B/R NFL 1,000: A Scout's Guide to Grading Tight Ends

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Jimmy Graham #80 of New Orleans Saints pushes away from Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers and goes 66 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

In the NFL today, tight ends play various roles. Some are keys in the passing game, lining up more like receivers. Others are primarily blockers. Scouting a tight end, whether it is from college to the NFL or within the league as a free agent, you must identify the needs of your system first. 

What do we look for when scouting a tight end? The ideal player is part offensive lineman and part wide receiver. We look for speed, power, soft hands and a tough-nosed mentality and mean streak that allows the player to be a complete blocker.

Here's a breakdown of each trait. Check out the B/R NFL 1,000 to see our rankings of today's NFL tight ends.



The ideal tight end must have the quickness and balance to change direction as a runner, blocker and route runner. 


Pass Blocking

Refers to the player's ability to recognize and pick up a pass rush. Tight ends must be strong enough to meet an edge rusher head on and thwart a rush. We're looking for technique—balance, strength, point of impact—as well as production.


Run Blocking

How well does the player explode off the ball, clear a hole and keep moving? This area grades the tight end's ability to charge ahead and create lanes.


Route Running

A grade of the player's understanding and ability to run effective routes.



A judge of how well the player catches the football in terms of technique and actual production. When catching the football we look for arm extension, open fingers and how the ball is caught before it is tucked in for the subsequent run.



Speed is the player's ability to accelerate and run away from defenders. This factors in game speed, burst and long speed



Size for a tight end can vary based on his role. We're looking at players on an individual basis, within their respective scheme, to determine if they size up.



How well the tight end comes off the line of scrimmage, including how well the player disengages from press coverage.


Run After Catch

The tight end's ability to make plays after the catch by use of speed, agility and broken tackles.



A player's 2011 injury status. Not only looking at actual injuries, but time missed to injury.



The cumulative score of the 10 traits above, all wrapped up in one score. This sets the player's place in the position ranking and, ultimately, in the B/R NFL 1,000 ranking across all positions.