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B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Tight Ends in 2020

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2016

B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Tight Ends in 2020

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    We don't like to think about what the NFL will look like without all-time greats like Antonio Gates,  Jason Witten or Heath Miller, but it will happen. And it'll happen soon.

    My generation didn't want to think about an NFL without Brent Jones or Shannon Sharpe, but along came Tony Gonzalez, who sparked a change in the way tight ends play. We didn't want the game to be without Ben Coates or characters like Jeremy Shockey, but along came the athletes we have today. The game moves on even as legends walk away. 

    Looking ahead to the next generation, who will be the best tight end in the year 2020?

    That's what this signature series aims to answer—our "20 for '20" covers who the top 20 tight ends will be five seasons from now. And if you're looking for guys like Gates or Witten—who will be pushing 40 years old in 2020—we have to project a few retirements and a few slowdowns. 

Honorable Mention

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Others Receiving Strong Consideration

    • Will Tye, New York Giants
    • Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore Ravens
    • Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
    • Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins
    • O.J. Howard, Alabama
    • Jake Butt, Michigan

    Excluded Because of Age and Expected Regression

    • Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
    • Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
    • Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
    • Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns
    • Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
    • Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
    • Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

20. Jace Amaro (28 Years Old)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    17/20

    Jace Amaro has the tools to thrive in the NFL, and that starts with his speed. At 6’5” and 265 pounds, he timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash and showed on film the explosive qualities to get open down the field or make plays with the ball.

    2020 Route Running

    17/20

    There are no questions about Amaro’s athleticism and speed allowing him to be a very complete route-runner, but the injuries he’s suffereda torn labrum in 2015 that ended his season and two concussions in 2014do bring up questions about availablity, stiffness and flexibility in his movements. If Amaro is at 100 percent, he has the smooth feet and second gear to become a threat down the seam. 

    2020 Blocking

    6/10

    Amaro hasn’t shown the toughness to be a great blocker, but the athleticism is there. His projection five years from now is that his movement in the run game and intelligence on the field will make him a threat here. 

    2020 Hands

    25/30

    The Jets liked Amaro’s hands enough to feature him in space—working in the slot, out wide or from a natural tight end position—before he went down with injury prior to the beginning of his sophomore season. Going back to college, Amaro is an easy, natural catcher and shouldn’t have any issues becoming a regular producer in the NFL.

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    Injuries have been a huge issue for Amaro, who has played in just 14 games in his two-year NFL career. When he’s on the field, his athleticism and natural ability in space make him a potential superstar. But he has to get on the field first. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    83/100

    Amaro was a phenomenal talent at Texas Tech, but the NFL is waiting to see if he can become the flex tight end star he appeared to be before the 2014 draft. 

19. Gavin Escobar (29 Years Old)

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Speed

    16/20

    Gavin Escobar is a natural athlete with good strength, good flexibility and enough speed to get downfield on a linebacker or to work open from a safety. He’s not yet matured to a point where he’s letting his speed take over, but that’s coming. 

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    For Escobar to reach his full potential, his route running has to become crisper and more natural. Right now, he’s a little stiff and lumbering, but look for that to get much better as he starts to become more comfortable with the Dallas Cowboys' offense.

    2020 Blocking

    9/10

    The Cowboys should be excited about the upside of Escobar because he’s a capable and willing blocker both in the run game and in pass sets. He’s long, agile and tough at the point of attack.

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    The Cowboys haven’t had a major use for Escobar yet in their offense, but looking at his limited reps and what he did in college at San Diego State, you can see that he’s a natural when the ball is in the air. With long arms on his 6’6” frame and big hands, Escobar can reel in tough grabs.

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    The Cowboys drafted Escobar in the second round in 2013, so they obviously thought highly of his upside. It’s hard to argue with, given his overall athletic profile and ability to move the chains as a complete tight end.

    2020 Overall Projection

    84/100

    The heir apparent to Witten’s throne in Dallas, Escobar is the right kind of athlete and player to take the Cowboys into 2020.

18. Richard Rodgers (28 Years Old)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    16/20

    Richard Rodgers is a good athlete with the lean, basketball player-like build that’s become so popular in the NFL. Coming out of California, his film looked much better than his combine time (4.87 seconds in the 40-yard dash), and on the field in the NFL, he looks to be an easy mover through space. 

    2020 Route Running

    17/20

    Rodgers has already become a better route-runner in terms of breaking off his routes when Aaron Rodgers scrambles or working to get body positioning on crossing routes. By 2020, Rodgers could be one of the league's better tight ends in this area.

    2020 Blocking

    7/10

    Rodgers has shown great improvement as a blocker—especially in the run game—and has the quickness and instincts to become a reliable all-around tight end by 2020. 

    2020 Hands

    25/30

    The tough grab away from his body is something Rodgers excels at, showing he has the big, strong hands to pull in the ball. But he still puts easy catches on the turf far too often, meaning he has to improve his focus in making these plays.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    The tools are all there for Rodgers to emerge as a top-tier talent at tight end over the next five seasons. He just has to get the opportunities in a crowded offense. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    84/100

    As long as Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the ball and their chemistry continues to grow, the younger Rodgers from Cal has a chance to be among the best in the game.

17. Eric Ebron (27 Years Old)

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    19/20

    Eric Ebron left North Carolina as one of the most athletic draft prospects at tight end since Vernon Davis. His open-field speed can be jaw-dropping at times, and his burst and strength off the line of scrimmage could power an unstoppable route-running ability over time. 

    2020 Route Running

    15/20

    With first-class speed and athleticism, Ebron should be a nightmare in coverage for a long time. Improvement in this category will come with better timing and anticipation, so while Ebron isn't a great route-runner yet, he could well live up to this projection five seasons from now.

    2020 Blocking

    6/10

    Ebron got some love in the draft community for his willingness as a blocker. He’s fast and strong, and he’ll drive linebackers out of the play if he’s kept in as a blocker.  

    2020 Hands

    25/30

    The big question mark with Ebron is his ability to make routine catches look easy. That’s been a struggle so far for him (dating back to North Carolina), but if he can develop chemistry with a quarterback and improve his focus, he’ll be at the projected level in 2020.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    You look at Ebron’s elite height/weight/speed and think he’s the next great tight end, but he’s failed to live up to his draft stock through his first two years in the league. That can change in an instant, though, and he has incredible potential over the next five years. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    84/100

    Ebron has once-in-a-decade physical tools, but he has to work at being a more reliable receiver and route-runner to climb this list.

16. Ladarius Green (30 Years Old)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    20/20

    Ladarius Green is one of the best athletes playing tight end in the NFL today, and he will be still in 2020 when he’s 30 years old. At 6’6” and 238 pounds, Green runs like a wide receiver with legitimate 4.5 speed down the field.

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    Green is blessed with great straight-line speed, but he has to improve as a breaking-route player. That’s part of his projection here to 2020, with the idea that his body control and footwork will improve with more reps. 

    2020 Blocking

    5/10

    With Gates in place, Green hasn’t been a primary blocker in his career, but early in 2015, he showed a good foundation for being a move blocker in the run game. That foundation is big enough to build on.

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    Green had to be a go-to tight end during Antonio Gates' suspension for the first four games of the 2015 season, and he showed the flashes of being that guy long-term. He’s a natural receiver in the open field and is agile enough to bend and adjust to catch passes that aren’t right on the mark. He’s also strong enough to bring in the bullets that Philip Rivers delivers. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    The athletic tools, youth and potential skills are all there for Green to become a highly productive tight end over the next five seasons. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    84/100

    Fans of the San Diego Chargers have been waiting for Green to bust out of Gates’ shadow, and that started to happen in 2015. By 2020, Green won’t be to Gates’ level as a Hall of Famer, but he’ll be a nice replacement. 

15. Julius Thomas (32 Years Old)

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Speed

    18/20

    Julius Thomas is the athletic specimen scouts look for when they hit the road. In 2015, he’s among the best in the game from a speed and agility perspective, but this is projecting him out to 2020, where he’ll likely have lost a step off his 4.7 speed.

    2020 Route Running

    18/20

    Thomas has the speed, as shown above, but he also has crafty footwork and the instincts to sit down in space and make himself a big target for the quarterback. That won’t be changing in the next five years, but Thomas could find it harder to get open as his speed and agility regress.

    2020 Blocking

    6/10

    Historically, Thomas hasn’t been a great blocker, but he’s a good blocker in the run game and showed that often in Denver. Now with the Jaguars, his role should expand in a power run-based offense.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Thomas doesn’t get enough credit for being a reliable receiver over the middle and up the seam in Jacksonville. He’s able to attack the ball in the air and has the strength to make grabs on underneath and crossing routes, but also shows natural hands to pull in the ball away from his frame.

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    A broken finger limited Thomas early in 2015, but his ability as a red-zone target and his athleticism make him a can’t-miss player. That said, in 2020, he’ll be 32 years old and on the downside of his career.

    2020 Overall Projection

    85/100

    Thomas may defy logic and play well at 32 years old, but injuries have already been a big part of his career, so betting the under is safer when talking about five years from now. 

14. Maxx Williams (26 Years Old)

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Speed

    16/20

    Maxx Williams isn’t a Jimmy Graham-type tight end, but at 6’4” and around 250 pounds, he moves well enough to beat linebackers in coverage. He also has the short-area quickness to find space throughout his route or when he’s asked to work up the seam.

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    Williams was able to beat up on college defenders with his massive size and speed combination, but in the NFL, he’ll have to develop and learn to use both his body and his athleticism to get open. That’s where he’s lacking right now, but by the year 2020, he should be a top-tier route-runner thanks to the natural gifts he brings to the table. 

    2020 Blocking

    7/10

    Williams definitely has the size to become a viable blocker across the board, but his college film showed him struggling to lock out defensive ends and failing to be quick enough to reach outside linebackers. In his first NFL season, Williams held his own in space and looks to be developing into a very good blocker on the move.

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    Going off Williams’ college tape and his early looks in Baltimore as a rookie, Williams is a natural pass-catcher with a big frame to bounce off linebackers and safeties over the middle. He’s not the most consistent receiver in league history, but the little drops can be ironed out of his game. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Williams left Minnesota as a redshirt sophomore, so the 21-year-old rookie still has a lot of maturing to do physically and in terms of what he can do with technique and route running. There is no limit to how good he can be.

    2020 Overall Projection

    85/100

    The first tight end drafted in the 2015 class, Williams has the size, athleticism and skill set to become a fixture in the Baltimore offense and a top tight end by 2020.

13. Coby Fleener (31 Years Old)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Speed

    20/20

    Coby Fleener is a first-class athlete, and at 6’6” and 247 pounds, the Stanford product ran a 4.51 second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2012. That’s faster than a lot of wide receivers and running backs. Those skills show up in the open field, where Fleener is able to accelerate through breaks in his route and leave linebackers in coverage.

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    You hear about “first off the bus” players, and Fleener is one of them. He’s the guy you want walking out there to scare the heck out of the opposing team. He’s big, super fast and incredibly agile, but as a route-runner, his awareness and instincts are just OK. He has to become more aware of space and how to work himself open.

    2020 Blocking

    7/10

    Stanford does a great job preparing tight ends to be blockers in the NFL, especially in the run game. Fleener has the speed, agility and strength to be good kicking out and sealing off the edge. 

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    When the ball comes to Fleener, he does a good job securing it and picking up positive yards. He has the agility to reposition and adjust to the ball in flight and will make tough grabs over the shoulder or away from his body. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    Fleener has few peers in terms of size, athleticism and ability. And at 27 years old, he’s still young and fresh when it comes to injuries. He has to improve his awareness, though, before he can see a higher upside score.

    2020 Overall Projection

    86/100

    Fleener has all of the physical tools a player needs to become a star, but he’s at times inconsistent at getting open and finding room in his route. If that improves, watch out. 

12. Charles Clay (31 Years Old)

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Speed

    18/20

    Charles Clay has the speed to make defenders pay with the ball in his hands. The do-it-all 6’3”, 255-pound tight end ran a 4.73 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and has even better short-area quickness and agility. He uses his burst well to not only get open but to pick up yards as a runner. 

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    Having played multiple positions in college and with the Miami Dolphins, Clay still needs to work on becoming a more complete route-runner. Projecting his career five years from now, look for Clay to be a dominant option route-runner and a good player in space without top-tier ability to break off routes and leave man coverage behind.

    2020 Blocking

    7/10

    Clay has experience as a tight end, flex tight end and H-back, and he’s at his best blocking on the move. He isn’t a great in-line blocker, but when you get him moving to find the angle, he can dominate. 

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    When people talk about the best pass-catching tight ends, Clay doesn’t get much mention, but throughout his career he’s proven to be an excellent, consistent option in the passing game. He won’t put the ball on the ground, and while he’s not a great option on passes away from his frame, he’s deadly over the middle.

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    Clay has been banged up, and he’s already 26 years old. Just in 2015 alone he suffered knee, calf, knee and back injuries. But when projecting out to 2020, he looks like the kind of tight end who could be moving the chains and working as an excellent option off play action as a fullback, H-back or in-line tight end.

    2020 Overall Projection

    86/100

    Clay has to stay healthy to remain on this list long-term, but his sneaky-good production and skills make him a must when looking ahead.

11. Austin Seferian-Jenkins (27 Years Old)

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    19/20

    Imagine playing safety and you have to cover a 6’5”, 262-pound tight end who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds. That’s what Austin Seferian-Jenkins brings to the table. He’s big, fast and is a dangerous weapon in the open field.

    2020 Route Running

    17/20

    The Washington Huskies offense didn’t take advantage of what Seferian-Jenkins can do as an athlete. We haven’t seen that completely yet in Tampa Bay, either. Looking ahead to the next five seasons, though, we’ll see him become a viable threat on breaking and deep routes thanks to his rare combination of size and speed.  

    2020 Blocking

    5/10

    Seferian-Jenkins has the size to be a good blocker, but the technique hasn’t shown up yet in his NFL film. The projection to 2020 shows him improving, but he has to make a huge step forward to better this score. 

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    The 2014 tape showed some drops from the big tight end, and in 2015, he struggled with twice as many drops (four) on 38 targets compared the 34 targets and two drops he had in 2014, per Pro Football Focus. Seferian-Jenkins has the tools, but he must develop chemistry with Jameis Winston. There isn’t a lack of ability as a receiver, just a lack of focus at times.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    However you want to look at his projection, Seferian-Jenkins has to be one of the most promising young tight ends in the NFL. He was just 22 years old at the start of the 2015 season and has the athleticism and size to be a true threat down the field and as a safety valve over the middle.

    2020 Overall Projection

    86/100

    With Winston and Mike Evans in place, Seferian-Jenkins seems to be in a great place to develop into one of the best post-up pass-catchers in the NFL. 

10. Clive Walford (28 Years Old)

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    17/20

    Clive Walford tipped the scales at 6’4” and 251 pounds at the scouting combine, good size for a physical tight end. While he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds at the combine, his film is much faster. He has good speed off the ball and the short-area quickness to eat up yards down the field. 

    2020 Route Running

    16/20

    With all due respect to Al Golden, I have no idea what Miami was doing with Walford. He knows how to play in space and can sit down in traffic to find openings, but he’s not an accomplished breaking-route technician and will need big work on timing. His upside here, though, is similar to a Julius Thomas-type player.

    2020 Blocking

    7/10

    Walford’s rookie year has shown him to be a better pass protector and run-blocker than expected coming out of Miami. He’s quick off the snap and shows a tenacity when engaging defenders on the edge in the run game that can push him to the top of the ladder for a blocking tight end.  

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    The best way to describe Walford’s hands is that he’s a true hands catcher. He doesn’t use his body and doesn’t unnecessarily jump to position the ball at his chest. He just plucks the ball out of the air and gets upfield with it. If Walford can clean up some minor concentration drops and perfect his timing with franchise quarterback Derek Carr, he could be elite here as the Oakland Raiders' go-to-guy over the middle and up the seam.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Walford was, by far, the best tight end seen at the Senior Bowl in 2015 and was close to the best tight end prospect in the 2015 draft class. So, what makes him so highly valued in 2020? Walford is just an athlete right now. By then, he’ll be a well-rounded route-runner and receiver. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    87/100

    Walford, the Oakland Raiders’ third-round-pick from Miami, has big-time talent. He just needs some time to develop.

9. Jordan Reed (30 Years Old)

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    16/20

    Jordan Reed looks like a big wide receiver on the field, and he moves pretty well for one, too. At 6’2” and 237 pounds, Reed has the lean, athletic build for the move tight end position. He doesn’t have elite straight-line speed, but his quickness and burst are first-class.

    2020 Route Running

    17/20

    Reed finally had a chance to settle into an offensive scheme in 2015, which allowed him to show impressive development as a route-runner. By 2020, he’ll be recognized as a top-tier athlete down the field. Reed has the speed, body control and footwork to become a dangerous player on breaking routes. 

    2020 Blocking

    8/10

    The run game is where Reed is able to show himself as a moving blocker, and he can even line up in the backfield and work as an H-back kicking out the edge. As Reed grows and matures, he’ll become a better run-blocker.

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    When asked to make a play on the ball away from his frame, Reed is athletic enough to adjust his body and make the play. He’s talented in space and doesn’t show focus drops or get too excited and look to go upfield before securing the ball away.

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    If Reed can stay healthy—he’s missed time in each of his first three seasons—he could be special. The athleticism and tools to be a downfield pass-catcher are all there.

    2020 Overall Projection

    87/100

    Reed is a phenomenal athlete with big upside. And now that he has a reliable quarterback in Kirk Cousins, he could quickly become one of the league’s most prolific tight ends. 

8. Hunter Henry (25 Years Old)

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    20/20

    Hunter Henry is just 21 years old, but the 6’5”, 253-pound tight end at Arkansas has been timed as a 4.50-flat runner in the 40-yard dash and looks like an oversized wide receiver. The NFL will love that. Henry has the speed to make defenders pay if they can’t jam him up at the line of scrimmage, and he’s elusive enough to make plays with the ball in his hands.

    2020 Route Running

    18/20

    Seam routes from Henry are going to be tough to defend. He’s not quite there yet, as he’s still learning the tricks of the trade, but he has the athleticism to become both a post-up threat and a player who can stretch the field vertically. 

    2020 Blocking

    5/10

    Henry in 2015 hasn’t yet evolved as a good in-line blocker, and his lean frame doesn’t lend itself well to classic run blocking off the edge. He’ll likely play a lot in the slot in the NFL, too, making his development here over the next five years limited.

    2020 Hands

    24/30

    The biggest question mark for Henry as a draft prospect and a 2020 prospect is his ability to make routine catches. Even Rob Gronkowski will drop a few balls, but Henry has to clean up his focus drops and become a more reliable target. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    There is a lot to like about Henry. He’s big, fast and can play with his hand in the dirt or split out in the slot. Put Henry in a scheme that will allow him to make plays in space, and he’ll quickly be recognized as a top-tier tight end.

    2020 Overall Projection

    87/100

    The top-ranked college prospect on this list, Henry looks to have the skill set to become a star in the NFL in 2020. 

7. Jimmy Graham (33 Years Old)

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 33

    2020 Speed

    20/20

    It’s really not fair that Jimmy Graham is 6’7”, weighs 265 pounds and is able to run in the mid-4.5s in the 40-yard dash. And that doesn’t take into account his acceleration out of breaks or his quickness in space. Graham is a unique athlete, and it shows when he’s moving down the field and with the ball in his hands. 

    2020 Route Running

    19/20

    The New Orleans Saints thought Graham should be paid like a tight end and not a wide receiver, but when talking about route running, he definitely looks like a top-tier wideout. Graham has rare speed, agility and body control for a big man.

    2020 Blocking

    3/10

    Graham is not a blocker, and that showed up in Seattle, where he was asked to help push the run game and not work as an oversized wide receiver. He’ll crack back on linebackers from the slot, but he’s not an in-line blocker.

    2020 Hands

    28/30

    Graham has a ridiculous catch radius, but we’ve seen in the last two seasons a penchant for dropping passes over the middle when he’s in traffic. Graham may have been saving his body for a big payday or protecting himself from injury, but that’s not a trait projected to change in the next five years.

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    We've already likely seen Graham's peak. Even in his final year with the Saints in 2014, he didn’t look the same. A rejuvenation was expected upon his arrival in Seattle in 2015, but Graham once again struggled while posting his lowest numbers (48 catches, 605 yards, two touchdowns) since his rookie season. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    87/100

    Jimmy Graham has rare abilities, but in the year 2020 when he’s 33 years old, will he still be making plays in space and over the middle?

6. Dwayne Allen (30 Years Old)

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    17/20

    Dwayne Allen is a big man (6’3”, 265 lbs) with a thick, solid build. With that body type, he’s not going to be a sprinter, and his predraft time of 4.89 seconds in the 40-yard dash is a big reason why he fell in the draft a bit. But Allen has the quickness to beat coverage and the burst to be an asset on the edge as a blocker and as a receiver. 

    2020 Route Running

    19/20

    Andrew Luck can make a lot of people look good, but throughout their early careers, Allen has bailed Luck out a few times as well with his route-running skill set. He has enough short-area burst to get the jump on linebackers in coverage and has shown the footwork to break off routes and leave his man behind.

    2020 Blocking

    8/10

    Allen is perfect for the Colts offense, and he’s shown himself to be an excellent run-blocker on the move. And Allen, unlike some other tight ends, does stay in on pass protection and has held up well there.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    If you want consistency, Allen will be on your list. He’s a natural hands catcher with the body to sustain hits in traffic and still haul in the ball. He’s a serious threat to move the chains with his focus and concentration on late passes over the middle. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    Allen, who missed the 2014 season with injury, is a complete, three-down tight end with the skills as a blocker and receiver to become one of the best all-around players at the position in the league.

    2020 Overall Projection

    88/100

    You don’t have to worry about Allen not being productive as long as Luck is throwing the ball his way. He’s a crafty route-runner and a consistent catcher with big touchdown potential. 

5. Kyle Rudolph (30 Years Old)

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    Michael Thomas/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    17/20

    Kyle Rudolph has very good build-up speed and can run away from coverage by linebackers. He’ll get down the field in a hurry with timed 4.76 speed in the 40-yard dash and can get yards after the catch too.

    2020 Route Running

    19/20

    The best news for Rudolph was the hiring of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, as the great offensive coach loves to use his tight ends. It will also help Rudolph develop into a complete route-runner. He already has the size and speed to be special. 

    2020 Blocking

    10/10

    Rudolph is incredible as a blocker, both in the run game and the pass game. He’s big enough to stand in with offensive tackles and has the quickness to get to the second level in the run game.

    2020 Hands

    26/30

    Rudolph is an excellent receiver in traffic and can make adjustments to get to low passes and those away from his frame. The only thing lacking is a top-tier ability to play the ball over his head and make those 50/50 grabs.

    2020 Upside Factor

    17/20

    The only question mark for Rudolph is his ability to stay healthy. He’s been banged up early in his careerhe fractured left foot in 2013 and tore a groin muscle in 2014but at just 26 years old, there is still considerable time for him to break out as a star tight end.

    2020 Overall Projection

    89/100

    A season-ending groin injury in 2014 set Rudolph back, but with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and Turner running the offense, he has a chance to become a featured threat in the Minnesota offense.

4. Tyler Eifert (30 Years Old)

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    18/20

    A 4.68 run in the 40-yard dash isn’t great, but when you’re 6’6” and 250 pounds, it’s noteworthy. Eifert came out of Notre Dame with good upfield speed to run the seam. He doesn’t make slippery moves with the ball in his hands, but he’ll give safeties a headache all day long. 

    2020 Route Running

    18/20

    As mentioned above, Eifert isn’t very agile in the open field, but he’s able to set himself up with leverage and with some pull-away speed. He does a good job accelerating away from his breaks in routes and will only get better at using his body to set up defenders.

    2020 Blocking

    9/10

    Now that he’s healthy, Eifert is showing that the Notre Dame offense prepared him well for the pros. He’s capable of being an elite run-blocker thanks to his movement skills and the angle he takes to the defender.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Eifert is able to make catches away from his frame without much effort. He’s a good enough athlete to adjust his body to make the catch and has the wingspan to be a threat with the ball in the air. And as he showed in 2015, he's already one of the better red-zone targets at the position. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Eifert, who missed nearly all of his sophomore season due to a gruesome elbow injury, looks like the real deal with the ideal height, weight, speed and downfield ability. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    The only thing holding Eifert back early in his career were injuries, but the former Notre Dame tight end has special written all over him.

3. Zach Ertz (29 Years Old)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Speed

    17/20

    Zach Ertz is not Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham in the open field, but the 6’5”, 250-pound tight end did run a 4.76 second 40-yard dash at the 2013 scouting combine. That’s good speed given his height, long legs and thick frame. Ertz can run away from coverage and has shown the speed to pull away over the top.

    2020 Route Running

    18/20

    The development of Ertz’s route-running skills has been fun to watch, and it’ll only get better over the next five years. Early on, he’s been relying a lot on size and speed, but as the timing and tricks of the trade set in, look for him to become a truly elite route-runner.

    2020 Blocking

    9/10

    Playing in the zone-blocking scheme, Ertz is asked to take a 45-degree angle and hit the first man he sees. That fits his athleticism and size well, and so far in Philadelphia, he’s shown the upside to be a great run-blocker. 

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    Dating back to his days at Stanford, Ertz is a fantastic pass-catcher and natural player attacking the ball. He does a great job locking the pass in whether it’s over his head or coming into his body in traffic. No matter who is throwing him the ball in 2020, you can feel good about Ertz catching it. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    Ertz has the tools to be a special playmaker at tight end. And like the two players ranked ahead of him, he’s an underrated blocker and red-zone threat. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    The general consensus on Ertz’s future may not be this high, but he’s a huge target and a great athlete. If the potential he’s shown early in his career continues, he could be a top-five tight end soon. 

2. Travis Kelce (30 Years Old)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    19/20

    Travis Kelce moves like a wide receiver in the open field, making him one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL regardless of position. Given his 6’5”, 260-pound frame, the fact that he’s been timed in the 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash is simply ridiculous.

    2020 Route Running

    20/20

    The 2015 version of Kelce is a good route-runner, but by 2020 he could be special here. With his rare blend of size and speed, Kelce can already get on top of linebackers covering him. Give him a few more years to mature as an athlete and as a player and he’ll be one of the best in the game. 

    2020 Blocking

    6/10

    The player nicknamed "Baby Gronk" has some growing up to do as a blocker to reach that level. Kelce is a solid blocker in space, but he can’t line up next to the tackle and fuel the run game against defensive linemen. 

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    Few tight ends have the catch radius and range that Kelce has shown. He’s athletic enough to get his body into position to make tough catches, and he plays so well off the turf that he’s an ideal jump-ball receiver in the end zone. And unlike a lot of tight ends, you don’t get the drops from Kelce that many tight ends show in traffic.  

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    The only thing that could possibly prevent Kelce from realizing his potential are the injuries he’s already dealt with as a pro. Kelce’s knee injury in 2013 looks to be a non-factor now, but this is worth watching.  

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    Assuming he can stay healthy, Kelce will be on a level comparable to Gronkowski by 2020. 

1. Rob Gronkowski (31 Years Old)

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Speed

    18/20

    Rob Gronkowski is a future Hall of Famer, but he’ll never win a medal for being the fastest tight end in the NFL. What he does have is exceptional short-area burst and the quickness to beat coverage in short windows. Gronk also has long speed, and he’s able to get rolling downhill at a rate fast enough to get past coverage.

    2020 Route Running

    20/20

    A combination of size, speed, power and agility make Gronkowski a crafty, savvy, smart route-runner. He’s also like an elephant in the open field thanks to his big frame, which makes the prospect of covering him with a linebacker dicey given his speed. And the idea of covering him with a safety is asking to get dominated.

    2020 Blocking

    10/10

    Gronkowski is a hulk at tight end, and that shows up with his run blocking. He’s quick, powerful and has the right mentality to set the edge when the Patriots run the ball.

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    You could scour the film to find a few drops from Gronkowski, and they are there, but when the game is on the line or a big catch is needed, No. 87 is the man. He’s incredibly consistent as a pure pass-catcher. 

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    A history of knee and back injuries makes Gronkowski’s upside limited, but let’s remember he’s only 26 years old and can still develop more route-running tricks.  

    2020 Overall Projection

    94/100

    Gronkowski has the talent and the numbers to eventually be considered the greatest tight end of all time. And in the year 2020, at just 31 years old, a healthy Gronk will be receiving that praise. 

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