Tight End Pre-Season Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Welcome to part 3 of my summer scouting series. This post will preview the TE class. If you missed my previous posts in this series, click here! Follow me on twitter to keep up with the blog! https://twitter.com/Simple_Scouting
To preview the 2021 class, I watched 10 eligible draft prospects and rank them based on their talent, athleticism, production, and potential. My TE grading categories include receiving, blocking, athleticism, RAC/Elusiveness, and hands/ball skills.
Nick Muse (South Carolina)
Peyton Hendershot (Indiana)
Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State)
Miller Forristall (Alabama)
Cade Brewer (Texas)
Cary Angeline (NC State)
Noah Gray (Duke)
Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss)
Now for my rankings!
At #1 we have Brevin Jordan
Watching Jordan was a breath of fresh air. Not only is he athletic and a solid receiving option in the offense, but he actually gives his all when he's blocking. He looks like the only athletic tight end with a complete skill tree. He’s a quality route runner who can create mismatches on short routes and deep over the middle. He’s fluid in his routes and shows sudden breaks. When he gets the ball he possesses the speed, burst, and strength to create yards for himself. His blocking looked really solid and he can hold his own against bigger edge defenders. There needs to be more production besides him making plays on screens and slants over the middle, so hopefully he can prove his receiving ability further down the field this season. Jordan may not have the highest potential of these tight ends, but he's certainly the most complete. In this clip you can see his burst off the line and he does a great job of surviving contact on the catch, making his way into the endzone.
#2 - Kyle Pitts - Florida
Pitts is a top level athlete playing tight end, and he's smooth like a wide receiver. As a tight end of his size and athleticism, he creates mismatches that most defenses can’t cover. He creates separation off the line with jab steps and fakes, and he knows how to set up his route angles. What makes it really difficult for defenders to cover him is his explosiveness. He can also create yards for himself after the catch with his speed and strength. If he can clean up his route breaks and improve his technique to snap them off, defenses will struggle to contain him. This season I’m looking for him to improve his technique, add some deception to his routes, and improve his strength as a blocker. He's gained some muscle this offseason as well to fill out his frame, so I'm already liking his progress. It was tough to choose just one clip for Pitts, but I believe this one highlights the potential he has as a receiving target. Here he's lined up against Noah Igbinoghene. Nice jab steps on his release and he's explosive getting off the line. He makes the back shoulder catch and I love how he seamlessly transitions to a runner.
#3 - Pat Freiermuth - Penn State
He's been dubbed "Baby Gronk" and I can see that in his RAC ability, but I'm just not there yet with his blocking. Maybe I was coming in to his tape with too high of expectations, but I think there is a lot of development needed in his game, and I'm really glad he decided not to declare for this past draft. However, he is a special TE prospect not just because of his mismatch ability at the position, but also what he can do after the catch. He runs clean and effective routes at the short level and once he gets the ball he can absolutely bulldoze defenders. His combination of contact balance and speed makes it tough to bring him down. His route running technique seems to decrease the further his route is, so I want to see him clean this up. He is a flex TE all the way through, and his blocking ability is still very far from where it needs to be. The potential is there and I'm excited for him to put it all together. This play of Freiermuth is just absurd. He destroys the defensive back to bully his way into the endzone.
#4 - Jake Ferguson - Wisconsin
I love his ability to do it all, but he's just a bit behind the top 3 in terms of athleticism. He's the type of prospect that will be a solid player in the NFL for multiple years. Ferguson is a strong run blocker with upside receiving skills. When blocking on the edge he shows good strength and stance to hold up the line, and once he gets to the second level he drives defenders back. He’s got some quality receiving skills and runs his routes fluidly. His breaks are sharp and his hand usage on his breaks and release provide him additional separation. He also flashes fakes and hesitations on his stems. His blocking technique could use work, especially in pass protection where he cannot sustain blocks due to his poor footwork. More skilled defenders also stack and shed him too easily in pass protection. However, he is a good in-line TE prospect who can block and run routes effectively. Great ball skills from Ferguson in this clip. He looks back late and turns his body to the opposite side of his initial direction, securing the catch for the TD.
#5 - Tre McKitty - Georgia
McKitty has grad transferred from Florida State to Georgia, and I think Georgia is getting an underrated TE. While he isn’t as athletic as some others on this list, I think he has better receiving skills. He runs fluid routes and he does well to snap off his breaks, displaying great footwork and technique. He can really sink his hips and explode out. He also understands how to generate his angles on release and at the top of his stems. I would say his route running is fairly polished right now. I love his vision and creativity as a runner in open space. His blocking technique needs a lot of work, but he has the strength to deliver some big hits. I think he projects well as an H-back, who can run effective routes and be a big blocker to punish defenders in the hole. In the play below you can see his vision and strength in the open field. He does well to plant his foot and change direction.
#6 - Kylen Granson - SMU
There are times where Granson looks like a receiver out there. He displays quick moves on his release and his runs his stems fluidly. His breaks are swift and clean, and he separates easily against linebackers. Great top speed for his size. His receiving ability is a big plus and he projects as a weapon out the slot and off the line. He is not a good blocker by any means. He can at times hold his own as a run blocker, but any skilled defenders easily shed his blocks. He lacks the strength, grip, and footwork to sustain blocks. While he is a poor blocker, it doesn’t really matter for him. His athleticism and receiving ability will be the reason he is drafted because those are the traits that create mismatches. He has the tools to be a solid flex TE at the next level. He also has fantastic ball skills, and you can see that in this clip. He's able to track the ball and make a tough catch through traffic.
#7 - Charlie Kolar - Iowa State
Kolar looks best as a short to intermediate receiving option who he excels against zone coverage. He mainly uses his strength and size to separate, but he also flashes some crafty route running skills. He understands how to generate leverage for his routes, and he has the ability to snap off his breaks with quickness. He is not very explosive or a great athlete, but he shows enough mental and physical strengths to believe he can be a decent receiving TE at the next level. His blocking technique needs a lot of development, so I’m looking for him to grow as a blocker this season. This play below is a great route setup. He sells his route going to the right perfectly, and cuts upfield as the defender opens his hips and gives up inside leverage. He also does well to make the TD catch with the defender on his back.
#8 - Matt Bushman - BYU
Bushman has the athleticism and blocking tools to become a solid in-line TE, with upside as a receiver. He displays good strength and pad level as a blocker and can hold his own on the line. He’s not a great blocker though and he needs to improve his hand placement, grip strength, and footwork. His ball skills are very exciting, as he has soft hands and looks great in contested catch situations. He is a very raw route runner but if he can develop some skills to separate, he could become a very good receiver with his ball skills and RAC ability. Right now he is kind of caught in the middle. He is not a great blocker or route runner, so unless he really improves one of these areas he’ll be a project TE. In the play below, Bushman makes a phenomenal catch as he rises up and reaches around the defender to make the tough catch.
#9 - Nick Eubanks - Michigan
Eubanks is an intriguing blend of size and athleticism. He’s got good speed and acceleration and flashes the ability to snap off breaks. He could be a weapon out of the slot running the seam and other short to intermediate routes. His current route running ability is still raw, but I like the upside. He’s not a horrible blocker but he’s also not good enough to play in-line TE. With his size and athleticism, he can develop into a solid blocker and teams could then move him around on offense, like he is now at Michigan. He needs to produce more as a receiver to really improve his draft stock. He'll likely be the primary TE target this season with McKeon now gone, so the opportunity is there. I like this clip of Eubanks because it highlights how natural he is as a receiver. He's got reliable hands and I like how smooth his catch to run transition is for a TE.
#10 - Luke Farrell - Ohio State
Farrell is low on my list mainly because of his low ceiling. Farrell projects as an in-line TE who will primarily provide as a run blocker. He’s got solid technique, getting low and engaging defenders with great grip strength. He has the power to control and move defenders at the line. He has yet to prove he can be a consistent receiving option, and his athleticism makes me think he’ll never develop into one. He flashed decent breaks on his routes, but most of the time he looks slow and stiff. To stick on an NFL team he’ll need to become an elite blocker, because he’s not yet a viable receiving option. This season I’m looking for him to develop into a great blocker or improve his receiving skills and production. I think the latter will be much more difficult given the other receiving talent at OSU. There weren't too many highlights for Farrell, but the clip below shows some of his strengths as a run blocker. Great strength and pad level as he engages with his pads. He does well to switch from his initial block to the linebacker (#11).
Best Blocker - Brevin Jordan
Best Receiver - Kyle Pitts
Best Athleticism - Kyle Pitts
Best RAC - Pat Freiermuth
Most Potential - Kyle Pitts
Most Complete - Brevin Jordan
Underrated - Tre McKitty
If you made it to the end, thanks for reading!
Display Image Credits
Brevin Jordan: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Kyle Pitts: Tim Casey/floridagators.com