NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Tight Ends

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 12, 2019

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Tight Ends

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    After 11 months of evaluations, conversations with scouts and coaches and endless nights on the road or at games, our staff is finally ready to answer the burning questions surrounding the 2019 NFL draft.

    Who is the best overall player? How about the best at each position? 

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

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked, with help from scouting assistants Marshal Miller and 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 from a prospect over the last two years. That led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro-player comparison added to match the prospect's style or fit in the pros. The top 400 players will be broken down by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft, which begins April 25 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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

         

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 or current front-office personnel in the NFL. 

    This applies to all positions across the board.

                                            

    Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    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
    5.30-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.10-5.25Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

24. Isaiah Searight, Fordham

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    Photo Credit: Fordham University

    STRENGTHS

    —Great size (6'4", 242 lbs) with excellent length (34" arms) for a "move" tight end prospect.

    —His routes pop off the film with his speed and loose, fluid movements.

    —Separates without issue against safeties and linebackers. Can get up the seam in a hurry but has the agility to pull away with quick change-of-direction skills. 

    —Natural athlete who can run past coverage but also wins at the catch point with his length and vertical skills.

    —Developmental prospect who has a low floor but very high potential.

                              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Has not played against legit NFL competition and never dominated even at a lower level.

    —Has underdeveloped traits at tight end. Doesn't understand blocking angles or how to set up his routes.

    —Flex tight end only because of his lack of play power and toughness at the point of attack.

    —Doesn't know how to help his quarterback by making himself a big target or working back toward the ball.

    —Shies away from contact and doesn't like mixing it up in the middle of the field.

                             

    OVERALL

    Isaiah Searight is a draft-and-stash player who impresses with his exceptional athleticism. He has the ability to beat defenders in coverage as a route-runner and is able to win as a jump-ball or post-up player in the red zone. If a team is willing to be patient, Searight could pay off hugely.

                                                                   

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: MyCole Pruitt

23. Donald Parham, Stetson

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Athletic, productive player who dominated in 2018 with 85 catches for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    —Excels in the slot and can quickly get up the seam with speed and athleticism.

    —Can out-reach or outjump almost every player he will encounter. Amazing reach and vertical skills.

    —Natural pass-catcher with good hands and big mitts to bring in the ball. 

    —His size is jaw-dropping at 6'8" with 36⅛-inch arms and 10½-inch hands. That, combined with his athleticism, will excite scouts.

                                                      

    WEAKNESSES

    —Needs to hit leg day at the gym. Has sticks for legs and has no power in his lower body.

    —Was injured during the Senior Bowl and didn't take advantage of the chance to showcase his talent against better competition.

    —Concussion in 2018 caused him to miss one game.

    —Is raw with poor technique in his route tree. Has been able to beat defenders with his size and speed instead of his tools. Doesn't sink his hips or throttle down at the stem to change direction.

    —Will not be a fit for every team since he's a flex/slot tight end only.

                               

    OVERALL

    The trend of converting basketball players to tight ends is still a thing, and Donald Parham looks like one of those prospects. His height, length and athleticism will get him a long look from teams even though he's at least one year away from contributing in the NFL.

                                             

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Bucky Hodges

22. Daniel Helm, Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Productive pass-catcher who runs a full, dynamic route tree and understands timing, space and leverage.

    —Easy mover who gets into breaks well and comes out with nice burst and some pop in his step.

    —Versatile player who has moved around the Duke scheme and will line up in a flex, H-back or in-line position and has enough natural athleticism to perform well in each role.

    —Mirror blocker who will frustrate defenders with his agility and timing.

    —Has a good catch radius and will get off the turf to attack jump balls.

                         

    WEAKNESSES

    —Dropped six passes in 2018, per our charting. A bad ratio to his 26 catches.

    —Lean frame at 6'4", 249 pounds and doesn't have good play strength.

    —Pedestrian 40-yard-dash time of 4.89 seconds, which shows up on tape as he struggles to separate down the field.

    —His strength in the blocking game is poor. He finds himself on the ground too often and doesn't know how to use his length to keep defenders off his frame. The same issue shows up when he tries to get off press coverage.

                                               

    OVERALL

    Daniel Helm has good production, and his tape at Duke shows that he's a pro-style, three-down tight end in that offense. But his limitations in terms of speed and play power are likely to limit him to undrafted free-agent status.

                             

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jake McGee

21. Kendall Blanton, Missouri

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Athletically gifted player on tape who looks to have development potential after only starting 10 games in college.

    —Plays the ball very well at the catch point. Will get off the field to attack 50-50 balls and has the body to box out defenders.

    —Loose, natural athlete who runs with an easy, natural gait and sinks well into breaking routes. His tape shows good straight-line speed to run past coverage.

    —Basketball star in high school who dominated at K.C. powerhouse Blue Springs South in Missouri.

    —NFL bloodlines, as his father (Jerry) played linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs.

                           

    WEAKNESSES

    —Drops are a major issue when judged against how often he was targeted and used as the team's TE2.

    —Had a fail-level 40 time at 4.95 seconds at 6'6", 262 pounds. Had a vertical jump of only 31 inches and a three-cone time of 7.37 seconds.

    —A knee sprain in 2018 cost him three games.

    —Has limited production and starting experience. Was never the go-to tight end or won the starting job without injury to those ahead of him.

    —Doesn't have much natural catching ability. Struggles to reel in errant passes and, despite his excellent size, has a small catch radius.

                               

    OVERALL

    Kendall Blanton has draft-and-stash potential, but you aren't getting much out of him right away as a possible special teams performer. He could end up on a practice squad for a season and then look to break onto a 53-man roster once he's had time to develop more as a technician.

                                        

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Rico Gathers 

20. Dax Raymond, Utah State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Eye-opening production in 2017-18, during which he combined for 68 catches, 801 yards and three touchdowns.

    —Good athlete with nice short-area quickness and the ability to cut in and out of breaks with sinking hips and choppy feet.

    —Looks to make plays after the catch and has some wiggle to his game.

    —Tough player who gives max effort as a blocker and isn't afraid to go over the middle and through traffic for catches.

    —Profiles well as a second or third tight end who can play inline or a "move" tight end while helping on special teams.

                         

    WEAKNESSES

    —Older prospect after he spent two years on a church mission between high school and college.

    —Can struggle to leave linebackers in coverage, especially on downfield routes.

    —Not a blocker; doesn't have the play power or technique to move the pile in the running game.

    —Needs to add power and strength to his frame but is already 255 pounds at 6'5", so he might be maxed out.

    —His route tree is limited, and he doesn't seem to understand concepts like alignment and body positioning on breaks.

                                        

    OVERALL

    As a 24-year-old rookie with limited athleticism and blocking, Dax Raymond will likely have to prove himself on special teams before he's ready to crack an NFL rotation at tight end. He has good hands and route-development potential, but he is a work in progress who's already two-to-three years older than most rookies.

                          

    GRADE: 5.00 (UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT)

    PRO COMPARISON: Orson Charles 

19. Keenen Brown, Texas State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Productive star for Texas State who exploded onto the scene with 51 catches and five touchdowns.

    —Only 6'2" but has a wingspan of 82¾ inches and 34½-inch arm length—ideal for a tight end who needs to be able to use a long arm in blocking and have a big catch radius.

    —Short-area fast and quick with good field vision to make plays with the ball in his hands. Looked much faster on tape against small-school defenders than he did in testing.

    —Schemed a lot of touches and did the most with them. Worked well in the screen game and has the juice to take short passes for big gains.

    —Has route potential thanks to his overall athleticism.

                         

    WEAKNESSES

    —Oklahoma State graduate transfer with one year of production at a small school. Concerns about whether he can hang with NFL-caliber talent.

    —Tested poorly for a player profiled as an athletic "move" tight end: 4.75-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical jump, 7.27-second three-cone drill.

    —Dropped far too many passes in the lone season he was a target (2018) and doesn't look like a natural receiver.

    —An inexperienced and raw blocker who doesn't know how to fit his hands or set his feet to run through the block.

    —Looks stiff when asked to extend his catch radius.

                           

    OVERALL

    Keenen Brown looked like a potential draft-process riser but failed to stand out in an all-star game and was mediocre at the combine. He's a draft-and-stash type with the potential to perform much better after taking time to work on his routes and his blocking.

                              

    GRADE: 5.10 (ROUND 7 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Clive Walford    

18. C.J. Conrad, Kentucky

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —High school basketball stud who brings box-out mentality and above-the-rim type of play to the football field.

    —Scheme-versatile after playing multiple roles for the Kentucky offense, including H-back and "move" tight end.

    —A willing and active blocker whether it's from the backfield or inline. Shoots his hands with success and has natural instincts for angles and space.

    —Competitive catcher who will fight for the ball and makes himself a big target crossing the middle. Doesn’t drop passes and finds a way to get the ball when it's thrown his way.

                            

    WEAKNESSES

    —Was invited to the NFL combine but not able to participate after medical personnel found a heart issue in his checkup. Has since been cleared to perform football activities.

    —His athleticism is just OK on film; he doesn't sink into breaks and doesn't run away from coverage.

    —Doesn't move like a basketball player. Has stiff hips and heavy feet in his breaks and poor acceleration out of his stance.

    —His yards-after-catch were nonexistent in college, and he doesn't have the speed to be a threat with the ball in his hands.

                            

    OVERALL

    C.J. Conrad is a developmental-type athlete who could be off boards because of the medical condition that popped up during his combine physical. Conrad was a late-round type of player before being sent home from Indianapolis, but a team that likes his film enough could bring him in as a late-rounder or an undrafted free agent.

                              

    GRADE: 5.30 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: David Morgan

17. Andrew Beck, Texas

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —One of the top prep inside linebackers in high school who transformed himself into a do-it-all fullback/tight end prospect.

    —His dad, Chris, played soccer and lacrosse at Army, and he has the same athleticism and toughness.

    —Tough-as-nails run-blocker who excels at clearing a path on the edge and kicking linebackers or defensive ends out of the play. Strong hands with a powerful leg drive.

    —Catches the ball well as an option out of the backfield or as a checkdown from tight end. 

    —Looks to run through contact and has no fear when approached by tacklers.

    —Moved up the board after posting a 4.63 40-yard-dash time at the Texas pro day.

                        

    WEAKNESSES

    —His 2017 season was lost after he broke the same foot twice.

    —Stiff and doesn't always look like a loose mover when the ball is in his hands.

    —Inexperienced as a route-runner. Doesn't have reps playing in the slot or inline and running a full route tree.

    —Dropped some easy targets and was never more than the fourth option in the passing game.

                                           

    OVERALL

    A versatile player the coaches at Texas loved for his effort and selflessness, Andrew Beck has the athleticism to help teams as a fullback or "move" tight end and on special teams. If a club values versatility and toughness and uses a fullback, Beck is worth a draft pick.

                            

    GRADE: 5.30 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Rhett Ellison

16. Caleb Wilson, UCLA

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Speedy tight end who can blow past coverage and get down the field on vertical routes.

    —Can line up inline or in the slot with good production up the seam and in space.

    —Tore up the track at the combine with a 4.56-second 40-yard dash at 6'4" and 240 pounds.

    —Exciting developmental potential if he can add strength. His natural athleticism is easy to see, and he's still new to the position.

    —Offers good yards-after-catch production and potential.

                                     

    WEAKNESSES

    —Was a redshirt reserve tight end at USC out of high school after originally committing to Old Dominion as a quarterback. Left USC after one year when his father, Chris Wilson, went to UCLA. His 2017 season ended because of injury. All this adds up to not much film for Wilson at tight end.

    —Small-framed and his light body needs to add bulk and strength.

    —Stiff mover who doesn't shake defenders at the top of his route stem. Robotic mover.

    —Doesn't fight for or attack the ball in the air. Will make some easy catches but not much more, and even those look labored.

    —Offers next to nothing as a blocker because of a lack of power.

                             

    OVERALL

    Caleb Wilson was very fast at the combine, which caused many evaluators to take second looks at his tape. The issues at UCLA are related to his lack of natural catching skills, play strength and his limitations as a blocker. NFL teams who are willing to let him play in space and develop could have a nice Day 3 target.

                             

    GRADE: 5.35 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jacob Tamme

15. Zach Gentry, Michigan

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Smooth runner on film who gets into his route cleanly and has good cuts and breaks at his route stem.

    —Big target over the middle with a high football IQ. Makes himself available to the quarterback with his eyes and his body.

    —Has some seam speed and value as a 50-50 option down the field. His 34⅛-inch arms give him a massive catch radius.

    —Will post up defenders over the middle and isn't afraid of traffic.

    —Developmental body that looks like it has room to grow; former quarterback who still has the lean body more natural to his old position.

                              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Among the stiffest players evaluated in the entire 2019 draft class. Lacks the light feet and loose hips to make cuts and pull away from coverage.

    —Tested below-average athletically with a 4.9-second 40-yard dash, 29½-inch vertical jump, 110-inch broad jump, 7.4-second three-cone drill and just 12 bench-press reps. Each was good for the bottom 25th percentile among tight ends or worse.

    —Lacks play strength, especially in the blocking game.

    —His hands are incredibly inconsistent; he double catches a lot of balls and lets way too many throws get into his body.

    —Doesn't appear to be super coordinated; doesn't have good body control or flexibility.

                                    

    OVERALL

    Zach Gentry is a former quarterback who still has room to develop physically and mentally as a three-down tight end. He didn't develop much in the Michigan offense and will need time to acclimate to the NFL. He's a draft-and-stash type of player and not an early-impact tight end.

                      

    GRADE: 5.40 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Ryan Griffin

14. Tommy Sweeney, Boston College

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Productive three-year starter who leaves college with 99 catches and 10 touchdowns.

    —Sure-handed player with limited drops after some struggles early in his career.

    —Above-average run-blocker with the strength and size (6'4", 251 lbs) to effectively move defensive ends out of the frame.

    —Smart, experienced route-runner who understands angles and knows how to make himself a clear target. Shows his hands on his comebacks and gets his chest squared to the quarterback.

    —Effort player who handled blocking and receiving duties well in three seasons of major playing time at BC.

                         

    WEAKNESSES

    —Below-average athlete based on his tape and testing.

    —He's short-armed (32¾"), and it shows when he's trying to reach-block or get down away from his frame to make catches.

    —Needs to add strength and some size to be able to better handle inline duties.

    —Lacks juice in his routes and shows stiff hips, heavy feet and labored movements in the open field.

    —Has little to no yards-after-catch ability.

                               

    OVERALL

    What you see is what you get with Tommy Sweeney. He's a no-frills tight end who was super consistent and productive over the last three years. He has a high profile as a role-player tight end with some special teams upside mixed in as a late-round pick.

                                       

    GRADE: 5.50 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Zach Miller

13. Alize Mack, Notre Dame

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    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Highly targeted, highly productive tight end in 2018 who heads into the NFL with experience as a receiver and run-blocker.

    —Good pass-blocker who excels in line when asked to keep defensive ends away from the quarterback; has a wide base and good hand placement.

    —Great at picking up first downs, as he can find the sticks and run a clean route while making himself a good target for quarterbacks.

    —Uses arm length (33¾") to go get the ball away from his frame.

    —Ran well at the combine (4.7-second 40) for his size (6'4", 249 lbs) and vertical-jumped an impressive 36 inches.

                        

    WEAKNESSES

    —Not very physical at the point of attack and doesn't seem to like running over the middle; would rather play in space.

    —Flexibility and burst are limited; doesn't explode out of breaks or out of his stance.

    —Hands are average; no standout drops, but there are focus issues at times, especially over the middle, that leave you wanting more consistency.

    —Run blocking lacks power and pop; doesn't look to give max effort when working to the second level.

    —Offers limited run-after-catch ability.

                  

    OVERALL

    Notre Dame is renowned as a tight end factory, and Alize Mack will have a chance to continue that legacy, but his tape has given rise to concerns about toughness and drops. That will hurt his stock and is why we're rating him as a late-Day 3 player.

               

    GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jordan Akins

12. Kaden Smith, Stanford

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    STRENGTHS

    —All-around tight end coming out of Stanford scheme that required him to be a run-blocker and utilize a big route tree.

    —Big frame (6'5", 255 lbs) allows him to win on 50-50 receptions and work as a post-up tight end in close quarters or the red zone. Can be a safety valve between the hashes.

    —Routes are mean; has physicality to run off defenders and will put a body on anyone who tries to impede his progress.

    —Smart, aware player who rarely makes mistakes in the route or blocking game.

    —Has the experience and football IQ to be at least a contributor from day one.

                      

    WEAKNESSES

    —Turned in a 4.92-second 40-yard dash at the combine to go with a subpar 108-inch broad jump and only 15 bench reps of 225 pounds. For a tight end of his size, these are alarming numbers.

    —Missed last three games of the season due to a foot injury.

    —Play strength isn't always great, especially at the point of attack in the blocking game. Can get rocked onto his heels by strong linebackers.

    —Stiff and robotic; doesn't have much juice in his hips or feet.

    —Doesn't have the athleticism to work outside the formation regularly; limited scheme fit and might top out as a No. 2 tight end.

                     

    OVERALL

    Kaden Smith comes from a tight end factory at Stanford but lacks the athleticism of some of his predecessors. He's a robotic route-runner with average to below-average speed and burst. That could limit his ability to get open against NFL coverage, which is why he's a projected contributor and not a starter for every scheme.

                    

    GRADE: 5.65 (ROUND 5 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Richard Rodgers

11. Drew Sample, Washington

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —Effort player scouts will love to watch and coaches will love to work with.

    —In-line tight end with experience as a blocker and receiver; has the size (6'5", 255 lbs) to be a starting tight end and could be a mismatch in man coverage.

    —Natural hands when targeted; extends away from his frame well, looks the ball in and doesn't have a profile of drops.

    —Loves to block and goes at it with a mean streak; has the size and power to move edge-defenders in the run game.

    —Winner of the Tough Husky Award and the Don James Perseverance Award—both Washington team awards; revered by coaches for his toughness and love of football.

                     

    WEAKNESSES

    —Average athleticism and movement skills.

    —Robotic, stiff and linear when moving in space; doesn't shake or surprise defenders in his route tree.

    —Disappears as a receiver and failed to stand out during Senior Bowl practices when given opportunities to beat man coverage up the seam.

    —Strength can be average and needs to be improved.

                     

    OVERALL

    Teams will love Drew Sample's football IQ, work ethic and drive enough to want him over players with more production or more athleticism. That could push him into the early stages of Day 3, especially in a draft class that's weak on blocking tight ends.

              

    GRADE: 5.70 (ROUND 4 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jack Doyle 

10. Josh Oliver, San Jose State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —On the hoof, Josh Oliver is exactly what teams want at 6'5", 249 pounds with 10¾-inch hands.

    —Ran a big route tree at San Jose State, and his past as a receiver shows with his knowledge of timing, space and body positioning.

    —Finds the ball with ease and brings tools to be a good 50-50 and jump-ball receiver. Could be a big value in the red zone as a second tight end.

    —Still learning the position and has room to improve as he gets stronger and gains reps.

    —Could have matchup value given his experience at receiver and downfield speed.

                        

    WEAKNESSES

    —Oliver has straight-line speed but lacks agility and flexibility in his lower body to effectively sink into routes and break off from coverage.

    —Doesn't bring run-blocking tools; almost like a big slot receiver.

    —Will need to work on balance, strength and hand positioning to be effective even as a move blocker from the backfield or across the formation.

    —Didn't look as explosive as expected during combine drills and failed to stand out during Senior Bowl week.

              

    OVERALL

    Oliver has good tape for teams that want a receiving tight end in a backup or complementary role. But he's not an every-down in-line tight end who can kick out linebackers and defensive ends in the run game. If franchises value an athletic, up-the-seam type, he could be a find in the middle rounds.

                 

    GRADE: 5.70 (ROUND 4 — BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Austin Hooper

9. Trevon Wesco, West Virginia

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —All ball; Trevon Wesco is a tenacious blocker, good receiver and an impressive all-around athlete who stood out in the West Virginia offense.

    —Asked to be a safety valve over the middle in a high-octane passing game and handled the job well; improved during the season and has improved as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

    —Blocking is top-notch, best among the 2019 tight end class. Can stay in line and pass protect or get upfield to linebackers in the run game. Attacks the job with excellent aggression.

    —Standout Senior Bowl performer who lined up at fullback, H-back, in line and move tight end while catching the ball flawlessly and showing good upfield mobility.

    —Three-year player at West Virginia after he transferred from Lackawanna College, which points to potential upside with further development.

    —Doesn't have great height (6'3") but has impressive arm length at 34.75 inches long.

                                   

    WEAKNESSES

    —Combine time of 4.89 seconds in the 40-yard dash isn't ideal, but it must be taken into context that at 267 pounds, he's bigger than most tight ends in the class.

    —One-year wonder as a receiver who didn't produce until his senior season.

    —Needs to develop as a route-runner, as his tape is messy when he's asked to break his routes; route tree is still new to him.

    —Doesn't have the speed to pull away from coverage and must rely on pushing off or boxing out defenders.

    —Can look awkward bringing the ball in when the pass isn't right on target, even if he doesn't have many drops.

                           

    OVERALL

    One of the most fun players in the class to watch, Wesco seems to love playing football. He's a capable receiver with potential upside but heads into the NFL as a ready, willing blocker and special teams player. As a No. 2 tight end, he'll have immediate value and could develop into a starter.

                                 

    GRADE: 5.75 (ROUND 4 - BACKUP CALIBER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jonnu Smith

8. Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Athletic, move tight end with good route running and soft hands.

    —Has skills to beat man coverage; can get up the seam and separate from coverage and might be able to steal glances from safeties as he gets down field.

    —Good catch radius with soft hands; will go up and grab the ball away from his 6'4", 251-pound frame and can sink low to get one off the turf.

    —Route running is one of his best traits; moves and sets up defenders like a savvy veteran. Sinks his hips, has quick and light footwork and uses all his tools to create separation.

    —Good developmental prospect who could be an impact tight end if he can gain strength and work on improving his blocking.

                                   

    WEAKNESSES

    —Lacks ideal size and power to be an in-line tight end in the NFL; will not add much value as a straight-line blocker.

    —Tested agility times were average to below-average at the combine. Didn't look like the loose, fluid athlete seen on his game tape.

    —Doesn't have the strength to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage; might be limited to a flex tight end role.

    —Shies away from contact with the ball in his hands or when asked to make contested catches.

    —Needs overall strength development for blocking and short-area routes; bit of a boom-or-bust player.

              

    OVERALL

    Jace Sternberger looks the part on tape and has the traits of a potential starting tight end. Teams that want an in-line player or elite run-blocker might not see the value of his potential, but clubs that want tight ends who can operate in space and up the seam will.

              

    GRADE: 5.90 (ROUND 3-4 — FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Mike Gesicki

7. Isaac Nauta, Georgia

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    David Stephenson/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Plays fast with good quickness and burst out of his stance; able to separate from coverage with routes and athleticism.

    —Strong, sure-handed tight end who doesn't mind working in traffic and can make tough, contested grabs.

    —Crafty route-runner who uses quick footwork, agile hips and smart subtleties to get open.

    —Excellent field awareness to find openings in zone coverage; makes himself a big target when working back to the quarterback.

    —Has grip strength to lock onto a defender on the edge and move them out of the play in the run game.

                                 

    WEAKNESSES

    —Poor performance at NFL Scouting Combine with 4.91-second 40-yard dash, 28-inch vertical jump and 7.45-second three-cone drill.

    —'Tweener size at 6'3", 244 pounds and doesn't have an in-line tight end profile; might be a fit only as a move or H-back tight end.

    —Doesn't give much after the catch due to poor speed and legs that look stiff.

    —Ran a lot of option routes in college and may need to adjust to the idea of a defined route tree.

    —Size and poor athletic testing will hurt Nauta on draft weekend.

                      

    OVERALL

    Isaac Nauta's tape is good, and there is exciting potential to his game, but teams have to be concerned about his frame and athleticism. Small tight ends generally need to be athletic and fast, and Nauta's combine didn't help. If given a shot, though, he should become a starting tight end.

                

    GRADE: 5.90 (ROUND 3-4 — FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jordan Reed

6. Foster Moreau, LSU

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Leader awarded the highly valued No. 18 jersey at LSU; coaches rave about his character and locker room importance.

    —Worked hard to improve drops from 2017 and put just one ball on the ground as a senior despite catching 22 passes in an offense that doesn't utilize the tight end often.

    —Good all-around athlete who ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at 6'4", 253 pounds while also jumping 36.5 inches on the vertical and benching 22 times.

    —Elite blocker in the run game; tough, smart with clean angles and good hand and body positioning. Doesn't let defensive ends rock him back or gain ground. Fantastic at scooping linebackers in the run game and moving them.

    —Looks for daylight after the catch and picks up yards using speed, vision and strength. Has a mean stiff-arm.

                                  

    WEAKNESSES

    —Struggled to find the end zone with just six career touchdowns.

    —Doesn't sync well in and out of breaks in his route tree and can be straight-line stiff.

    —Limited separation skills means he's catching almost everything in traffic, which could also be a scheme issue.

    —Not a chain-mover at tight end and tends to do most of his work underneath.

    —Doesn't get off the field well as a jump-ball or 50-50 pass player.

            

    OVERALL

    Foster Moreau is one of our favorite all-around prospects and people in the 2019 draft class. He's tough as nails as a blocker and runner with added upside as a receiver over the middle. If he finds himself in a scheme that values throwing to the tight end as well as blocking in the run game, Moreau will be a middle-round steal.

                  

    GRADE: 6.00 (ROUND 3 — ROOKIE IMPACT/FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: George Kittle

5. Kahale Warring, San Diego State

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —All-around athlete who was a stud in water polo, swimming, cross country, soccer, tennis and basketball before he played play football as a senior in high school.

    —Former San Diego State walk-on who is still learning the game and has tremendous upside.

    —Traits jump off the page; ideal size (6'5", 252 lbs), speed (4.67 40-yard dash) and agility to line up anywhere in the formation. Can work in line and outside the formation.

    —Looks the part coming off the ball; quickly gets into his route tree and has the speed to run past linebackers. Will require a safety covering him up the seam and closing on his out routes.

    —Athleticism shows up when he's attacking the ball; will high-point and get off the turf or box out defenders in the end zone.

                             

    WEAKNESSES

    —One-year starter coaches must buy in on with development potential.

    —Lacks production; it requires an imagination to see his full potential.

    —Technique as a run-blocker is lacking; doesn't have experience getting under the pads of a defender and working his feet to move them.

    —Drops showed up a lot on his tape in lone season as a starter.

    —Boom-or-bust player who won't have an impact outside flash plays unless he's developed.

                

    OVERALL

    Kahale Warring is an exciting prospect who has excellent athleticism and potential to be a game-breaking tight end, but he does need to be developed. He'll have immediate potential as an up-the-seam target and red-zone threat but will need to learn the intricacies of blocking and route running.

                   

    GRADE: 6.00 (ROUND 3 — ROOKIE IMPACT/FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Dallas Goedert

4. Dawson Knox, Ole Miss

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Natural hands-catcher with ideal size (6'4", 254 lbs) and the ability to make plays up the seam or on breaking routes; big catch radius to get the ball away from his body.

    —Former high school quarterback who understands route concepts, timing and space.

    —Owns zone routes in the middle of the field; makes himself a big target and works back to the quarterback.

    —Routes are clean and athletic; throttles down well to transition and has explosive movements out of his breaks.

    —Tough guy after the catch; looks to pick up yards with the ball in his hands and can run over tacklers.

    —Effort blocker in run and pass games; has athleticism to mirror and the feet to get to the second level in the run game.

                              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Raw prospect who needs time to develop but lacks top-end juice and agility.

    —Limited production with no touchdowns in college and only 15 catches in 2018.

    —Plays with his eyes over his toes too often and gets off-balanced.

    —NFL clubs will have to consider his injury history; has been banged up a lot.

                            

    OVERALL

    Dawson Knox is a traits-based prospect who could be developed into a nice up-the-seam target and red-zone threat. While he's not as athletic as the other top tight ends in the class, he's fast enough to be a problem for defenses and has developmental upside.

                     

    GRADE: 6.75 (ROUND 2 — ROOKIE IMPACT/FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Greg Olsen

3. Irv Smith Jr., Alabama

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Versatile offensive weapon who can play tight end, fullback or a mix of the two.

    —Athletic mover who has light feet, good overall body agility and is fast enough to pull away from defenders in a route tree that was highly developed at Alabama.

    —Routes are clean and well-defined; strong at the top of his route and has clean breaks and cuts when working away from defenders.

    —Can't be covered by most linebackers due to his combination of route running, speed and strength.

    —Willing, able blocker in the run game who is at his best when getting the angle on a defender and using his quickness to neutralize them.

                                

    WEAKNESSES

    —Undersized at 6'2", 242 pounds with 31½-inch arm length and 9½-inch hands.

    —Combine testing was below-average in the three-cone (7.32 seconds), vertical jump (32½") and broad jump (110").

    —Raw player who needs time to develop physically to add strength, but also must develop better route awareness and blocking instincts.

    —Lets the ball into his frame too often and can juggle or bobble passes before bringing them in.

                     

    OVERALL

    Irv Smith Jr. is a fun tight end prospect who will be a pet toy for innovative offensive minds. He can line up in a variety of roles and be an impact blocker or receiver no matter the situation. Teams that run a two-tight end set might like his skill set the best.

                              

    GRADE: 6.75 (ROUND 2 — ROOKIE IMPACT/FUTURE STARTER)

    PRO COMPARISON: Trey Burton 

2. Noah Fant, Iowa

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    STRENGTHS

    —Ridiculous athlete who ran a 4.5 in the 40, jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical, 10 feet, 6 inches in the broad and then ran a 6.81-second three-cone drill.

    —Great catch radius with the athleticism and flexibility to make grabs away from his 6'4", 249-pound frame; will go up high to challenge on 50-50 balls with a great vertical jump but also goes low to get balls off the turf.

    —Very productive, especially in the red zone. Is able to score with yards-after-catch speed or by posting up defenders.

    —Gets to top speed in a hurry; will leave linebackers yards behind him in coverage and must be accounted for by a safety over the top. Will cause defenses to panic.

    —Better blocker than many think; will slide and mirror in the passing game and is quick enough to win in the run game and get to the second level.

    —Can be lined up anywhere in the formation and have success; won't be limited to certain roles or alignments.

    —Intelligent student-athlete who wants to be a surgeon after football.

                              

    WEAKNESSES

    —Doesn't fight through contact well and can be rubbed off routes over the middle.

    —Lacks play strength and could stand to bulk up and add power to his game.

    —Could add urgency to his routes; will get a little soft and let the ball come to him instead of attacking it.

    —Is not always a dynamic route-runner and can be robotic in his movements.

              

    OVERALL

    Noah Fant is unlike anything most evaluators have seen from an athletic standpoint. He's fast, agile and brings an exciting element to red-zone plays. He's also still developing both physically and mentally within the sport, which offers a nice bump of upside for whichever team drafts him in the first round.

                   

    GRADE: 7.00 (ROUND 1 — TOP-15 PLAYER POTENTIAL)

    PRO COMPARISON: Jimmy Graham

1. T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    STRENGTHS

    —John Mackey Award (best college tight end) winner as a redshirt sophomore after he caught 49 balls for 760 yards and six touchdowns.

    —Young 21-year-old who is still growing and learning while already dominating; should rapidly develop in the NFL.

    —Scheme-versatile tight end who can play in line, flexed out or even in the backfield; has enough athleticism to be used in a variety of roles and situations.

    —Great hands with top-notch body control and an ability to get in position to make tough catches. Incredibly competitive making catches in traffic and can own 50-50 balls up the seam or on the sideline.

    —Impact blocker in both run and pass game; hooks on defenders and drives them out of the spot in the run game.

    —High awareness means he's finding soft spots in zones, working back to the quarterback and helping the offense move.

    —More quick than fast but has good burst to push away from coverage.

    —Well-developed route tree; can run anything from outs to seam routes.

                                           

    WEAKNESSES

    —One-year wonder who flashed onto the scene and then declared for the draft.

    —Needs to keep growing into his 6'5", 251-pound frame and even add strength.

    —Patience and control as a blocker must be learned; overly aggressive at the point of attack.

                            

    OVERALL

    T.J. Hockenson is among the best tight ends evaluated by this group. He's a sticky blocker, above-average athlete and fantastic route-runner. He should walk into the NFL as a high-level starter with the potential to become the best tight end in the game.

    GRADE: 7.25 (ROUND 1 — TOP-15 PLAYER POTENTIAL)

    PRO COMPARISON: Travis Kelce