A quick look at some of the top tight end prospects in this year’s class.
TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA* (6’4”, 243, 4.69)
Slightly undersized tight end who lined up all over the formation, including as an inline Y and in the slot, but projects as more of a flex as a pro. Runs patterns to all three depths of field, with a lot of digs, sneak flats from motion, and seam routes. Gets up to speed quickly as a route runner, and shows impressive attention to detail for a tight end; makes an effort to sink his hips and snap off routes with clean feet at the stem. Adds enough nuance to his routes to set up defenders and create windows of opportunity for deeper throws downfield. Offers natural receiving skills. Length and body control makes him a pretty big target despite his lack of ideal height; shows the ability to locate/track and make adjustments as needed. Competitive toughness is impressive, with adequate functional strength. Was typically running routes on passing downs, but shows a good work rate in the run game, with active feet and solid extension to stick with opponents through the whistle. Does a good job of lining up opponents in space as a stalk blocker on passing downs. Can get a little bit grabby when coming in motion to crack backside defenders. A polished tight end prospect who lacks elite size and explosiveness, but shows attention to detail in the different elements of his game and lacks major weaknesses.
TE Charlie Kolar, Iowa St. (6’7”, 252, 4.62)
Massive team captain with three seasons of high-end production and a highly impressive academic background. Lined up around the formation, but will probably be more of an inline Y at the pro level because of his physical/athletic profile. A big, reliable target who can get into soft spots in zone and provide easy completions, snatching the ball away from his frame; never dropped more than a couple of throws in a given season. Should be a solid red-zone option in the pros, as he was in college. Physical and competitive with the ball in his hands. Wasn’t purely a safety valve; also ran deeper routes, but might not give linebackers too much trouble in the seams, timing a little bit faster at the pro day than he looks on tape. Doesn’t have a lot of sink/snap at the route stem to create separation. Works hard to get positioning and sustain in the blocking game, but might be a little bit more valuable in the passing game at this point. Was asked to execute various different types of blocks from different alignments, and shows adequate form when engaged. Doesn’t have elite quickness out of his stance, which can make him susceptible to sudden defensive ends. Can struggle to line up opponents in space.
TE Trey McBride, Colorado St. (6’4”, 246, 4.56)
Team captain who started five games as a freshman and has been with the first team ever since, but really broke out this past season with an incredible 90 catches for 1,121 yards; was a consistent part of the passing game all season. Was listed at 260 during the season, presumably dropping weight for pre-draft workouts. Lined up both as an inline tight end and as a flex, often motioning to the other side of the line and releasing into the flats. Ran a lot of over routes. Shows some explosiveness out of his stance, with the ability to get physical with defenders and create separation against linebackers. Doesn’t present the widest catch radius, but is a reliable pair of hands who can hold on through contact and grind out tough first downs when needed. Shows the ability to go up and bring in throws away from his frame. Runs hard after the catch, even if he’s not the most creative with the ball in his hands. Not retained frequently in pass pro. Willing to get physical in the run game, but can struggle to stay connected at times. Plays outside his frame and can get caught bending at the waist. At his best, however, can attack the outside shoulder and collapse the edge.
TE Cade Otton, Washington (6’5”, 247, N/A)
Has been starting for the past four years, not necessarily as a major focal point of their receiving game. Has adequate size for a pro tight end, but length is on the average side and might need to add some additional bulk to work inline. College usage was pretty varied, but he wasn’t split out very often. Plays with the polish you’d expect given his experience. Basically a one-speed guy who doesn’t offer a ton of speed and explosiveness, but was often running routes to the intermediate level at Washington and using his body to shield defenders from the ball. Pretty physical route-runner with good contact balance at the stem and some attention to detail. A safe pair of hands who can bring in throws away from his frame and produce against zone coverage. Can be difficult to bring down with the ball in his hands. Works hard to engage and stick with opponents as a blocker, and was asked to execute some pretty difficult assignments in the move. Range, ability to line up opponents in space, and toughness stand out more than his ability to generate push, which is just adequate. A jack-of-all-trades type whose draft status will depend on whether teams are looking for special traits or polish.
TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio St. (6’6”, 252, N/A)
Toolsy tight end who stepped into the starting lineup this past year, although he was never a major target in the team’s passing game. Has an impressive combination of size and length for someone who was essentially a flex; frequently lined up as an H-Back, motioned out, or lining up in the slot. Moves very well for his size, with some explosiveness to his game; does a pretty good job of avoiding chips when releasing at the line and is fast enough to threaten down the seams. Doesn’t seem to be bothered much by physicality while running routes. Offers a big pair of mitts and can be hard to tackle as a ballcarrier. Wasn’t a volume receiver but did average four touchdowns over the past three years, with the size to contribute in the red zone. Brings physicality as a blocker and has the raw athleticism to line up opponents in space, but is a little bit inconsistent in terms of actually engaging and staying connected at this point. Hands are wide, will drop his head into contact, and can struggle to anticipate defenders. Basically a pure project at this point, having been underutilized as a receiver in college and still needing to hone his positioning and technique as a blocker, but should be one of the first few tight ends picked because of what he offers from a physical/athletic standpoint.
TE Jelani Woods, Virginia (6’7”, 253, 4.61)
Basically a four-year starter, but didn’t show up much on the stat sheet until this past season, when he had a big line. Very tall inline tight end with a basketball background. Style of play is a little bit linear. Doesn’t seem to have a ton of bend or quickness, but is pretty fast in a straight line, with build-up speed. Ran most of his routes down the field, either on seam routes, skinny posts, etc.; wasn’t used as much of a safety valve. Mostly glides through his routes, with little nuance, hip sink, or snap. Doesn’t seem too bothered by physicality. A size mismatch for many defenders, and does a good job of using his body to shield them from the ball. Provides a huge, safe target by virtue of his height/length. Also lined up in the slot or split out a little bit, especially in the red zone; should continue to get looks in the red zone at the next level. Can execute fades/back shoulder throws from a receiver alignment. A pretty decent blocker who can line up opponents reasonably well and obviously has the size/length to develop into a real asset in that facet of the game. Shows solid effort and adequate physicality in that facet of the game. Wasn’t retained much in pass protection.