With the game evolving, tight ends have proven crucial to teams’ success. The modern NFL has definitely adapted to having tight ends being more of a focal point on offense. While not necessarily a deep position in the 2020 NFL Draft, there are several tight ends that could end up making an impact at the highest level. The top tight ends in this year’s draft will be ranked and analyzed on what they will bring to their future teams.
1. Cole Kmet, University of Notre Dame
HT: 6’6″ |WT: 262 lbs
4.7 40-yard | 7.44 3-cone | 37-inch vert
Kmet, a talented pass-catcher, gets the top position here due to his vice-grip hands in a close contest. Cole Kmet understands the subtle nuances of creating space for his QB to deliver the ball through angles as well as proper footwork. Kmet maximizes all of his 6-foot-6 frame and 33-inch arms on the field in order to create a big target for the offense.
The Notre Dame product has good speed and athleticism for the position, but he needs work on his blocking abilities. His routes were not always crisp, but Kmet had the length to overcome that hiccup in college. Such a feat might not be as easy in the league, however. Cole Kmet will not always be able to dominate just based on his size as he often was able to do at Notre Dame. He did test better than some expected at the combine, so there is the thought that he will be able to adapt to the next level. While Kmet is not as good of a prospect as T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were last year, he could fit several teams’ vision of a desired tight end. Cole Kmet certainly has the characteristics to be a starting tight end in the league.
2. Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic University
6’5″ 243 lbs
4.73 40-yard | 7.41 3-cone | 32.5-inch vert
Bryant is a close second on the list, but he is my favorite tight end prospect. Harrison Bryant showcases an innate ability to find open space. The FAU prospect has great instincts and a good football IQ. This led to his versatility really standing out on film. Bryant lined up everywhere — H-back, on-line tight-end, slot, and split out wide — and demonstrated the ability to run polished routes and make an impact. He plays with a high level of tenacity and passion. Bryant showed that he does not back down on the big stage against a very good Ohio State team.
He displays good footwork in his routes, thus creating space relatively easy. With solid athleticism and ball skills, Harrison Bryant is a treat in the passing game. He is a willing blocker and shows the level of competitiveness on the field that fans will embrace. FAU often ran behind him, trusting that Bryant will make the key block to allow the play to work. Bryant did show some drops on film, but they seemed more like concentration drops rather than an indictment on his hands overall. The drops along with playing most of his games within Conference USA drop him to number two on the list, but the intrigue and him possibly being the most complete tight end in the draft firmly entrenches his place near the top.
3. Adam Trautman, Dayton
6’5″ 255 lbs
4.8 40-yard | 6.78 3-cone | 34.5-inch vert
The first word that comes to mind when Trautman’s tape is played is “violence.” He plays with the kind of violence that is needed to be seen from a player hoping to get drafted out of a small school. It was quite apparent that Trautman was too big, strong, and fast for the Division II competition that he routinely faced. With 18 reps of 225 lbs on bench press at the combine, the Dayton product showed he has the raw strength that would be needed in the league.
His 3-cone drill time really stands out and could be a good indication of success in the NFL. Change-of-direction skills are important for a pass-catcher to create separation from the defender, and tight ends use change-of-direction skills not only in the aforementioned passing game but also in the running game in order to be able to move around and block. There is always a question regarding whether the skills of a small-school player will translate to a significantly higher level of competition or not. Adam Trautman’s physical gifts masked some technique issues that would need to be cleaned up against opponents that are just as big and strong as he is.
4. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
6’5″ 258 lbs
4.49 40-yard | NA 3-cone | NA vert
Albert O is all about raw potential as his tantalizing speed and size show. A 4.49 40-yard dash is receiver speed coming from a 6-foot-5, 258 lb body. Okwuegbunam runs faster then he plays, as there are times on his film where his breaks or movements look a little slower then he ran at the combine. Right away, the Missouri product should be a red-zone weapon for his team. Every 4.2 of his catches went for touchdowns, so he was certainly a threat in the red zone at Missouri. He shows good ball skills, especially in the end zone, and just seemed to come alive all the time in the red zone.
Outside of the red zone, this tight end would seemingly disappear for stretches of games. Also, the big tight end relies too much on his natural speed to get open and does not run polished routes most of the time. Whether this was a team scheme issue or one of urgency from the player is up for debate. The mean streak and intensity do not show up much on film, leading to some doubts that Albert can reach his potential. With his size and physical traits, Albert Okwuegbunam should be able to become at least an adequate enough blocker in order to keep him on the field in the red zone. The Missouri product can be one of the better tight ends in this draft if he is utilized properly and works to maximize his tools.
5. Colby Parkinson, Stanford
6’7″ 252 lbs
4.77 40-yard | 7.15 3-cone | 32.5-inch vert
Colby Parkinson is listed as a tight end, but that title is more of a formality due to his size. In other words, Parkinson is more one-dimensional than the typical tight end. But as long as you do not expect much blocking from the 6-foot-7 inch player, Parkinson will not disappoint as a play-maker. The ball skills, route-running, and hands are all there as a pass-catcher. He has shown the ability to track the ball well in the air and uses his hands to catch the ball in front of his body, thus preventing it from coming into his chest. Colby does not seem interested in the blocking aspect of the game. He has the size enough strength to where, if the desire is there, Colby could be at least a competent enough blocker to stay on the field. There is some Jimmy Graham to him in his game and body type.
On tape, Parkinson struggles to create space and perform his against physical, in-his-face defenders. At least early in his NFL career, Colby might be limited to a split-out role due to the level of physicality required in order to get off the line of scrimmage that a lot of tight ends face from the traditional tight end alignment on the line. Defenses in the NFL are going to chip him and get their hands on him early in his routes, and the Stanford product who saw plenty of clean releases in college might not have the skills to compensate. Parkinson needs more physicality and better hand usage in order to create space and separation early in routes, especially against physical, in-his face defenders. But split out wide, Parkinson could be a match-up nightmare in the passing game, as he could be too big for corners and too technically sound and athletic in his route-running for linebackers. With some refining to Colby Parkinson’s game and placement in the right system, he could make a solid contribution to an offense.