April 17, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
The Top 4 Tight Ends in the 2016 NFL Draft
Looking at this tight end class, it may be one of the weakest in years. There are some prospects who can potentially turn into fairly good move type tight ends but there are very few prospects who can make a living playing the “Y” tight end. This isn’t a fault of the players, it is what the college game is producing at the position right now at the position. There is little or no premium put on in-line blocking. Hunter Henry – Arkansas – Henry has only been a fulltime starter for one season (2015), before that he was a part time starter and played in a rotation. This year he lined up in the slot, flexed out and in tight. He is athletic and run well. He didn’t run at the Combine but came back to time 4.67 at the Arkansas pro day. Henry is a good route runner who does a good job working to get open. He shows he can get in and out of cuts quickly and can gain separation. After the catch he shows good run skills. Where he needs work is in the blocking game. He plays with no power, seldom gets movement and lacks snap in his hips. AT Indy he only did 13 reps of 225 which is poor for the position. He came back 3 weeks later to do 21 reps at his pro day. In all honesty, in over 30 years of doing this work I have never seen a player improve by eight reps in three weeks. Three or four reps maybe but not eight. Something is wrong with this equation. Austin Hooper – Stanford Probably the most “complete” tight end in this class is Stanford’s Austin Hooper. By the nature of the Stanford offense, Hooper has to line up as a “Y” at times and block at times He just may be the best blocker in the position group this year. That said, he still needs to play with more strength and aggressiveness as a blocker. As a receiver he is a good route runner who shows he can uncover versus man and zone. While not a “burner” he has enough speed to get open deep as well as underneath. Hooper has soft hands and does a good job adjusting to the ball. After the catch he shows strong run skills. Being that Hunter was only a third year sophomore with two year of eligibility left, he is very young and has upside. He could very easily get drafted in the second round or third round. Nick Vannett – Ohio State When you look at Vannett physically, he looks like the proto-typical NFL tight end. He’s 6’6 – 257 pounds and runs 4.85. You would think that with his frame, he is a top blocker. He isn’t! In the Ohio State offense Vannett was used more as the move tight end than the “Y”. Vannett shows a willingness to block and he is able to get good position but he is not explosive and does not consistently get movement. He does a much better job when blocking on the move. As a receiver, he lacks top end speed but he can uncover versus zone coverage. He will never challenge a defense deep but he can be a consistent short range theat. Tyler Higbee – Western Kentucky Higbee was having a strong 2015 at Western Kentucky until a knee injury cut short his season and he missed the final four games. In nine games, he had 38 receptions for 563 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is a good route runner, can adjust to the ball, has soft hands and is a good runner after the catch. As a blocker he is adequate. He shows a willing ness but lacks the strength and power to get movement at the NFL level. He has the frame to get bigger and stronger, so the ability to develop as a blocker is there. What hurts Higbee going into the draft are obviously his knee injury and also he had a recent assault arrest. How clubs feel about his knee was found out at the medical rechecks this weekend in Indianapolis. As for the criminal charge, clubs will have to do their research to see if it is a situation that makes Higbee undraftable.