No tight end in Penn State History every had more receptions [Note: The author does not invite Jerry Sandusky references here], mostly in the slot [you heard me]. He’s lanky and needs more sand in the pants if you’re going to ask him to play tight to the line. But as a big TE/WR type, consider this: He hasn’t had a legitimate pass drop in TWO years.
Compares to the leading brand: Jimmy Graham

The Most Productive in a Big Program:

Mark Andrews, Oklahoma. 6-5, 256 lb, 4.67
With his 62 receptions for 958 yards catching Baker Mayfield passes, Andrews earned himself the Mackie Award. The Sooners’ defensive coordinator is Mike Stoops who, among the other items on his curriculum vitae can brag that he’s the guy who signed Rob Gronkowski to the U. of Arizona. (Gronk has said that he saw a pool party and that did it sealed the deal. But Stoops still gets the credit.) While Stoops admits Andrews doesn’t have Gronk’s size, he still makes a favorable comparison. He’s a competent blocker, more of a technician who’ll wall you off rather than blow you off the line of scrimmage. Which explains why he flexed out more than he was used as an in-line TE. As a receiver, he’s not explosive, but shows an almost unlimited high/low catch radius, which had made him an exceptional red zone target. Roll this around in your head for a second: One out of ever five of his catches went for a touchdown.
Compares to the leading brand: Zach Ertz


Roy Hobbs:

Hayden Hurst, South Carolina. 6-4, 256 lb, 4.67

Hurst will turn 25 years old before the season begins. The reason being that he spent 2 ½ seasons as a pitcher then a 1st baseman in the Pirates organization before walking onto the Cocks [this is your last warning] in 2015. Physically, he was created in a lab to be the prototype of a tight end’s body. That body has also matured to the point it’s maxed out, so his improvement will have to come from the reps and experience he lacks. If he can get the refinement his game need when it comes to, say, field awareness and getting open in tight spaces, he has the raw material to go in the 2nd or 3rd. For what it’s worth, when Gronk and Murdnandez were rookies, they were 20 and 21, respectively, so it’s hard to say if the Pats would be interested. As Pops told The Natural, “Guys your age retire, they don’t start playing.”
Compares to the leading brand: Travis Kelce

Most Inspirational Stories:

Ian Thomas, Indiana. 6-4, 259 lb, 4.74
Thomas lost both his parents to separate illnesses at the age of nine, and had to be raised by older brothers and sisters. As he struggled to keep his life on track, his path took him through community college and eventually to Indiana. But as a result, he only has one year as a starter. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in other traits like hands the size of one of those cardboard pointing signs guys spin outside cell phone stores to pay for their meth. He never skips leg day, and that lower-body power makes him opt to try to run over tacklers instead of evading capture, which he’ll have to learn to do at the next level. Which might be why he only had three catches over 25 yards. Still he showed enough agility and acceleration at the Senior Bowl to make plays over the top. He’s raw but still should go in the top 100.
Compares to the leading brand: Jermaine Gresham

Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin. 6-5, 247 lb, 4.84


Fumagalli is missing the index finger on his dominant left hand due to birth defect that required amputation. He walked on at Wisconsin before earning a scholarship and making team captain. He needs to get stronger, as he posted the lowest number of reps among tight ends in Indy with an almost kicker-like 14. He’s an effort blocker who fights to the whistle though. Even in Paul Chryst’s pro-style offense, his stats aren’t anything to write home about. But then if you’re writing home about any tight end’s receiving numbers you really need to reassess your life because your family would rather you just group text. But I digress. He only had two games of over 100 receiving yards. But if you’re looking for a mid-round guy with instincts, field awareness, intangibles and a name like a veal dish, here’s a solid choice.
Compares to the leading brand: Ben Watson

From NFL Tight End Droid Factories:

Dalton Schultz, Stanford. 6-5, 244 lb, 4.75

Since he came to Stanford, coach David Shaw has produced Coby Fleener, Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper. And while Schultz lacks the top end speed of some of these others, Shaw has called him the “most complete” of them all. He’s a fundamentally sound prototype of a Y-tight end and the Stanford running game often relied on him. He could stand to improve his core strength, but then again, who among us couldn’t? He was at his best against USC’s Rasheem Green, who is among the top D-line prospects in this draft.
Compares to the leading brand: Fleener

Durham Smythe, Notre Dame. 6-5, 257 lb, 4.81
After not posting great numbers for the Irish, Smythe impressed everyone with his workouts at the Senior Bowl. He doesn’t explode into routes or outrun anyone, but he’s got the body control and hands to be an asset when he’s open. The son of a former Baylor offensive lineman, he’s genetically suited to be a traditional Y, adept at pass blocking and moving up to the next level. He’s exactly the kind of primarily blocking TE that used to go high in the draft before the game devolved into the Arena League.
Compares to the leading brand: Kyle Brady

The Perfect Patriot: Dallas Goedert. He’s the best in this year’s class. And if I thought tight end was THE top priority instead of A priority like it was when Daniel Graham and Ben Watson came out, I could easily see them using their 31st overall on him. But I’m thinking more in the middle of the 2nd round as the address offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker and future franchise quarterback.

Who They’ll Pick: Dalton Schultz. He’s a solid, developmental, versatile prospect from a legacy program for tight ends that produces smart football players they taken before like Cameron Fleming and Jordan Richards. Most importantly for them, Schultz posted a 7.00 3-cone on the button. Most importantly for me, he’s got the names of two my most beloved fictional characters. Dalton Schultz it is.

Earlier previews:


Offensive tackle