By PFC Draft Writer Andrew Kinsman @PFCAndrewK
In my pre-draft rankings article I predicted that 15-20 TEs would be drafted this year and we did indeed see 16 TEs drafted. Here is my post-draft analysis, in the order that the players were drafted.
CREAM OF THE CROP
The first seven players were all featured in my individual scouting reports (and were selected in the exact order of my positional rankings, with the sole exception that Escobar and Kelce were flipped).
My pre-draft positional rankings are in brackets after the player’s name and the team that drafted him.
1-21. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati (1)
To the surprise of no-one, Eifert was the first TE off the board in the 1st rd, although few expected that he would be picked by the Bengals. They already have Jermaine Gresham at TE, but Eifert provides as nice 1-2 punch as the Bengals looked to tool up on skill-position players (they also took RB Giovani Bernard in the 2nd rd) to provide more weapons for Andy Dalton.
2-35. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia (2)
Chip Kelly lived up to expectations by drafting three offensive players in the first 100 overall picks: Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Matt Barkley. It’s not hard to imagine Ertz putting up big numbers in his rookie year in Kelly’s high-octane offense, and he will probably lead all rookie TEs in receptions.
2-47. Gavin Escobar, Dallas (5)
I only had Escobar as my 5th-rated TE, but (just as they did for Travis Frederick in the 1st rd) the Cowboys reached for Escobar, no doubt reasoning that he would not be very unlikely to last until their 3rd pick. Given that Escobar is not much of a blocker, I don’t see him as a great fit in Dallas, where they already have a very similar but better player in Jason Witten.
2-55. Vance McDonald, San Francisco (4)
Having lost Delanie Walker in free agency, the 49ers replaced him with Vance McDonald, who will be allowed time to develop alongside Vernon Davis. Right now, he isn’t in Walker’s class as a blocker, but he does have the size and raw strength to develop those blocking skills.
3-63. Travis Kelce, Kansas City (3)
I had Kelce as my 3rd-rated TE, but he does have character issues that may have scared some teams away. Having said that, he still went round about where expected at the top of the 3rd rd. To be honest, I was gutted that he didn’t quite make it to the Browns at pick No.68.
3-85. Jordan Reed, Washington (6)
With Fred Davis re-signed but injury-prone (and coming off an Achilles’ injury,) Reed looks like a very good fit for the Redskins as a ‘joker’ receiving TE.
4-106. Dion Sims, Miami (7)
Although the Dolphins picked up Dustin Keller to replace Anthony Fasano in free agency, Keller has been injury-prone, so the Sims pick-up is a logical one. He has the size to be a very good blocker, although he still needs some refinement in that regard.
BEST OF THE REST
I only wrote seven individual TE scouting reports, as it seemed to me that there was a big drop off after Dion Sims. I was therefore quite surprised to see Toilolo and Willson taken in the next couple of rounds, as I had all the other TEs as (at best) 5th rd values. All these tight ends are discussed in more detail in my ‘best of the rest’ scouting reports here.
4-133. Levine Toilolo, Atlanta (17)
Toilolo was Zach Ertz’s back-up at Stanford last year. While I did anticipate that the Falcons would draft a TE to groom as Tony Gonzalez’s replacement, I don’t think Toilolo is that guy, as he isn’t a very reliable receiver. For me, Toilolo was a reach in the 4th rd, as I thought he would last until rd 6 or rd 7.
5-158. Luke Willson, Seattle (21)
Willson is similar to Toilolo, in the sense that he was back-up to Vance McDonald at Rice last season. He suffered an injury-riddled final season, but put up terrific numbers at his pro day. Given that Seattle has a terrific recent record with their late-round picks (such as CB Richard Sherman), it would be no surprise to see Willson become an important contributor in a couple of years time.
6-172. Nick Kasa, Oakland (8)
6-184. Mychal Rivera, Oakland (12)
It is interesting that the Raiders went back-to-back on TEs. Having lost Brandon Myers in free agency, the Raiders had a desperate need in this area, and both Kasa (more of a ‘traditional’ TE) and Rivera (a ‘joker’ TE) have found themselves with a really great opportunity to establish themselves on an NFL roster.
6-201. Ryan Griffin, Houston (14)
The Texans relied exclusively on Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham at TE, so Griffin has a great chance of quickly becoming the No.3 TE on the roster.
7-211. Michael Williams, Detroit (16)
Williams is pretty much exclusively a blocking, but he is good enough in that role that he could well earn himself a final roster spot.
7-219. D.C.Jefferson, Arizona (25)
I honestly didn’t expect Jefferson to be drafted. However, the two main Cardinals TEs last season are not exactly household names (Rob Housler and Jeff King) so Jefferson may have a chance to stick in camp.
7-222. Chris Gragg, Buffalo (9)
After missing much of last season due to injury, Gragg might turn out to be a steal for the Bills at this late stage of the draft. The Bills aren’t strong at the position, relying almost exclusively on Scott Chandler and Lee Smith last year. I really like Gragg’s long-term potential as a ‘joker’ TE for the Bills.
7-254. Justice Cunningham, Indianapolis (20)
Taken as ‘Mr Irrelevant’ as the very last pick in the whole draft, Cunningham finds himself in a somewhat marginal roster situation with the Colts, given that they spent 2nd and 3rd rd picks on Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen only last season and also have Weslye Saunders as their blocking TE. Arguably Cunningham might have been better off going undrafted so that he could choose which team would give him the best chance to contribute.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
Joseph Fauria, Detroit (10)
I had anticipated that despite his obvious deficiencies as a blocker, some team would draft Fauria as a red-zone threat (he scored an incredible 12 TDs last season). I could definitely see him sticking in the high-powered Lions offense.
Ryan Otten, Jacksonville (11)
Despite not being drafted, Otten finds himself in a fantastic spot at Jacksonville, where Marcedes Lewis is the only established TE. I could definitely see Otten as the No.2 TE for the Jaguars sooner rather than later.
Zach Sudfeld, New England (13)
The comment that applies to Sudfeld also apply to Brandon Ford below – Why New England? Their roster of TEs is absolutely stacked: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells all started four or more games for the Pats last season, while they also have Jake Ballard (the former NY Giants starter) is also coming back, having missed the whole of last season due to injury. Both Sudfeld and Ford might have been better served trying to find a team with less depth at TE than the Pats, as they are both going to struggle to earn reps at training camp.
Jake Stoneburner, Green Bay (15)
With the Packers having lost Tom Crabtree in free agency, there is a pretty decent opportunity for Stoneburner to grab a roster spot as the Packers really don’t have much depth at TE behind Jermichael Finley.
Brandon Ford, New England (18)
See comments to Zach Sudfeld, above.
Matt Furstenburg, Baltimore (19)
Although the Ravens have Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson as their top two TEs, they haven’t re-signed Billy Bajema, so Furstenburg has a real shot at the No.3 TE spot
Jack Doyle, Tennessee (22)
With the loss of Jared Cook offset by the acquisition of Delanie Walker, the Titans have three experienced TEs on the roster (Walker, Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson). However, all of those players are better as blockers than as receivers, so Doyle does have a chance to carve out a niche for himself.
T.J.Knowles, Kansas City (23)
With the acquisition of Anthony Fasano through free agency and Travis Kelce via the draft, the Chiefs have significantly upgraded at TE. Last year’s starter Tony Moeaki is now the third-string, so it will be tough for Knowles to make an impression facing such strong competition at his position.
Lucas Reed, Denver (24)
Although the Broncos have Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme at TE, there isn’t a whole lot of depth behind them, so Lucas Reed will get a shot to make the roster.
Philip Lutzenkirchen, St Louis (26)
In free agency the Rams brought in Jared Cook to complement last year’s starter Lance Kendricks. However, there isn’t much on the roster behind those two players, so Lutzenkirchen is another player who has found himself a good opportunity to make the final 53-man roster.
Chris Pantale, NY Jets (27)
Having lost Dustin Keller in free agency, the Jets’ TE cupboard comprises Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland. It is surprising that the Jets didn’t draft a TE, but that does at least open the door slightly for Pantale.
All comments/feedback welcome via Twitter @PFCAndrewK