NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Tight Ends for 2016

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 11, 2016

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Top Tight Ends for 2016

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    The 2016 NFL draft class doesn't feature two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks at the top like last season's did with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be excited. With this draft set to be dominated by defensive linemen and small-school studs, not many people know as many names as they did last offseason. 

    The goal of the NFL Draft 400 series is to change that.

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by me and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal, and intern Jerod Brown. Together, we viewed tape of a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use). Oftentimes, we saw every play by a prospect over the last two years. That led to the tight end grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on positives and negatives, with a pro-player comparison added to match the player's style or fit in the pros. The top 400 players will be broken down position by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft.

    In the case of a tie, players were ranked based on their overall grade in our top 400.

Matt Miller NFL Draft Grading Scale

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    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a final grade that falls somewhere between 4.00 and 9.00. This scale comes from the teaching I received from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front-office personnel in the NFL. I tweaked it this year to be more transparent, and as a result, each player received a number grade as well as a ranking.

    This applies to all positions across the board.

    Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale
    9.00Elite—No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99All-Pro—Rare Talent
    7.50-7.99Round 1—Pro Bowl Potential
    7.00-7.49Round 1—Top-15 Player Potential
    6.50-6.99Round 2—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    6.00-6.49Round 3—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.80-5.99Round 3-4—Future Starter
    5.70-5.79Round 4—Backup Caliber
    5.60-5.69Round 5—Backup Caliber
    5.50-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.40-5.49Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00-5.39Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

23. Sean Price, South Florida

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2 ½"245 lbs5.02s7.58s4.99s 


    A utility knife in the USF attack, Sean Price can be moved all around the offense without missing a beat. He can move through traffic to reach outside linebackers in the run game as a blocker and shows the football IQ to handle tough assignments.

    Price is a smooth, fluid athlete that USF would use in motion and on jet actions. He can handle pre-snap movement and knows how to fire out of a lateral move across the position to get upfield. Price catches the ball well in stride and was comfortable as a pass-catcher when given the look.  

    Price caught 20 balls in 2015 on limited targets (just 29). With those stats, he dropped just one pass and continues to look like a natural when the ball is coming his way.


    A lack of athleticism is a big concern for Price. For a 245-pound tight end, he has to run better than a 5.02 second 40-yard dash at his pro day. That's a number that can take a draftable player to an undrafted one.

    On the field, Price is a jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none kind of player. He's not a great blocker on the edge and doesn't move well enough up the seam to be a field-stretching receiver. His lack of read-and-react time as a blocker holds back his upside as an H-back-type player, too. 

    Without speed to separate in the NFL, Price has to excel as a blocker, and that's not on his tape right now. He plays too high in the run game and leans on defenders to seal off blocks. When his feet stop moving, the block is dead, and he does this far too often.

    Price's versatility may eventually land him as a drafted player, but his lack of athleticism makes him more likely to be an undrafted free agent.

    Pro Comparison: Nick O'Leary, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 4.50/9.00 (Camp Body)

22. Jay Rome, Georgia

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ⅜"248 lbs4.92s7.82s4.73s 


    A role player at Georgia who didn't see the field as a full-time starter, Jay Rome was named the Most Improved Offensive Player at the end of 2015 spring practices. A leader on the team according to teammates, Rome is a high-effort, high-motor player.

    As a former top high school recruit, Rome has potential, but at Georgia he was lost in the shuffle of a running offense and never developed as a pass-catcher. In the last two seasons, he caught just 18 passes for 147 yards and one score. 

    Rome looks the part of a starting tight end, with good muscle tone and strong legs. He has the strength to kick out edge defenders in the run game, but his tape was limited due to his playing in just 32 percent of the team's snaps, per College Football Focus.


    As someone who wasn't on the field often, teams will be betting on Rome's untapped potential. Can they get out of him what Georgia couldn't?

    At face value, the fact that Rome couldn't crack the lineup at Georgia is a concern. Teammates and coaches rave about him, but he was never an impact on game days. That's a negative that most teams won't get past—no matter how athletic or promising a player might be. 

    Injuries limited Rome's development and playing time. His 2013 season ended early with a foot injury. As a high-ranking player by NFL scouts last spring, Rome had expectations placed on him that he didn't live up to. But the raw canvas is exciting enough to consider stashing him on a practice squad for a season while he develops. An older prospect, Rome turns 24 years old during December of his rookie season.

    Pro Comparison: Zach Sudfeld, New York Jets

    FINAL GRADE: 4.50/9.00 (Camp Body)

21. Kivon Cartwright, Colorado State

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3 ⅞,"243 lbs4.75s7.39s4.81s 


    Lining up at tight end, Kivon Cartwright looks like an oversized wide receiver. After catching just one pass in 2014, Cartwright pulled down 20 receptions for 296 yards and three scores in his final season.

    Working down the field, Cartwright has enough speed to separate over the top of defenses and can operate in the seam. He dropped just one pass in 2015 and was able to have success at every level of the field when thrown to.

    Cartwright doesn't have great speed but has forward momentum to get behind linebacker coverage. He has long arms and big hands to help him haul in bad throws—something he saw often. Cartwright adjusts to the ball in the air and has lined up both in-line and in the slot at Colorado State.


    Missing almost all of 2014 is a major red flag for Cartwright's profile, even if he returned to duty in 2015. Without the size of an in-line tight end, and with almost no production as a blocker, he ends up being more of a projection than straight-line prospect.

    Cartwright's stiffness keeps him from running like a smaller tight end. A 4.75-second time in the 40-yard dash isn't good enough to get consistent NFL separation over the top. Add that to his subpar 7.39-second three-cone and 4.81 short shuttle times and the measurements show a player who cannot separate deep and who doesn't have the quickness to make plays underneath in traffic.

    Cartwright could have value as a third tight end due to his big catch radius and some special teams upside, but he's a project late in the draft.

    Pro Comparison: Jake Stoneburner, Miami Dolphins

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

20. Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ½"243 lbs4.75s7.14s4.35s 


    A versatile player who moved all over the field at Vanderbilt, Steven Scheu has the ability to help an NFL team from the backfield, in motion or lined up at tight end.

    As a pass-catcher, Scheu is smooth and natural. He looks the ball in with big hands that help him to make plays in traffic and over the middle. Scheu helped his quarterback in tight spots, showing the length to extend his radius and make bail-out catches.

    The Vanderbilt offense asked Scheu to be a blocker, and he shows up on film as an aggressive player. He takes quick, precise angles to the defender and won't shy away from contact. Scheu has the mindset and motor to make an NFL team. He'll fight to contribute on special teams while he learns a pro role.


    After catching 39 passes in 2014, Scheu came back to Vanderbilt and saw his production drop to 26 receptions during the regular season. He added just one touchdown and 234 yards with those numbers.

    Scheu needs refining as a player. The effort is there, but he's too raw as a route-runner. Scheu's cuts end up rounded off, and his acceleration out of breaks is too limited to create separation with quickness.

    With a thin frame and poor blocking technique, Scheu is a liability as a run-blocker from an in-line position. He needs to be used in motion to generate more pop at the line and to get a proper angle on edge blocks.

    Pro Comparison: Chase Ford, Baltimore Ravens 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

19. Darion Griswold, Arkansas State

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    Gareth Patterson/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3"253 lbs4.8sn/an/a 


    A former basketball player with a long stride, big frame and equally big upside, Darion Griswold is a tough customer at tight end.

    You might expect finesse plays from a basketball convert, but Grisold makes some of the best initial contact in the tight end class. He has the size and mentality to move defenders off the line of scrimmage. His hand placement and power are impressive. In the run game, Griswold can be a lead blocker from the backfield or from a conventional tight end alignment.

    As a receiver, he has the range to snag the ball out of the air without slowing down or leaping. He gets hungry when the ball is in the air and attacks it with ownership. Griswold isn't a developed route-runner, but his size and athleticism are worth developing while he's being used as a blocker and goal-line tight end.


    You won't get great numbers from Griswold, which can be an issue when teams are putting his card on the board.

    Griswold doesn't play with much snap and urgency as a runner. He takes a minute to get to full speed and even then is only a straight-line-speed guy. There isn't much lateral ability or looseness in his hips. This leads to Griswold being a frumpy route-runner who must work on quickness. He's at the line when comparing his athleticism to other prospects in this class.

    As a blocker, Griswold must learn better technique. He's content at the lower level to lean on defenders and press them out of the path. In the pros, he has to learn to better use his feet to move the edge and seal off lanes.

    Pro Comparison: Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

18. David Grinnage, North Carolina State

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'5 ⅛"248 lbs4.9sn/an/a 


    A redshirt junior entry into the 2016 class, David Grinnage looks the part on the hoof. He's a big boy—the kind you send off the bus first on away games.

    In the passing game, Grinnage can make the wow catch and will get away from coverage with straight-line speed to press the seam. If he gets rolling downhill, he can pull away from a defender with the ball in his hands.

    Grinnage dropped just one pass in 2015 and shows soft, reliable hands. He does have a habit of jumping to basket-catch the ball unnecessarily at times, but he's still coming down with the football. Grinnage shows the football IQ to read and react on the field and find his way through space. He won't make assignment errors and comes to the NFL mentally ready to handle snaps.


    Grinnage started just six games in 2015, leaving many to wonder how he'll expect to play in the NFL if he couldn't hold down a consistent job at NC State. After starting six games as a redshirt freshman and every game as a redshirt sophomore, Grinnage saw his playing time drop. That's not a good sign after Grinnage sat out some of spring practices with a back injury.

    Banking on his upside, Grinnage has to sharpen up his routes. Too often he looks stiff, heavy-footed and lacking flexibility to make the quick, pitter-patter plays you need to separate. Below-average athleticism is the biggest negative on his report.

    Grinnage needs to play up to his size. He has a hard time overwhelming defenders as a blocker or when beating a jam at the line of scrimmage. With his length and size, he should be dominating, but instead he backs down when pressed.

    Pro Comparison: Randall Telfer, Cleveland Browns

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Priority Free Agent)

17. Temarrick Hemingway, South Carolina State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ⅞"244 lbs4.71s6.88s4.31s 


    An easy-moving athlete who dominated the competition at South Carolina State, Temarrick Hemingway has the size, length (34-inch arms) and hand size (10 inches) that every scout looks for. As a pass-catcher, he presents a big opportunity in the red zone and up the seam.

    Hemingway plays to his strengths and uses his tools well. He has excellent initial quickness and explodes off the line like he's chasing someone. As a route-runner, Hemingway has quick feet and loose hips. He can use a head or shoulder fake to shake defensive backs and sets up his stem well.

    Hemingway won the 2015 Walter Payton Achievement Award—an award given to a player who shows character and team spirit. He's not NFL-ready right away but has the triangle numbers (height, weight, speed) and length to excite coaches in the later rounds.


    Hemingway looks like a wide receiver and plays like one too. He's not built to block on the line and is best suited to a "move" tight end role.

    Despite excellent first-step speed, Hemingway doesn't sustain that quickness as well down the field. He loses his leverage with speed by struggling to have any pull-away juice. With the ball in his hands, Hemingway carries it like a loaf of bread. He'll be an easy strip target in the NFL.

    To play as a true tight end, Hemingway will have to put on bulk. He's super thin and lanky and doesn't get low in the power game, which kills his chance at holding up as a blocker on the edge. With below-average read-and-react skills as both a route-runner and blocker, Hemingway doesn't project as a first-year impact player.

    Pro Comparison: Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Round 7—Backup Caliber)

16. Stephen Anderson, California

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2 ⅛"230 lbs4.55sn/an/a 


    A former walk-on at California, Stephen Anderson became Jared Goff's go-to tight end in a loaded passing offense. With All-Pac-12 honorable mention ranking in both 2014 and 2015, Anderson's career ended on a high note.

    Anderson flashes with athleticism on film. He's willing to go over the middle, work out of the backfield, play on the boundary or stay in and pass protect. He's a team-first player who can contribute on special teams right away.

    In an offense loaded with receivers, Anderson didn't see many targets (61, per College Football Focus), but caught 41 balls for 475 yards. He was most often used in a role that had him occupying linebackers and safeties over the middle of the field. He's fast enough to make the defense watch every move he makes.


    Anderson is an undersized tight end and too slow to be an NFL wide receiver. He's caught somewhere in the middle, and that's generally not good for draft stock.

    Anderson's hands can be inconsistent. We charted three drops from him over the middle of the field when counting Goff's completions and incompletions, which doesn't count the many double-catches Anderson made that could have been dropped if a defender had put a hat on him.

    As a route-runner, Anderson is not a strong player. He can be knocked off his route and redirected by the defense. There isn't enough burst out of his stance to eat up a cushion, which means he'll be jammed at the line in the pros.

    Anderson plays like a wide receiver when blocking. He doesn't lock on or get push with his legs.

    Pro Comparison: Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Round 7—Backup Caliber)

15. David Morgan II, UTSA

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ⅛"262 lbs5.02s6.93s4.19s 


    One of the top blockers in the 2016 draft class, David Morgan II is the best prospect coming out of UT-San Antonio since the program started in 2011. Morgan was named a second-team All-American in 2015 and is a bona fide NFL prospect.

    Playing in a high-octane offense, Morgan rarely left the field. He has some dog in his game—especially as a run-blocker—and will get after the defense. Morgan flashes quick feet to reach around and pin edge defenders in the run game and will chop his feet through blocks. This lets him reposition his hips and continue to roll through blocks.

    As a pass-catcher, Morgan is reliable in contested catch situations. He runs through contact and isn't shy about fighting through arms to attack the ball. He added 45 catches and 566 yards with five touchdowns in 2015.


    A lack of speed and explosive skills could keep Morgan out of the seven rounds of picks. His 5.02 time at 6'4", 262 pounds isn't enough for the pros.

    Morgan's aggressiveness gets the best of him. In the five games we charted, he had five penalties. He has to learn to be more controlled with his hand placement and with holding his water before the snap. You have to love his mentality, but he's not disciplined.

    Morgan's poor athleticism shows up in his route game. He's consistently in contested catch situations because he can't separate from defenders. With tight hips and heavy feet, he projects best as a No. 2 tight end who may moonlight at fullback.

    Pro Comparison: Dion Sims, Miami Dolphins

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Round 7—Backup Caliber)

14. Ryan Malleck, Virginia Tech

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ½"247 lbs4.81s7.00s4.33s 


    A versatile tight end capable of playing both in-line and on the move, Ryan Malleck was deployed as a blocker and receiver for the Hokies. That dynamic ability is what scouts will like best when reviewing him.

    With his hand in the dirt, he's able to reach wide defenders thanks to quick feet and hips. He can swing inside just as easily and shows the body control to remain poised and alert when on the move blocking.

    Malleck can find space as a receiver and sit down to get open. He makes himself a big target and knows how to box out linebackers and safeties over the middle. Malleck is big enough to be a target over the middle and in the red zone. He's a high-motor mover with enough skills to play in-line, in-motion or even at fullback.


    A lack of production in college will raise eyebrows from NFL scouting staffs. Malleck caught 44 passes in the last two seasons at Virginia Tech and scored four touchdowns. That doesn't scream NFL prospect.

    Malleck doesn't have experience running a complete route tree, nor does he show the agility to be a threat down the field. He's best used working between the hashes and occupying linebackers and safeties.

    To make a living as a blocking tight end, Malleck must get stronger in his lower body and core. He's an average to below-average athlete and doesn't show the play strength to roll back defenders off the ball.

    Pro Comparison: Anthony Fasano, Tennessee Titans

    FINAL GRADE: 5.40/9.00 (Round 7—Backup Caliber)

13. Bryce Williams, East Carolina

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    Michael Chang/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'5 ¾"257 lbs4.94s7.19s4.53s 


    A two-time walk-on (first at Marshall, then at East Carolina), Bryce Williams has production and versatility going for him. A former fullback, Williams caught 58 passes for 588 yards and four touchdowns in 2015.

    In the middle of the field and in the red zone, Williams' size is an asset. He has the length to go up and high-point the ball and shows the hands to secure the ball away from his frame. Williams is aware and alert when in his route and when he has to break back to a scrambling quarterback. In these situations he knows how to make himself a big target while breaking back to the ball.

    With strong hands, he can secure passes cleanly in traffic or over the top. In the ECU offense, he's been asked to line up in multiple spots along the formation and has handled every role.


    Williams' tape has been limited to the middle of the field, and with below-average speed and agility, that's where he'll have to live in the NFL too.

    A lack of lower-body strength and development shows up on film and in person. Williams has thin legs holding up a big upper body. This lack of balance shows up in his poor route stems and how he bends routes to the sideline instead of showing a 90-degree angle.

    Without being able to separate and win as a route-runner, Williams has to be a solid blocker, but he doesn't compete here. His skinny legs lead to a lack of anchoring ability, and more often than not, Williams is put on skates by hard-charging defensive linemen.

    Pro Comparison: Marcel Jensen, Washington

    FINAL GRADE: 5.50/9.00 (Round 6—Backup Caliber)

12. Kyle Carter, Penn State

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    Patrick Bolger/Getty Images
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3 ⅜"243 lbs4.64s7.09s4.37s


    An eye-catching athlete at tight end, Kyle Carter has the tools to be a steal late in the draft. As an athlete, Carter shows the versatility to play either fullback, H-back or move tight end. An imaginative offensive coordinator could find many roles for him.

    Carter is an easy mover with enough juice to get deep running through coverage. He's quicker than fast and can excite after the catch. His 4.64 time at the Penn State pro day is accurate to film speed. Carter is able to get loose and separate from linebackers.

    In traffic, Carter can snag passes and work in tough situations. He doesn't get timid or shy away from physical defenders. In the red zone, his athletic skills could pay off if he can be coached up as a route-runner and speed up his instincts.


    An ankle injury slowed Carter throughout his senior season, and when that wasn't bothering him, the Penn State offense was doing all it could to hold him down.

    Playing in a scheme designed to get the ball outside the hashes and in a hurry—but doing so with players recruited for a pro-style scheme run by Bill O'Brien—there wasn't much method to the madness. But when put on the spot, Carter struggled to match the speed of the game.

    Carter's hands and eyes were late to react consistently on hot routes. His route running is too often laid-back and without urgency. The decline in Carter's tape, starting with the loss of O'Brien, will throw many scouts off. He has talent but never produced at a high level.

    Pro Comparison: Wes Saxton, New York Jets

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Round 5—Backup Caliber)

11. Henry Krieger-Coble, Iowa

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    Harry How/Getty Images
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3"248 lbs4.8s7.72s4.52s 


    One of the big catalysts behind the undefeated regular season at Iowa, Henry Krieger-Coble grabbed 35 passes for 405 yards and one touchdown. He also opened eyes with a brilliant performance in a week of practices and games at the 2016 Senior Bowl.

    A three-down tight end, Krieger-Coble has the quickness to pull away from coverage underneath. He has the ability to get to full speed early in his route and will use that momentum to win in straight-line situations. He's agile in his route stem and will mix up jukes and shoulder sways to throw off man coverage. With a solid catch radius, Krieger-Coble can execute in the red zone on balls away from his frame.

    Coming out of Iowa, you expect Krieger-Coble to be an effective blocker, and he is. He comes out with fire and will look to rock back defenders with his punch. He takes smart angles and knows where to place his hands to win the battle.


    A one-year starter at Iowa—partially due to injuries—Krieger-Coble doesn't have the extensive film library most top tight ends in this class can promote.

    You don't get ideal triangle numbers from Krieger-Coble, and his lack of bench strength (10 reps) and length (31 ⅜" arms) are a red flag when combined. Without length or power, Krieger-Coble needs agility and leaping skills, but he doesn't flash either one consistently. He doesn't play well over the top.

    Krieger-Coble is often in contested situations due to a lack of speed coming out of his breaks. Whether he can get open in the NFL will depend on his upside as a route-runner and if he can be schemed option routes over the middle.

    Pro Comparison: Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Round 5—Backup Caliber)

10. Jerell Adams, South Carolina

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'5 ⅛"247 lbs4.64s7.05s4.31s 


    A top-tier athlete, Jerell Adams looks the part when he hits the field. With height, length and speed, Adams hits every triangle number scouts want.

    Inside routes were a strength for Adams, who shows up on crossing routes. His awareness when measuring depth and separation was ideal. He looks like a power forward boxing out linebackers and can make plays in traffic. He's too quick for middle linebackers and too tall and long for safeties when in matchup situations.

    An undersized blocker, Adams wins with movement. He makes good initial contact in the run game and has a strong enough anchor to sit and stonewall defenders. He has excellent size and length and uses that frame well as an in-line tight end.


    A lack of production (49 catches) in the last two seasons, Adams can't point to his production as matching his athleticism. Some may excuse his lack of numbers due to poor quarterback play, but he struggled to secure the ball in traffic when thrown to. His five drops on 57 targets, per College Football Focus, are a red flag.

    On the move blocking, Adams too often stops his feet and instead lunges at the defender. This is covered up by his length in college but will be a problem in the NFL. He's not quick to identify his target in blocking assignments and can get lost at the second level.

    Adams' lack of explosion out of his route stem is an area he must improve to consistently get open in the NFL. He plays too tall out of his breaks and will let himself get covered up by smaller players because he doesn't sell his routes.

    Pro Comparison: Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers

    FINAL GRADE: 5.60/9.00 (Round 5—Backup Caliber)

9. Jake McGee, Florida

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'5 ½"250 lbs4.78s7.26s4.6s 


    Originally at the University of Virginia, Jake McGee headed to Florida as a graduate transfer before the 2014 season. In his lone season on the field for the Gators, McGee impressed with four touchdowns, 41 catches and 381 yards on a team struggling at quarterback.

    McGee doesn't let the ball hit the ground. He's relentless in his quest to get open underneath and over the middle and uses all his tools to find a sliver of space. He'll reel in passes away from his body and shows an increased catch radius thanks to his hand strength.

    A combination blocker in the Florida scheme, McGee can get push in the run game thanks to his size. He recognizes blocking assignments and makes accurate reads when identifying his man. He can fire out of a conventional tight end spot, but also flashed well as a moving player both in motion and coming out of the backfield.


    A broken fibula and tibia in the 2014 season caused McGee to miss the entire year. This leaves McGee entering the NFL as a sixth-year senior and a player who is already 24 years old.

    McGee doesn't separate as well as he could with his frame, and he must learn to box out better using his shoulders and rear end. He can round off too many breaks and doesn't seem sharp in his footwork. There's no pitter-patter there and too much heavy stomping.

    When running in space, McGee is a 10-and-2 foot player. He's not quick-footed and can appear unbalanced in full sprint. You end up wishing his play strength was better, but he has the frame to add 10 pounds of muscle to his body.

    Pro Comparison: Jermaine Gresham, Arizona Cardinals 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Round 4—Backup Caliber)

8. Ben Braunecker, Harvard

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3 ⅜"250 lbs4.73s6.90s4.20s 


    A physical, tough, productive player, Ben Braunecker is one of the more enjoyable guys to watch in the entire class. With 48 catches and 850 yards in 2015, Braunecker's stats matched his intensity as he dominated the Ivy League competition.

    Braunecker can win as a route-runner. He sets up defenders with stems and shakes. He's able to sink his hips and chop his feet before exploding into his break. Braunecker has the power to redirect when a defensive player gets his hands on him.

    Braunecker played all over the field at Harvard, easily moving in and out of different assignments. He's a willing and able blocker on the edge. As a good overall athlete, Braunecker is able to attack with power and agility when locking onto an outside linebacker or defensive end. He's a high-motor, tough, smart player who will be able to contribute on offense and special teams.


    Braunecker doesn't have the frame for a tight end or the speed for a wide receiver. He may be typecast into a move tight end role, but that can limit his value to NFL teams looking for a more dynamic option.

    His lean body type may be tough to sell to NFL teams. Braunecker can get lazy with his blocking technique and doesn't always square his hips in blocking assignments.

    A lack of speed keeps him from separating against top-tier competition. Facing NFL defensive backs, he will have to win contested catches, and that's not something his tape shows. He'll struggle to locate and fight through to the ball.

    Pro Comparison: Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Round 4—Backup Caliber)

7. Beau Sandland, Montana State

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ½"253 lbs4.74s7.10s4.33s 


    Beau Sandland is one of the toughest players in the 2016 draft class and flashes off the tape at a small school as the best guy on the field.

    A crafty player with moves at the line of scrimmage, Sandland is excellent with the ball in his hands. He can get behind coverage and do work in various alignments and formations. He's a finisher with toughness in everything he does. The game film shows enough quickness to get loose at the line of scrimmage and the follow-up speed to run up the seam with separation.

    Sandland brings that same fight to the table as a blocker. Once he latches onto a defender, it's hard to beat him. He has excellent feet to mirror in pass protection and can move laterally to slide and catch blitzers.

    Sandland blew away scouts at the combine with his length (34 ¼' arms) and hands (10 ⅛"), as well as what he did on the field in workouts and positional drills. He is raw but is also strong, agile and willing to run through a wall for his coaches.


    A former player at Pierce College and with the Miami Hurricanes, Sandland has been in college since the 2011 season (Pierce College) and sat out the 2014 season while transferring to Montana State. With just one season at Montana State, Sandland is more about potential than production.

    Sandland dominated at Montana State, but can he hang with the big boys? He was able to run past or jump over the defensive backs at that level of play but will not be able to do so in the NFL. As a route-runner, he can still be loose and lazy with his angles. Cleaning up his footwork to sharpen the cuts will be crucial to having a bigger role.

    Pro Comparison: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

    FINAL GRADE: 5.70/9.00 (Round 4—Backup Caliber)

6. Thomas Duarte, UCLA

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'2 ⅛"231 lbs4.72s6.97s4.24s 


    Playing wide receiver at UCLA, Thomas Duarte projects best to a move tight end in the NFL with his size and the premise that a Jordan Reed-type of slot role would fit him best.

    When viewed as a tight end, Duarte's athleticism is a strength, where it would be a weakness if he were thought of as a wide receiver. He has the straight-line speed to get on defenders quickly and can build up to pull away from cornerbacks and safeties.

    Duarte plays the ball well in traffic and can make contested catches. When the ball is in his hands, he hits another gear and can run away from tacklers. He's effective at manipulating defenders and getting them to take false steps, which he uses to create separation.

    Duarte is a willing blocker in the run game. He can execute stalk blocks and hold up cornerbacks on the edge of the play.


    Duarte has no experience at tight end and is purely a project at a new—albeit similar—position. He was able to succeed in a unique role at UCLA but will not have a seamless transition to the NFL.

    With inconsistent hands, Duarte dropped four passes on 86 targets, according to College Football Focus. The drops show up when Duarte is in danger of being banged up, which is exactly where he'll be playing as a move tight end.

    An underdeveloped route-runner, Duarte must work to become more aware of his timing and his placement when cutting to the middle of the field. When he's no longer viewed as a threat to go deep, his ability to soften up his route and find space underneath will disappear.

    Pro Comparison: Jordan Reed, Washington 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.90/9.00 (Round 4—Rotational Player)

5. Devon Cajuste, Stanford

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images
    Combine/Pro Day Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3 ¾"234 lbs4.62/4.55s6.49s4.20s 


    A wide receiver at Stanford, Devon Cajuste looks more like a hybrid, movable tight end with his thick, solid frame. Some NFL teams may continue to see him as a kind of oversized wide receiver, but either way, his best role is playing in the slot and dominating matchups.

    In the red zone, Cajuste's size and length (33-inch arms) can be an issue for cover men. He adds a 36-inch vertical jump to those length numbers, giving him a big catch radius in tight spaces. He has the height and bulk to box out defenders and climb the ladder and high-point on contested passes.

    As a route-runner, you'll get crisp, sharp in-cuts from Cajuste working out of the slot or a wideout position. He understands how to break down at the top of his stem and explode into breaks. His footwork is better than his hip explosion, and he uses pitter-patter steps to shake coverage.

    Cajuste is the type of player you find a role for. He can line up out wide, split the formation in the slot or even line up in the backfield as a moving blocker and receiver. His position is unlimited, but it will take a creative offensive mind to see his full value.


    If teams are considering Cajuste as a tight end, prepare to hear concerns about his blocking skills. He doesn't have the play power to rock back edge defenders and was never more than a stalk blocker at Stanford. He can crack down on a linebacker coming off motion but is not the type of player you just want locking down the edge in the run game.

    If Cajuste is viewed through the prism of a wide receiver, teams will find that he lacks the athleticism and burst for that role. He can be sluggish moving off the line and plays with tall pads that slow down and give away his breaking routes. Without the speed to make moves off the line or with the ball in his hands, Cajuste becomes a possession receiver at best matched up against NFL cornerbacks.

    Pro Comparison: Josh Hill, New Orleans Saints 

    FINAL GRADE: 5.90/9.00 (Round 4—Rotational Player)

4. Austin Hooper, Stanford

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    David Madison/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'3 ¾"254 lbs4.72s7.00s4.32s 


    Austin Hooper is next in a line of excellent tight end prospects from Stanford, and he may be the most intriguing one in a while.

    With excellent agility and quickness on a tall frame, Hooper projects as a top-of-the-line receiving threat in the pros. He has the balance, poise and body control to get open in his route tree when covered up by a speedy defender and doesn't have to rely solely on speed to make plays. He's a thorough route-runner with the experience and knowledge to step right into an NFL roster and not have a rough transition time.

    In the red zone, Hooper is a big target made bigger by a 33-inch vertical jump and long arms (33 ¾"). He's great at timing jump balls and fights through the play. Hooper can line up as a big slot, with his hand in the dirt or even in the backfield as an H-back-type weapon.


    Five dropped passes on the year, according to College Football Focus, is an eyesore for Hooper considering he had 54 targets on the season. With a slightly smaller frame and average production, those numbers can stand out.

    In the blocking game, Hooper is all about effort because his mechanics need work. He's too light in his lower body to get real push, which causes him to lunge and grasp for defenders. He would be better suited to a zone scheme that helps him get an angle on the defender.

    The biggest concern with Hooper is the drop rate. Will those focus drops be coached out in the pros, or will a team have to live with a 1-1 ratio of drops to touchdowns?

    Pro Comparison: Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

    FINAL GRADE: 6.40/9.00 (Round 3—Future Starter)

3. Nick Vannett, Ohio State

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'6"257 lbs4.85s7.05s4.20s 


    A forgotten man too often in the Ohio State offense, Nick Vannett turned heads at the 2016 Senior Bowl and has done nothing but build on his NFL resume since. Much like 2015 Senior Bowl standout Clive Walford, Vannett's lack of use in his college offense isn't an indictment on his talent, but rather the scheme he played in. Asking what he can do, and not what the offense asked him to do, gives a clearer picture of his talent.

    A big athlete with large mitts (10") and ideal length (34 ¼" arms), Vannett passes the eyeball test. He's an easy mover in and out of traffic and doesn't hesitate when getting into the muck with linebackers or box safeties. Vannett plucks the ball from the air and will use his body to shade defenders and keep them out of contention over the middle. With just one drop charted all season for Vannett, he's as steady as they come when bailing out the quarterback.

    Senior Bowl practices showed that Vannett can move through coverage as a route-runner. He has a tall frame but can sink low to explode out of breaks and has enough flexibility to execute sharp cuts. He's balanced and poised as a route-runner with little wasted movement.

    Playing at Ohio State means lining up all over the formation, and Vannett comes to the pros with limited wear-and-tear and a bag full of tools due to his positional versatility at OSU.


    A lack of production—no matter the cause—will be a flag for some NFL teams. They want to see those numbers on the card when it's hanging in the draft room, and Vannett doesn't have them.

    As a blocker, Vannett can be timid at the point of attack and struggle to follow through to the second level. He has the size to dump smaller linebackers and handle defensive ends, but his want-to isn't always equal in blocking situations as it is when the ball is coming his way.

    Average speed for a tight end isn't a killer, but letting defenders ride your hip pocket leads to too many contested catches. That's where Vannett is right now when facing NFL-caliber prospects at OSU. He has to learn to shake safeties and use his length to create separation from tight coverage.

    Pro Comparison: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

    FINAL GRADE: 6.40/9.00 (Round 3—Rookie Impact)

2. Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky

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    Michael Chang/Getty Images
    Combine Results
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'5 ¾"249 lbsn/an/an/a 


    Tyler Higbee began his career at wide receiver but quickly outgrew the position. Fortunately for NFL teams, he still runs like a wideout while having the frame to box out defenders.

    The time spent snagging passes at receiver paid off for Higbee. He is an excellent hands catcher all over the field, making plays both in traffic and in space. The ball comes to his hands naturally, and Higbee does a good job securing the ball to get upfield.

    With top-tier size and agility, Higbee can separate on 10- to 15-yard routes with ease. He's a nightmare matched up against NCAA linebackers who aren't able to balance power and speed in coverage. He has a strong upper body and hands that do well in congestion both before and after the catch.

    When getting into his routes, Higbee shows the burst you want in a top-tier tight end. He'll chew up yardage and press defensive backs off his route with his straight-line speed. He's a smart route-runner who times his steps and turns to meet the ball. He'll bail out his quarterback with a big catch radius in traffic.


    A knee sprain in October caused Higbee to miss time over the rest of the season and limited him when he was back on the field. A re-aggravation of the injury caused him to miss the Senior Bowl and be held out of running at the combine.

    Higbee doesn't show much as a run-blocker and will need to prove he's willing to work there. He plays high in the run and pass game, making his chest an easy target for jamming linebackers and safeties at the line.

    Added bulk and strength could go a long way in keeping Higbee relevant in the NFL. He has the natural hands and athleticism to be an early-impact pass-catcher at tight end.

    *Editors Note*: After publish, Tyler Higbee was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, alcohol intoxication in a public place and second-degree fleeing or evading police after a bar fight incident. He will be pleading not guilty for reasons of self defense.  

    Pro Comparison: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers 

    FINAL GRADE: 6.40/9.00 (Round 2-3—Future Starter)

1. Hunter Henry, Arkansas

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press
    Pro Day
    HeightWeight40 Time3-Cone Short Shuttle
    6'4 ⅞"250 lbs4.66s7.16s4.41s 


    This is what a No. 1 tight end is supposed to play like. Hunter Henry excels at every area of the field. He's a smooth, savvy route-runner, a reliable pass-catcher and gives enough in the run game as a blocker to never leave the field.

    In the passing game, Henry was targeted 73 times. He dropped zero attempts thrown his way while catching 51 passes for 754 yards and three scores. He's a Steady Eddie type over the middle, up the seam or in the flats.

    Henry is a smooth operator as a route-runner. He gets to top speed in a hurry and has the second gear to run by defenders caught flat-footed waiting for a breaking route. He sells routes hard and has the body control to not tip his hand. He's a consistent route-runner, giving quarterback Brandon Allen the same look over and over again.

    With 4.66 speed and impressive agility, Henry is a fit in any NFL offense. He can line up in the slot or in a three-point stance next to the tackle. He's only as limited as the person scheming the plays.


    Henry's lack of arm length (32 ¾") or hand size (9 ¼") may cause some slight concerns for teams looking at metrics when weighing prospects. Although, zero drops should eliminate hand-size questions.

    The smaller-frame question for Henry should be more about his ability to box out and score in the red zone. He had just three touchdowns in 2015 and was often lost when bottled up as the field got tighter. He doesn't spin into contact on crossing routes and use his rear to keep a defender off his body. Henry is more of a finesse route-runner than a banger.

    Pro Comparison: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    FINAL GRADE: 6.99/9.00 (Round 2—Rookie Impact)


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