CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Tight Ends

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Tight Ends

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CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Tight Ends

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Tight Ends


From the college football perspective, who are the top tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft?


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Ask any fantasy football owner about the state of the tight ends in the NFL world. There are some really, really big needs out there for a big, matchup-problem pass catcher who can be a reliable top target to make the passing game easier.

Fortunately, there are several potential superstars in this group. There are prototypes, producers, and athletes who fit the type. Get the right one, and your offense is transformed.

So what’s the college football analysis and take on the 2017 NFL Draft tight end class? Who can play, and who can’t? It’s this simple – who are the ones who matter, and who are the ones who are just guys who’ll make it if someone gets lucky?

After seeing and covering these guys from recruiting until completion, from the college football perspective …

2017 NFL Draft: Tight Ends

1. David Njoku, Miami

If you’re going to project upside, go bigger. O.J. Howard has everything to be great, but there’s still a question mark about whether or not he’ll go from good to Gronk. He’ll be fantastic, but Njoku could turn out to be even more special.

A total freak of nature, the 6-4, 245-pounder can jump out of the stadium, is functionally strong, and can be uncoverable by smallish defensive backs and can dominate around the goal line. He’s still a work in progress – he needs to be a more polished receiver, and he’s got to be a technically better blocker – but what’s already there is amazing.

You can’t go wrong with him or Howard – or Evan Engram – but the upside is higher.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

2. O.J. Howard, Alabama

The prototype. He’s 6-6, 250 pounds with smarts, speed, receiver quickness and strength, it’s all there to be special – so why wasn’t he used more by the Crimson Tide? Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin aren’t dumb. They obviously know what they had, and it’s not like they didn’t know how to utilize top targets – Amari Cooper got the ball early and often. What’s missing?

Howard should blow up with more work thrown his way, but the lack of consistent college production is just enough to be a wee bit leery about him being a sure-thing superstar. There’s no bust potential, but considering the respect the GMs and scouts have for Saban, and knowing there has to be some reason Howard didn’t get the ball his way several times a game, there’s a shot he drops a wee bit.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss

The only problem is his lack of bulk. The 6-3, 234-pounder is a wide receiver, and he needs to be used like it. A matchup nightmare, he’s got 4.4 speed and great quickness to go along with his excellent size. He might be the third tight end taken, but some team will have him as the first TE on its draft board.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

4. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech

Blow off any of the potential knocks – yeah, he’s a quarterback playing tight end. He’s got 6-6, 255-pound size and he’s among the most athletic tight ends in the draft. There are some rough edges that need smoothing out in terms of being a more natural receiver, but he’s smart, knows how to get open, and knows how to produce.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

5. Jake Butt, Michigan

Another cautionary tale for why top players should skip bowl games, he’d probably be the first tight end off the board if he didn’t tear his ACL in the Orange Bowl. With extremely high character and great hands, he’s what offensive coordinators want in a mid-range tight end target. It’s not athletic enough to be special, but when he’s healthy, he’ll be a solid starter.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

6. Jordan Leggett, Clemson

Extremely quick for a 260-pound target, he’s got dangers downfield route-running ability and wide receiver skills as a pass catcher. While he might not be a killer of a blocker, and he’s not all that fluid, with his size and tools, he’ll be an NFL factor.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

7. Adam Shaheen, Ashland

Welcome to one of the guys who’ll be among the highest-drafted small school prospects. At 6-6 and around 280, he’s massive, strong, and has basketball athleticism to go along with fantastic hands. Everything is there, except for the resume against good competition.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

NFL Draft: Dumb Luck If Any Of These Tight Ends Are NFL-Good Starters

8. Jonnu Smith, FIU

While he might not be quite as big as a lot of teams might like – he checked in at 6-3 and 248 pounds – he’s really, really quick. Known more nationally for getting boiling water dumped on him in an argument with his girlfriend, he was one of Conference USA’s best weapons. If he can be a more reliable receiver, he’ll stick.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

9. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas

Try to forget about him getting suspended for a bowl game for his issues in a Belk. He’s got prototype size, blasting blocking ability, and good enough receiving ability to get by. He’ll drop a round or two because of the shoplifting incident, but on upside, he’s one of the few good hitting tight ends in the draft.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

10. George Kittle, Iowa

Athletic, he’s got downfield speed that wasn’t utilized enough in the Hawkeye attack. There’s upside here – he was banged up with a foot problem last season and wasn’t quite right. He could blossom as a fast No. 2 TE option.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

NFL Draft: Draft Them. Don’t. Whatever.

11. Pharaoh Brown, Oregon

Very strong and very big, he offers a massive catching radius with good upside. He’s not the most natural of receivers, but he still came up with a good year despite missing some time. But how much tread is there on the tires after the broken leg suffered a few years ago?

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 6th Round

12. Cole Hikutini, Louisville

A key part of the Lamar Jackson/Louisville machine, Hikutini isn’t going to block anyone, but he’s a sure-thing receiver who blossomed after coming in from the JUCO ranks. He’s still getting better – he’s not a finished product yet – with the athleticism to become a dangerous late-round flier.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

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