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With the 2017 NFL Draft coming up in a couple months, let’s take a look at some of the top tight ends and where they might go in the draft.
Here’s the specs:
O.J. Howard – 6’5″ 249 lbs
2016 stats: 45 receptions 595 yards 3 TD’s
O.J. Howard seems to be the unanimous number one tight end in the draft. Alabama runs a pro style offense so is shouldn’t be a hard transition. They have a run first offense so he is used to being asked to block. Howard is a three down tight end who can line up anywhere and used in any formation. His combination of size and speed makes him a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field. Howard can be a dangerous weapon for any offense. He is a large target with an enormous catch radius. He utilizes his giant hands and long arms to attack the ball rather than rely on his body to catch the ball. Howard can secure contested throws and adjust to poor passes. Additionally, he is explosive for a tight end, enough to create separation and yards after the catch. Howard is comparable to Greg Olsen and is projected to be drafted in the first round.
David Njoku – 6’4″ 245 lbs
2016: 43 receptions 698 yards 8 TD’s
Njoku is a former high school track athlete who can explode off the line of scrimmage. He is great out of his breaks to create separation, but could improve his route running. His speed can stretch the field and run away from defenders in man coverage. His long arms create a large catch radius and he can make acrobatic catches with great body control. Njoku is a threat after the catch as well as a legit red zone threat. He needs to improve as a blocker, but is willing to do so. His inexperienced at the position is a concern, but has a high ceiling. He is also comparable to Greg Olsen and is a potential first round pick. However, Njoku is most likely a second day guy.
Evan Engram – 6’3″ 236 lbs
2016 stats: 65 receptions 926 yards 8 TD’s
Engram is versatile and athletic. He can literally line up anywhere. He can setup in-line, in the slot, out wide or even in the back field like he did at Ole Miss. He can work at all three levels. Engram can also explode off the line of scrimmage. He displays great speed within the first five yards of a route. Engram is a smooth route runner who is quick out of his breaks. Evan displays great vertical speed which could be a matchup nightmare for linebackers. He is comparable to Jordan Reed and is likely a 2nd-3rd round pick.
Bucky Hodges – 6’7″ 245 lbs
2016 stats: 48 receptions 691 yards 7 TD’s
Hodges has all three S’s: size, speed, and strength. He bursts off the line, but still isn’t a solid route runner. There is room for improvement. His physicality and hands make him a threat over the middle. His height and elevation makes him a red zone threat. Inexperienced is a concern and he needs to work on his routes. He is inconsistent as a blocker, but appears willing to improve. Hodges is comparable to Jimmy Graham and is likely to go in the 3rd or 4th rounds.
The Chicago Bears could use a reliable tight end, but extremely doubtful at three. Same goes for Tennessee sitting at five. The earliest I can see O.J. Howard taken off the board is at 17 to Washington. The Redskins are a surprise pick, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are set to become free agents and Jordan Reed isn’t a true tight end. Vernon Davis started majority of the season (14 games) and is could hit to open market too. Tennessee has the 18th pick and could use a young replacement for Delanie Walker who turns 33 in August. They need a wideout, but if their guy is gone they may consider Howard a legit plan B.
Tampa Bay would have to consider Howard if he is available at 19. Mike Evans is clearly the number one option, but he needs reliable help. Denver would have to consider him at 20 too. Virgil Green has been disappointing since signing a 3-year, $8.4 million contract. He has just 34 receptions and 410 yards in two seasons. The Broncos have weapons on the outside with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but lack that inside threat. O.J. Howard is that guy. He can start right away and impact the offense immediately.
At 23, the New York Giants are hoping Howard will slip to them. So why wouldn’t they consider David Njoku? Will Tye is Eli Manning’s number one tight end and he caught 48 passes last year. They could use an upgrade. However, I don’t believe they will reach for Njoku. Houston sits at 25 and may opt to get Brock Osweiler a receiving threat at tight end. He uses them as a major security blanket as two of the top three reception leaders were tight ends. The Texans will pass and Njoku will slide into the second round with looks from Dallas and New England along the way.
The Jacksonville Jaguars shook up the board when they traded Julius Thomas to the Miami Dolphins. They are now in desperate need of a tight end to replace Thomas. Marcedes Lewis turns 33 in May and is on the tail end of his career. The Jags reach for David Njoku at 35 in the second round.
Evan Engram could be off the board to New England at 64. Gronk has injury concerns and Bennett wouldn’t be the first one-and-done players for the Patriots. They probably pass and Engram slides into round three. I think the Houston Texans takes a shot at him with the 89th overall pick. Although, I could see the New York Giants taking a swing at Engram with the 87th pick.
Bucky Hodges to Dallas at 92. I hate to say this, but Jason Witten’s time is almost up. The veteran turns 35 in May and would be entering his 15th season. Dallas needs to find a legit replacement for him before it’s too late.
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