Indianapolis doesn’t need a 1st-round pick to find its next tight end in the upcoming NFL draft
The 2022 tight end class has been called historically deep by draft evaluators, but it’s possible – if not probable – that none of them are taken in the first round.
That would be just fine with Indianapolis, as the Colts don’t have a first-round pick due to the Carson Wentz trade and need a tight end.
The Colts’ TEs were led by two-time Pro Bowler Jack Doyle and backup Mo Alie-Cox. Doyle will be 32 by the time next season starts and will be a free agent at the end of the season. However, he’s coming off two consecutive average years after catching 29 passes for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
You can blame some of those numbers on the emergence of Alie-Cox, the former undrafted basketball player from VCU who’s an unrestricted free agent. The two nearly split playing time 50-50 this past season, with Doyle receiving 643 snaps on offense to Alie-Cox’s 609. Alie-Cox caught 24 passes for 316 yards and 4 TDs.
This might be the year to draft one.
Steve Muench of ESPN and Scouts Inc. is among those who have said this current TE class has the chance to be historic. He said in ESPN’s Senior Bowl preview that Colorado State TE Trey McBride (No. 63 in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board) has a chance during Senior Bowl practices to prove he’s worth taking in the first round.
And if McBride isn’t available when Indianapolis is on the clock in the second round, then Muench said Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert (No. 92), Nevada’s Cole Turner (No. 118), Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely (No. 138) and Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar (No. 150) “all have Day 2 grades and the potential to develop into No. 1 or No. 2 tight ends early in their careers.”
What if Indianapolis doesn’t take a tight end until after the third round?
Likewise, Pro Football Network lauded the quality of TEs who are participating in the Senior Bowl, pointing out that four of its top-five players at the position will take the field. Likely is PFN’s top-rated TE at No. 39 overall prospect.
Whichever tight end Indianapolis drafts – if it does, indeed select one – could conceivably be considered the “top tight end,” as draft evaluators have differing opinions on who that is.
- ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper lists McBride as the top TE, followed by Texas A&M junior Jalen Wydermyer as the second-best. (Wydermyer is also the second-best TE in the Rigdon big board at No. 66 overall). Kiper lists Likely as the ninth-best TE.
- The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, meanwhile, lists Wydermyer as the best tight end and Likely as the eighth-best.
- Wydermyer and McBride are No. 1 and 2, respectively, in Pro Football Focus’ tight end rankings.
And the Colts should have plenty of options if they wait until Day 3 to draft a tight end. There are 16 TEs ranked among the top 258 players in the Rigdon big board. By comparison, 11 were drafted last year, 12 in 2020. The last time 16 tight ends were drafted was 2019, when the Iowa duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant went in the first round.