Here we go! We’re officially counting down to the 2019 NFL Draft and what better way to get you all through these last few days than more draft coverage!? I’ll be dropping an article a day with my top 5 and a sleeper, then on draft eve I’ll hit you all with my top 100 players in the class; this is something I’m super excited about in particular because I’ve never actually published a top 100 article. Then to finish it all off, I’ll put out my final mock draft on draft day, a mere few hours before the madness kicks off in Nashville.
So let’s get this thing going with some tight ends!
This is a really good tight end class! They don’t come along that often so I feel like it’s awesome when you get a good group. This class has really high level talents at the top and it’s really deep too… if your team needs a tight end, you will still be able to get a really good one in the 4th round or maybe even the 5th (!!).
1. Noah Fant, Junior, Iowa, 6’4, 232 lbs
Fits; Packers, Raiders, Patriots
Fant is a modern day tight end who is explosive and a complete mismatch for defenses and defensive coordinators. Fant has a lot of production including an 11 TD season as a sophomore, which was then followed up with 7 last year as a junior.
Fant is quick and has explosive leaping ability; he’s going to be too quick for linebackers and too big for corners and safeties. He’s not the blocker that his Iowa team mate is but I don’t really care personally. The modern day tight end can block but is more of a big wide receiver who is a problem… that’s Fant.
The kicker is that the team who drafts him won’t have to teach him to run routes as he runs a diverse route tree already. Speaking of, said Iowa teammate…
1. T.J. Hockenson, RS Sophomore, Iowa, 6’5, 243 lbs
Fits; Packers, Raiders, Patriots, Titans
Hockenson is a fantastic prospect who excels in all areas of playing tight end; He’s the best all round tight end in this draft class.
Hockenson can catch, he can run routes, he can run fast and he can block you into the ground. Much like Fant, he’s going to be a mismatch nightmare for defenses and their coordinator.
Between the Iowa tight ends he will appeal to teams who are looking for a more traditional tight end rather than a inflated wide receiver, which could actually mean he gets drafted higher than Fant.
3. Irv Smith Jr., Junior, Alabama, 6’3, 243 lbs
Fits; Raiders, Patriots, Saints
Irv Smith is fairly inexperienced but shows great route running, awesome run blocking and obviously well coached since he’s coming from Alabama.
Smith isn’t an unbelievable athlete but is definitely a good athlete; plenty good enough for the next level.
The reason why he’s not higher for me essentially comes down to production and lack of experience that I mentioned… it’s something you’ll hear me mention a fair bit as we move through his series. I’ll give some guys a pass on pure talent but experience is something I really value; if a player has produced over multiple years they’re more of a known commodity and thus, a safer pick.
Anyway, back to Smith… he does only a 2 year player and even though he has a 7 touchdown season under his belt with a high average yards per catch at around 16 yards… it’s just one year and I find that hard to invest a really high pick in.
4. Jace Sternberger, Junior, Texas A&M, 6’4, 250 lbs
Fits; Saints, Patriots, Texans
Sternberger is another guy who only has one big year in terms of production but over 17 yards a grab and 10 touchdowns for A&M is unbelievable.
Sternberger’s story is pretty wild and I mentioned this on our most recent podcast; he wasn’t used at Kansas State, went to junior college and did enough to earn a transfer to Texas A&M and evidently killed it.
Sternberger has huge potential that if tapped into correctly, he could be one of the better tight ends in the league in year 3 and beyond. Still needs to learn how to run routes and the nuances involved but he’s really quick and at his size he’s a mismatch for anyone in the NFL.
He strikes me as someone who could be taken on day 2, struggle initially in year 1 but then explode after that once he susses out how to run routes.
5. Alize Mack, RS Junior, Notre Dame, 6’4, 251 lbs
Fits; Cowboys, Titans
I’ll be honest, this 5th spot has jumped around between a few guys; like I said at the top, this is a nice class with a talented bunch of players but I finally settled on Mack. Here’s why…
Mack is a nice route runner who us smooth when getting in and out of his breaks. Mack uses his big frame well when catching and isolates the defender away from the ball by walling them off and plucking the ball out of the air. Unfortunately Mack is liable to drop the odd pass and it’s usually the easy ones too, which is really frustrating.
When he does catch the ball he looks pretty natural and has good contested catch ability. The issue is, he’s not super quick so isn’t going to rack up YAC.
Mack is also a decent blocker who doesn’t get moved off his spot too often both in the run and pass games.
Sleeper. Dawson Knox, Junior, Ole Miss, 6’4, 250 lbs
Fits; Texans, Patriots
Who even knows with Dawson Knox? So, so under utilised at Ole Miss because they had such good options at wide receiver. Knox was open A LOT but Ta’amu just never threw it to him; he seemed to be acting as a decoy more often than not.
Knox also didn’t run a diverse route tree in college but I would again give him a pass because I think that’s more the offense’s doing than any of the Ole Miss guys being particularly limited. I’ve spoken a lot about the simplicity of that offense.
Ok… so on to the good stuff. Hands. Some of the best hands and catching ability in this class of tight ends. I don’t understand why they didn’t use him more. Know can also move as he’s pretty quick so will give defenders issues at his height and weight which is perfect for a modern day tight end.
Probably going to fall into day 3 because he was so under used but give him an expanded playbook and expanded role and let’s see what he have. The raw materials are certainly there.