6-Pack Thursday: Marino's Final 2019 Tight End Rankings and Takeaways

Photo: © John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2019 NFL Draft nearing, my evaluations are concluding and it’s time to start revealing final rankings for the class. This year’s crop of tight end prospects features a mix of top-end talent, solid options through the middle of the Board and some appealing niche guys on Day 3 that have upside. Overall, it’s a deep and talented group. This week’s edition of 6-Pack Thursday is dedicated to revealing my final TE rankings and sharing my top takeaways from the crop. My full rankings can be found at the bottom with scouting reports on each prospect if you click on their name.

I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.

Let’s crack this thing open!

TJ Hockenson is TE1

This crop of tight ends is outstanding, but the one at the top is special. Every NFL team wants to have a quality tight end, but very few of them are actual difference-makers. Hockenson has the upside to become a game-changer.

What's unique about Hockenson is that he offers all the qualities of a classic, throwback tight end combined with the traits needed to excel as a modern day flex weapon. Hockenson can handle blocking in the trenches while also making plays as a receiver. He can be used in the slot or even be asked to stretch the field and Hockenson has the ability to be dynamic. He's a legitimate three-level receiving option that can line up anywhere in the formation, while also providing dominant blocking ability.

I believe Hockenson can be a star in the NFL along the lines of what Kansas City has in Travis Kelce and the 49ers feature in George Kittle.

Kahale Warring is The Sleeper You Want

Warring played literally every sport imaginable in high school, lettering in water polo, basketball, cross country, swimming, soccer and tennis but managed just one season of football. He walked on the football program at San Diego State in 2015 and by 2017, he was a scholarship athlete.

When watching Warring’s tape, his competitive demeanor and natural athletic ability pops. He has the body composition of a guy that has been competing athletically for a long time and I am excited to see how he develops with football as his primary focus. He has every trait needed to succeed as a versatile weapon that produces as a blocker and receiver.

Jace Sternberger’s Ceiling

After two seasons in Kansas where he inexplicably caught a total of one pass for five yards, Sternberger turned to the JUCO ranks before landing with the Aggies where he put together a sensational season.

Sternberger has immense upside as a receiver in the NFL. His route running skills, ability to create after the catch, athleticism and ball skills afford him the ability to attack all three levels of the field with potent playmaking upside. He is dominant when attacking the seam and has an uncanny ability to win on out breaking routes.

He is a highly versatile receiving threat that should be a productive NFL starter that presents considerable matchup problems for opponents.

Irv Smith is Good… BUT

I like Smith a good bit and believe he is deserving of a second round selection. His production as both a blocker and receiver for Alabama in 2018 was outstanding and he profiles as a quality starter in the NFL. With that said, in a deep tight end class, there’s no need to reach or get over-aggressive in a trade up for Smith.

With both Iowa tight ends expected off the board, the New England Patriots at pick No. 32 seems like a natural landing spot for Smith. A tight end-needy team that fills other needs with its first round pick, should not panic and feel the need to get in front of the Patriots to make sure it lands Smith. I’ve been asked quite a bit lately about that possibility and I’d much rather opt for Sternberger or Warring on Day Two than to part with assets in a trade up for Smith. He isn't that dynamic in terms of acceleration and separation quickness to warrant a big move up the order.

Trevon Wesco is a Horse

Go ahead and breakout all the gritty cliches when it comes to Weso; the dude’s just a football player. There is nothing dynamic about his receiving profile, where his lack of separation quickness stands out and there is considerable development needed as a route runner. A team isn’t going to draft Wesco because of the plays he can make in the passing game.

While Wesco can handle basic responsibilities as a receiver and produce, he is a stand out blocker. Wesco can be lined up anywhere in the formation and hold his own. Whether its pass blocking, drive blocking, lead blocking from the backfield or stalk blocking on the perimeter, Wesco illustrates an exciting skill set. For a team searching for a TE2 that is going to be an asset in subpackages in a variety of ways, come get Wesco on Day 3 and prosper. His competitive demeanor and physicality should lead to production as a blocker and in special teams.

Josh Oliver Intrigues Me

He’s still fairly raw, but there is just something about Oliver that I find appealing. A high school wide receiver, Oliver was recruited to San Jose State to play outside linebacker. Because of injuries, Oliver made the switch to tight end and he has a high ceiling as a receiver.

His blend of size, athletic ability, hands and ball skills gives him dynamic receiving upside to every area of the field. While he needs continued development and added play strength to win as a blocker, Oliver is a true size/speed nightmare for defenses to handle as a receiver.


Written By:

Joe Marino

Chief Administrative Officer

CAO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.

Connect: