Back tracking to the 2019 NFL Draft, the tight end group shattered nearly every record. The position took a step back last season with no prospect coming off the board until the Chicago Bears selected Cole Kmet with the No. 43 overall pick. The potential in the 2021 crop shows signs of being more like the group from two years ago compared to their predecessors from the last draft cycle.
Having already discussed quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, my summer scouting series continues with a look at the upcoming group of tight ends. It's a position group that already has lots of scouts and evaluators excited heading into next season.
1. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State, Junior
(6-foot-5, 260 pounds)
What Stands Out: No matter the situation, the Nittany Lion tight end finds some way to be competitive within it. As a blocker, it is essential for him to finish and he seems to be dissatisfied if unable to do so. When he’s able to complete the task though, he’s not shy about letting opponents know about it. Freiermuth does whatever he can to enter and stay within the head of matchups to eventually wear them down into submission. He shows lots of savvy against all types of coverage. Particularly shining when faced with zone coverage, he has a knack for finding the soft spots in zones and turning his eyes back to the quarterback as soon as he finds a crease. Proven to be a security blanket for throwers, Freiermuth finished last season with a 89.6 percent target catch rate. He's proven to be near automatic when it the ball comes in his direction as he hauled in 43 out of possible 48 targets that were deemed catchable.
He contains big mitts that he uses to snatch the ball out of the air. His hands are reliable and he has the ability of knowing which catch type to execute. In traffic, he has the awareness of shielding his body to put it into positions between only him and the ball. The upcoming junior tight end has shown to be capable of making catches even when bodies are draped around his frame.
What Must Improve: Freiermuth has all of the tools in order to be an effective in-line blocker, but his footwork, helmet placement, and over aggressiveness are the areas that he's shown the most concern. Used in a multitude of ways, he has been the most inconsistent as a blocker. While far from a liability, it's a matter of fixing his technique and hand placement to match the aggressiveness that he's shown at the point of attack.
Scouts Take: He flirted with coming out last year and I thought he was ready. Him returning was huge for that program, but I think he's pro ready right now. It all comes down to how comfortable you feel with him being attached to the line of scrimmage. He's the most complete of the big names at the position by far.
2. Kyle Pitts, Florida, Junior
(6-foot-6, 240 pounds)
What Stands Out: Pitts is a glider as a route-runner. He’s able to transition in and out of areas of the field with ease. He has the long strides and long speed in order to cover more ground than it appears because of his long frame. Used on a variety of different routes, his most consistent were dig routes over the middle of the field, quick outs, and when used as the underneath option on designed naked or bootlegs back across the field. The star Gator tight end understands how to use his slinky build in order to fit into tight spaces in coverages, but also remain skinny and exit out of those same regions. Often targeted on multi-level concepts along the sideline and over the middle, Pitts is fully aware of how to make an already large frame even more accessible to the quarterback's vision.
Pitts has shown to be a big-body target for quarterbacks. Combined with great hands, he’s often able to snatch on-target passes out of the air, but also prone to be a scapegoat for off-target throws as well. Because of his long arms and far reach, he can dig the ball out when it's thrown low, but also extend vertically to trap passes out of the air.
What Must Improve: Pitts releases at the line of scrimmage are extremely underdeveloped and there are times of where he lined up as an outside receiver. The answer from defenses was highly effective because they forced their cornerbacks to press and crowd his frame. There were problems with breaking free from those hands inside of his frame. So much that he was pushed and carried near the out of bounds line at certain points (Georgia – 2019). Possessing a naturally frail frame, Pitts has lots of room to grow on his body. With broad shoulders and a body structure that has lots of capacity to add weight onto it, he has the vacant dimensions necessary in order to pack on 10-plus pounds overall. Still a relatively young prospect overall, his physique is far from being a finished product.
Scouts Take: "He's really, really lean, but he's also only 19 (years old) still. He's a younger guy and his development has exceeded his body, but when it all matches up together, he's a handful for defenses. They require him to play in the box and he'll give you all that he has and it's just enough to sustain when battling in there. Everyone knows that his game is all about the receiving part though. That's where he'll make his money on our level too. Treat him like an extension of your wide receiver group. If you do, he can provide lots of value that way."
3. Brevin Jordan, Miami, Junior
(6-foot-3, 235 pounds)
What Stands Out: A true jack of all trades type, Jordan has received reps from all positions on the field. Whether it’s in-line, flexed out, the hip of offensive tackles, or even in the backfield, he has experienced repetitions from all of those types of alignments. That versatility will help him satisfy many roles on the next level as well as many other positions on the perimeter as a route-runner. Treating the route-running portion of his game like a receiver in a sense, Jordan is precise at the top of his routes and adds lots of extra elements when running patterns. He’s able to add additional flare with head fakes, hard jabs steps, and flimsy arms that help create extra separation at the top of his routes. A detailed route=runner, he has lots of awareness and a knack for knowing how to create airspace between him and defenders when in one-on-one situations.
The Hurricanes tight end is a true catch-and-accelerate target who seeks extra yardage as soon as the ball is within his catch radius. With lots of strong grabs on his resume, he’s sufficient with snagging the ball out the air and being quickly able to gain yards afterwards in a hurry. He’s able to maximize plays and create even greater ones because of his determination once possessing it.
What Must Improve: Jordan is simply a try-hard blocker who isn’t afraid to stand in there and jostle for positioning, but as a single blocker, he lacks the awareness and technique necessary in order to be considered a consistent option in that department. He’s able to hold his ground and fight, but if asked to sustain by his lonesome for an extended period of time, that is where the asking price will exceed what he can offer at the point of attack. His best blocks have come when asked to block in-line and become a play starter for pin-pull running concepts.
Scouts Take: "He really came on as a sophomore. I thought they could've allowed him to do a bit more as a pass catcher considering how dynamic he was, but maybe they will now with King (D'Eriq) throwing it. He's the complete package as a receiving threat though. He has no idea what he's doing as a run blocker, but he tries hard, and will stand in there to fight, which is half the battle. He's a first-rounder if he plays well again this year."
4. Charlie Kolar, Iowa State, Redshirt Junior
(6-foot-5, 255 pounds)
What Stands Out: No matter the level of chaos surrounding his frame, Kolar has demonstrated the ability of being able to make contested grabs despite the elements within his immediate environment. Bodies draped on him have no ill effect on his in-play process and he’s able to haul in passes with the same amount of consistency as if he were wide open. Used predominantly in the middle of the field, Kolar has been able to make that area of the field his neighborhood, but all of his end zone production during the 2019 season came in the red zone. With all seven of his touchdown receptions coming in the plus-25 area of the field, he was the go-to target for the Cyclone offense. Because of his skill set and go-up-and-get-it reliance, he became the top option in that area as a result.
What Must Improve: Not being a tight end that is heavily reliant on explosive plays, he’s made a living with dominating between the hashes and gaining the yardage that’s available to him. Kolar won’t give you much after the catch, as a bulk of his playing style centers around what happens up to the catch point. He won’t bring much maneuverability, either, as he only recorded 168 yards after the catch of his 697 yards total from last season. With his most frequent pre-snap positioning coming at the hip of the offensive tackle and from the in-line position, he’s used often as a run blocker. Kolar shows lots of activity with his hands and isn’t shy about mixing it up with down lineman as a blocker, but his upper half hardly ever marries up with his base. The Cyclone tight end will be adequate in this area, but he may face challenges if asked to serve as a consistent extension of the offensive front. Failing to keep sufficient hand positioning has resulted in slipping off of blocks and demonstrating unsound techniques.
Scouts Take: "Oh, man. Yeah. The Cyclone kid. He popped on tape when I watched him. He's not nearly as explosive as you would like at the position, but he overcomes that because he's so good in traffic. He reminds you a bit of Rudolph from the Vikings. Same body structure, ways they win, and they won't give you a ton after the catch, but they're such a great target for your quarterback especially in the red zone."
5. Matt Bushman, BYU, Senior
(6-foot-5, 240 pounds)
What Stands Out: Bushman has often been flexed out wide as the single receiver in order to create isolated matchups between he and smaller defensive backs. A clear indicator that some type of pattern was eventually coming his way, but he still remained consistent with being able to win those schemed opportunities. A major piece of the BYU offense, he quickly became a reliable option for them in lots of different areas as an offensive weapon. A well put together frame enabled him to have an effect in multiple ways as he continued to get better as the season progressed.
What Must Improve: In-line blocking and the techniques that come with it remain a work in progress. Bushman isn’t a technically savvy type of blocker. Instead, he will position his body into certain angles in hopes of winning simply off of having a winning body alignment. His feet often go dead after contact and it results in him being overwhelmed. He has experience with running routes from various platforms and pre-snap stances, but when flexed out, he has struggles winning when challenged at the line. Unnecessary extra steps at the beginning of routes provided matchups extra time to land their hands on his frame cleanly.
- Dec 06, 2022
- Dec 05, 2022