Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 Tight End Rankings

1) O. J. Howard, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Stats: 114 Receptions, 1726 Yards, 15.1 YPC, 7 TDs
Height: 6'6          Weight: 251
40 Yard Dash: 4.51 Seconds
Vertical: 30 Inches
Bench Press: 22 Reps

To me, Howard is another case of what could have been. Not because he was terrible, but because he was so painfully underutilized by Lane Kiffin during his four years on campus. Howard is an athletic marvel and who Mike Farrell, Rival's director of scouting, called the best tight end he'd scouted in 15 years. All you have to do is look to his two national championship games against Clemson when he hauled in over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is an incredible athlete, like Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen, who creates mismatches as linebackers are usually too slow and safeties get out-muscled by him. And when we say that he is fast, he is truly a superb athlete. He is both heavier and taller than Leonard Fournette and ran the exact same forty time. Watch him take this simple slant route to the house as he outruns both linebackers and the entire secondary. One of the most valuable things that a tight end can bring to the team is the ability to make big plays up the seam which is what Howard brings to the table. What I really like about Howard is that he came back for his senior season to improve both his route running and blocking, in which he accomplished both. He isn't as bulky as some tight ends and may never be a dominant blocker, but he should be good enough that he isn't going to come off of the field. In terms of where he needs improvement, there aren't a lot of areas that concern you right away. He does have a tendency at times to let the ball come to his body instead of attacking it. He has very good hands so it shouldn't be hard to coach him into trying to rip the ball down instead of letting it come to him. And outside of that, I'd like to see him be a bit more physical when running. He can create separation with his speed, but being able to fight off linebackers at the line will be an area he has to improve on for the NFL. But there is no doubt that this kid is oozing with talent and could be taken in the top ten.

Number to Know - 83: For being a potential top 10 pick, Howard only had 83 catches in his last two seasons.

2) David Njoku, Miami Hurricanes
Career Stats: 64 Receptions, 1060 Yards, 16.7 YPC, 6 TDs
Height: 6'4          Weight: 246
40 Yard Dash: 4.64 Seconds
Vertical: 37.5 Inches
Bench Press: 21 Reps

Njoku is another name that has been shooting up big boards and he could see himself picked as high as the mid teens after a very successful final year at Miami. He was one of Brad Kaaya's top targets and one of his best friends on the field, which did show in the game tape. Kaaya was constantly looking for his friend whenever he ran into trouble. Njoku is a bit more well rounded as a tight end than Howard is as he looks like he is a better blocker at the point of attack. Njoku just looks like he is more physical than Howard is at this point in his game. He is going to break a lot more tackles than Howard with his pure strength and seems to relish in running through would be tacklers. The athleticism this Hurricane displays would get him drafted in the first round alone. He can go up and highpoint the ball and uses his body well to box out defensive backs. The cliche comparison for Njoku is Jordan Reed from the Redskins, but truth be told it fits. He flies all over the field and has a knack for creating big plays. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the NFL with a quarterback that can hit him in stride and allow him to take it to the house. 16.7 yards per catch is un freakin' real. It seemed, and ended up being true, that every one of his catches were for over twenty yards. The best part of Njoku is how he raw he still is. The ceiling is so unknown for him and his game still has more room to grow. He will be drafted very early, the question is how early?

Number to Know - 11.2: Number of yards AFTER the catch that Njoku had.

3) Evan Engram, Ole Miss Rebels
Career Stats: 162 Receptions, 2320 Yards, 14.3 YPC, 15 TDs
Height: 6'3          Weight: 234
40 Yard Dash: 4.42 Seconds
Vertical: 36 Inches
Bench Press: 19 Reps

The trend the NFL is moving towards is the smaller, faster tight end position. Clearly athleticism is becoming a more and more natural thing in kids these days and Evan Engram embodies that. Standing at 6'3 and weighing in at 234 pounds, Engram plays like a bigger wide receiver than a tight end. But don't call him a wide receiver. Sure he would not play much on the line alongside offensive tackles, because he would get destroyed by defensive ends, but he can definitely come in and chip and contribute when needed. Engram is a pass catching tight end and he is a mismatch nightmare. Most defensive backs are too small to cover him, especially with that 36 inch vertical leaping ability, and linebackers won't be able to keep up with him. His 4.42 forty yard second dash proved what was on tape, Engram is freaky fast. If OJ Howard is Greg Olsen and David Njoku is Jordan Reed, who does Engram most emulate? The answer is Jordan Reed. Engram and Njoku are very similar players. The athleticism and rawness is very apparent but Engram could be on another level. While always being productive and finding ways to get on the field, he seemed to find another level his senior year. Engram is following that new trend of tight ends but is creating another level of mismatch nightmares for defensive coordinators.

Number to Know - 4.42: Engram's forty time was the top forty yard dash for all tight ends at the 2016 NFL Combine.

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