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The '22 draft: Tight ends

April 22_TE PreDraft

JACKSONVILLE – Positional importance doesn't always translate in the NFL Draft.

That often has been true in recent years when it comes to tight ends, and many analysts project the 2022 NFL Draft class as one of the position's thinnest in recent memory.

That doesn't mean there are no tight ends available. But the class as a whole?

"I don't think they're that great," NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks said.

Most analysts agree. While tight end is increasingly important in modern NFL offenses, most mock drafts don't project a tight end being selected in Round 1 next Thursday.

Few analysts project the position being selected until late in Round 2.

"There are good players," Brooks said. "You can find guys, but normally you can't find the complete guy."

Finding the complete tight end indeed has proven difficult in recent NFL Drafts, with nine players at the position selected in the last 10 first rounds. Just three tight ends have been selected in the Top 10 during that span, with the Atlanta Falcons last year making Florida tight end Kyle Pitts the earliest tight end selected in history at No. 4 overall.

The challenge of finding tight ends who can block and catch at high level means most tight ends specialize in one area or the other – and Brooks said if this draft lacks players who project as complete tight ends, it does feature players who can play one of the two roles.

Some of the league's top tight ends – including Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers – have been later-round selections, and Brooks said the Jaguars could use such a draft-and-develop approach at the position moving forward.

"Normally, they're wide receivers or they're blockers – but there's nowhere in between," Brooks said. "You can find and manufacture production from these guys. Given [Jaguars Head Coach] Doug Pederson's affinity for the position, if they want to identify one to play a specific role it won't be hard to find those guys on Day 2 or 3."

HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS

This doesn't figure to be a high-profile position for the Jaguars in this draft. The team has made significant strides here in the last year and a half, signing Chris Manhertz as an unrestricted free agent in the 2021 offseason, selecting Luke Farrell in the 2021 NFL Draft, trading for Dan Arnold in September 2021 and signing Evan Engram as an unrestricted free agent in the 2022 offseason. Those moves have turned what long was a weak position into one of the deeper areas of the offense – with Engram and Arnold potentially forming the team's best pass-catching tight-end tandems in recent memory. Still, tight end indeed is a major area of emphasis for Pederson, and he has a reputation for using the position well. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Jaguars select the position in the later rounds with the idea of deepening the spot and developing for the future.

- John Oehser

PROJECTED POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND TIGHT ENDS
Table inside Article
NameCollege
Trey McBrideColorado State
CHANCE JAGUARS TAKE A TIGHT END IN ROUND 1

Essentially zero.

TEs ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER

On the roster:

BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS

The 2022 tight end class features a handful of big-bodied athletes with the size, speed and length to create mismatches on the perimeter – particularly in the passing game. While every coordinator would prefer a "Y" with a well-rounded game that enables him to flourish as a receiver or blocker on the edges, the 2022 class is loaded with jumbo wide receiver types. McBride and UCLA's Greg Dulcich are headliners of the class, but Ohio State's Jeremy Ruckert and Virginia's Jelani Woods are intriguing options as "FLEX" tight ends with "Y" potential. San Jose State's Derrick Deese, Jr, and Texas A&M's Jalen Wydermeyer will garner interest as super-sized pass catchers with red-zone playmaking potential.

BROOKS' SLEEPER

Deese has the size, playmaking skills and bloodlines to carve out a nice career as a pass-catching tight end. The 6-feet-4, 235-pounder is a crafty route runner with the balance and body control to create separation from defenders with subtle fakes at the top of his routes. As a blocker, Deese is a sticky blocker at the point of attack with enough strength and power to move defenders off the ball. Although he needs to bulk up to handle the rigors of playing the position as an every-down player, Deese's upside and potential make him an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on draft weekend.

BROOKS' BEST

The most complete tight end in the draft is McBride. The 6-feet-3, 249-pounder is a sure-handed pass catcher with outstanding route-running skills. McBride utilizes his IQ, savvy and instincts to work the middle of the field like a 10-year veteran. With the Colorado State product also displaying solid skills as a run blocker on the edges, McBride has a chance to carve out a role as a rock-steady "Y" tight end in a multi-faceted scheme.

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