Ask 10 different draft analysts, and you might get 10 different answers when ranking this year’s tight ends.
Fanspeak’s On the Clock draft simulator currently has five tight ends among its top 100 players, with Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam (No. 44), Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney (66) and Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins (70) the highest ranked.
Two tight ends wound up getting drafted last season in the first round: Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson (No. 8) and Noah Fant (No. 20).
Overall, eight tight ends were drafted in the first 100 picks in the 2019 draft, including Irv Smith Jr. of Alabama (50), Drew Sample of Washington (52), Josh Oliver of San Jose State (69), Jace Sternberger of Texas A&M (75), Kahale Warring of San Diego State (86) and Dawson Knox of Ole Miss (96).
How does this year’s tight end class stack up against last season?
For starters, there likely isn’t a tight end who will wind up going in the first round. In fact, it’s possible that a tight end won’t get selected until the late second or even the third round.
The other issue with this tight end class: There’s no consensus top player at the position.
Okwuegunam, a redshirt junior, is having a down year. He’s caught 22 passes for 280 yards and six touchdowns after catching 43 passes for 466 yards in 2018 and snagging 11 TDs his redshirt freshman season.
Likewise, Pinkney has also seen his production fall this season, as the 6-foot-4, 260 pound senior has caught just 15 passes for 157 yards and no touchdowns. He entered the season on the John Mackey Award watch list due in large part to his junior season in which he caught 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. It was the most receptions by a Vanderbilt tight end since 1984.
Brycen, on the other hand, has seen his production steadily increase over the past four seasons, as his receptions and receiving yards have gone up every year. Through 10 games, Hopkins has 45 receptions for 561 yards and three TDs. He only needs 23 yards receiving to top last season’s mark, and he’s two TDs away from surpassing his previous-high (4), set his freshman year.
Two of the next three highest-ranked TEs, according to Fanspeak, have all dealt with injuries this season.
Grant Calcaterra (6-4, 240; No. 76) has been out since suffering an undisclosed injury in Oklahoma’s Oct. 5 win over Kansas. Oregon’s Jake Breeland (6-5, 250, No. 106) suffered a season-ending knee injury in a mid-October game against Colorado.
However, Stanford tight end Colby Parkinson (6-7, 251; No. 83) has had a solid senior year with a career-best 36 receptions. With 412 receiving yards, Parkinson only needs 74 more yards to surpass last year’s total, though he’s also caught just one touchdown.
The question marks at the position may wind up helping a few small school prospects, most notably Dayton’s Adam Trautman (6-6, 253) and Portland State’s Charlie Taumoepeau (6-3, 245). Trautman, who has 57 receptions for 755 yards and 13 TDs, is ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s No. 3 tight end, while Taumoepeau has caught 33 passes for 456 yards and 2 TDs.
Kiper has Pinkney and Okwuegbunam as his top-two tight ends in this draft class.