The 2019 draft class of tight ends is a deep, impressive group with two Iowa Hawkeyes sitting at the top.
T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant could both go in the first round, which would be the most Iowa thing ever. After those two, there's a variety of talented pass-catchers with differing levels of blocking proficiency.
This is the fourth installment in a position-by-position breakdown of the rankings of prospects you need to know in the 2019 NFL Draft.
*Important note: These rankings are subject to change somewhat after the combine.
No. 1 TEs
1. T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
3. Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Hockenson is aas a blocker, a dynamic athlete, a pass-catcher with natural ball skills, and the ability to high point the football. I'm interested to see his weigh-in at the combine. If he's around 6-foot-4 and more than 240 pounds, an important box will be checked. Fant is the name you probably knew before the season. He's a speedy but good-sized pass-catcher first with dangerous yards-after-the-catch traits and some blocking skills.
Sternberger is the "lite" version of Fant. He's a fluid athlete with impressive burst and the ability to separate. Beyond that, he flourishes after the catch thanks to his balance and some twitch, and you'll get some quality plays out of him as a blocker each game. With added weight, he can be a very useful pass-catching tight end in the NFL.
High-end No. 2 TEs
4. Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
5. Kaden Smith, Stanford
I have Smith from Alabama and Smith from Stanford graded closely at this point, and they're totally different tight ends despite having a fair amount of blocking experience at the collegiate level with limited success.
However, as a receivers, Alabama's Smith isn't a super-explosive athlete but is a tight end you want to have the ball underneath because he can make defenders miss and had quality build-up speed. As for Stanford's Smith, he's a seam-stretcher thanks to his big frame and gigantic catch radius. He not only possesses the necessary physical ability to be a big target, Smith's extremely willing to go up and get the football above his head.
Adequate No. 2 TEs / Lower-end No. 2s
6. Dax Raymond, Utah State
7. Foster Moreau, LSU
8. Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
9. Keenen Brown, Texas State
10. Isaac Nauta, Georgia
11. Josh Oliver, San Jose State
12. Caleb Wilson, UCLA
13. Zach Gentry, Michigan
14. Trevon Wesco, West Virginia
Team fit and draft position will be large contributing factors into how the careers play out for members of this group and below. Just a reminder. Many close grades here too.
Raymond was somewhat of a surprise early entry out of Utah State. He's a springy athlete who can get the job done as a blocker in space. Moreau too can block at the second level, and he sets a quality edge. There's less athleticism to his game but flashes of good yards-after-the-catch skill and power.
Knox is a lot like Raymond. I see less physical capabilities in his game. Not as twitchy. Brown is the most athletically gifted tight end in this class not named Hockenson or Fant. He's the consummate H-back. Brown's hips are so fluid, I don't think giving him the occasional carry out of the backfield would be foolish. He shows some blocking wherewithal too.
Nauta was a big recruit but failed to live up to expectations at Georgia. I don't think he's a liability in any area. I didn't see anything close to resembling a trump card to his game, although he can explode off the line as a receiver. Oliver and Wilson are tall, linearly dynamic but stiff pass-catchers. Oliver's a better blocker, which factored into his higher grade.
Gentry is a sleeper because of his time spent blocking in-line at Michigan and flashes of impressive speed and ball skills as a receiver. Wesco's a slow-mover but a wide body at just under 6-4 and 270 pounds, so he holds up as a blocker. He showcased flashes of excellent balance after the catch in 2018 at West Virginia.
Rosterable blocking No. 3s
15. Drew Sample, Washington
16. Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
Sample and Sweeney won't wow you athletically. Both can battle on the edge of the offensive line or, in some instances, make a block at the second level that springs a long run.