2019 East-West Shrine Game Preview: Tight Ends

Photo: Sep 16, 2017; Columbia, SC, USA; Kentucky Wildcats tight end C.J. Conrad (87) makes a reception past South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Keisean Nixon (9) in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Get excited football fans, TDN is primed to provide you with unparalleled coverage of the East-West Shrine Game. We have five members of our staff (JC Cornell, Trevor Sikkema, Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino and Jon Ledyard) credentialed for the week to deliver you the most comprehensive analysis possible on the practices and games. To get ready for the event, we’re going to spend the next two weeks previewing the rosters on a position-by-position basis. This Shrine Game positional preview is on the tight ends.

TE can be a weird position for these All-Star games, as the position is filled by an increasing variety of athletes across the many roles a "TE" can fill for college schemes. We've got two 260+ pounders in Missouri's Kendall Blanton and Oregon's Kano Dillon on the West roster, and the third player is Andrew Beck, the Texan TE known for his...blocking. Often players in this mold, who haven't gotten a ton of targets over their career, are brought into these games so NFL teams can check out their pass-catching upside and see if they can contribute more at the next level.

It’s time to give this important event the media coverage it deserves. Practices begin on January 14th and the game itself is on January 19th. All of the published previews are listed below.

Shrine Game Previews

East Roster

The headlining TE for the East roster is probably Daniel Helm, a 4-star recruit who transferred out of Tennessee after just one season. (He and HC Butch Jones did not get along.) A well-rounded player, Helm's best traits are his catch radius and point-of-attack power. He doesn't have wild athleticism, but he does have enough to block out in space. Likely the best player at the position regardless of East/West, Helm is an NFL depth tight end without a trump card beyond his versatility.

Beyond Helm, there's little that excites between Matt Sokol and C.J. Conrad. The best thing C.J. Conrad has ever given us is probably this.


Sokol looked promising coming into the season, as he has a straight-line profile as an athlete that probably isn't matched among his Shrine peers. That said, Sokol failed to illustrate the desired steps forward in 2018, even when you consider the anemic passing attack within which he struggled. Sokol doesn't bring great strength or lateral agility as well, which leaves him a bit hopeless in the class unless he can rediscover and develop that ability as a vertical seam threat.

West Roster

I'm excited to see if there's something special in this West roster of tight ends, as the three players rostered combined for 52 receptions in 2018 -- that's it.

Kano Dillon is the biggest wild card of the three -- he only had 8 receptions as a grad transfer at Oregon following a lackluster career in South Florida. Dillon's a monstrosity -- a ripped 6-foot-5, 262 pounds -- and he's won as a downfield weapon in his career. That said, he only started 9 games at the Power 5 level, and couldn't outmuscle Jake Breeland for the significant pass-catching reps at TE in Oregon offense. He's got the frame to play in the league -- but is he worth the upside pick?

Speaking of upside, Kendall Blanton is the dude that Jon Ledyard has been talking up a bit. He's a Day 3 type, but he has a massive frame (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) and brings nice strength through his routes and at the contact point as a blocker. He's severely lacking for athleticism, however, and as such profiles as a depth tight end. Hands are strong away from his frame, though.Blanton was also given the Curtis Jones Champion of the Year award by the program, which lauds his on- and 0ff-field character.

Last but not least is Andrew Beck, the grinder of all grinders in the Texas offense. Beck is a pure blocker, who brings good angles, lower body power, and tenacity to the contact point in the first and second levels. He doesn't have great movement skills, however, and that may get exposed at the next level when blocking in space. Where does a glorified fullback go in the NFL Draft? Not high, but with a solid Shrine Week, he could play his way into a draftable grade and stick because of his special-teams ability. I think his athleticism kills him, though.


Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Director of Special Projects

Director of Special Projects and Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast. The 3-Wide Raven.