The "The Triple Take" now moves to the tight ends. In our sixth installment of this draft prospect preview by position, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Prisuta give their takes on the top prospects at the tight end position. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.
Matt's Take ...
Matt Williamson: This is a very weak group of tight ends. That isn't to say that several of these young men won't develop into solid pros or even strong starters in time, but there isn't a first round prospect in the bunch. Plus, history shows us that tight ends often take longer than most positions to reach their peak in the NFL. So, we might have to wait for this group to really make their mark at the NFL level.
#5 - Hunter Bryant, Washington (6-4, 243 lbs.) - Bryant is small for the position and his game is more liking to a big slot receiver than a typical tight end. But you can't argue with his college receiving production and although he didn't run great (4.74) at the Combine, he makes big plays on the field. Bryant also comes down with a lot of balls in traffic. With a game patterned after Evan Engram, Bryant isn't for every scheme and must land in the right situation.
#4 - Devin Asiasi, UCLA (6-3, 257 lbs.) -There should be more buzz about this guy. Asiasi is a little on the short side, but he does use his natural leverage well. As a route runner, Asiasi is one of the best in this class at gaining consistent separation. This is a player that is equally effective inline or detached and has quite a bit of position versatility overall as well as special teams potential. Only a one-year producer at UCLA, Asiasi is an ascending player that is already quite solid in all facets of the position.
#3 - Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (6-4, 243 lbs.) - Rarely do offensive tackles turn into tight ends. Usually it goes the other way. Well, this former tackle was an extremely productive receiver as a tight end at Florida Atlantic. Bryant is a good route runner that got downfield and created yardage after the catch. He isn't great though in contested catch situations and can get bullied at the line of scrimmage. Bryant is a good blocker, but really isn't that strong. The effort is there though. Bryant would be better as a move blocker than simply lining up inline and trying to move people. He also has short arms and didn't impress at the Combine.
#2 - Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (6-5, 262 lbs.) - Kmet is a very young draft prospect that just totally dedicated himself fulltime to football after splitting time with baseball at Notre Dame. He has a big body with a large catching radius but isn't a real natural ball plucker away from his frame. He can stretch the field a bit and shows some juice as a mover, but probably won't run away from NFL defensive backs and did his best work in the short and intermediate zones. Kmet's blocking is a work in progress, but overall, he is a powerful player.
#1 - Adam Trautman, Dayton (6-5, 255 lbs.) - Troutman came to Dayton as a quarterback and never caught a pass in a football game before college, but quickly turned into an excellent player albeit against a low level of competition. He has a very good frame for the position and might continue to add muscle mass and strength. Troutman's receiving production improved every year and he rode that momentum to a very good showing at the Senior Bowl. He plays hard and seems to relish in the physical aspects of the tight end position. Troutman is also very smooth changing directions for a bigger man. Troutman has the highest ceiling of any tight end prospect on this list.
Mike's Take ...
Mike Prisuta: Tight ends aren't likely to generate headlines in the upcoming NFL Draft, at least not initially.
"This is a tight end group, to me, in that fourth, fifth round is kinda where you wanna target some of these guys," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah assessed.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.
The most recent Super Bowl featured a pair of mid-round selections (Kansas City's Travis Kelce, third round, 2013; and San Francisco's George Kittle, fifth round, 2017), and neither the Chiefs nor the 49ers were complaining.
But tight ends who can block and catch are hard to find.
"I was talking with a play-caller and he was talking about trying to find that in-line guy," Jeremiah continued during coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine. "We have a bunch of 6-2, 240-pound guys that can get on the move. But to be on the line of scrimmage, to be a mismatch in the run game as well as be able to get down the field, the Ravens have done a nice job collecting those types of players."
For much of the rest of the NFL, the search continues.
Here's what they're looking at this year:
#5 - Thaddeus Moss, LSU (6-2, 250 lbs.) - He's not overwhelmingly fast or athletic, but consider this from NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein: "He will get after it as a run blocker, using above-average technique and an impressive ability to strain and sustain against bigger opponents." And consider this from Dane Brugler of The Athletic: Moss had zero drops in 2019, when he produced three of his four touchdown receptions in the college football playoffs, including two in the National Championship Game against Clemson. And don't forget the obvious: He's Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss' son. On the fifth, sixth or seventh round? Why not?
#4 - Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri (6-5, 258 lbs.) - He ran at 4.49 40-yard dash, first among tight ends, at the Combine. "He was driving," Jeremiah insisted. And he's posted numbers, including 98 catches, 1,187 receiving yards and 23 touchdown receptions in three seasons as a converted wide receiver. Brugler sees potential beyond what Okwuegbunam has put on tape: "Overall, leaves you wanting more but he has a projectable body with the talent to win his share of 1-on-1s and get the job done as a point-of-attack blocker."
#3 - Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (6-4, 243 lbs.) - He won the Mackey Award in 2019 as the nation's top tight end, and that's been more hit than miss as an indicator of late (T.J. Hockenson, 2018; Mark Andrews, 2017; Hunter Henry, 2015; Tyler Eifert, 2012). Bryant is also the only FBS tight end who surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in 2019 (65 catches, 1,004 receiving yards, seven TD receptions). And he showed up as a willing and effective blocker in the Senior Bowl.
#2 - Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (6-5, 262 lbs.) - His 4.70 40 at the Combine was attention getting given Kmet's size. And his 43 catches, 515 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns in 2019 all represented career-high figures despite missing two games (broken collarbone). He also pitched for the Notre Dame baseball team and has NFL bloodlines/ties (his father, Frank, was a fourth-round pick of the Bills in 1992 and an uncle, Jeff Zgonina, was a seventh-round pick of the Steelers in 1993, played 17 seasons in the league and is currently the assistant defensive line coach for the Redskins).
#1 - Adam Trautman, Dayton (6-5, 255 lbs.) - It's a long way from Dayton to becoming the first tight end selected in a draft, but Trautman is headed in that direction. Two observations from Jeremiah apply context to Trautman's 2019 season, in which he earned the Pioneer Conference Offensive Player of the Year Award (70 catches, 916 receiving yards and 14 scores). The first: "His position coach at Dayton was also a high school science teacher, was not even a full-time coach. So imagine the upside this kid has once he gets to the next level." And, the second: "I don't know if anyone helped themselves more during Senior Bowl week."
Bruce's Take ...
Bruce Gradkowski: The TE position this year isn't as strong as previous years but there's some talent. When it comes to these TE's no one guy has it all. It will take some faith picking a player in hopes they will continue to grow and develop into the player they can become.
#5 - Stephen Sullivan, LSU (6-5, 248 lbs.) - Sullivan is the most intriguing tight end in this draft. He's a former WR that can run, and his physical measurements are off the charts. He's still young in his development at the position so he would continue to grow and get better. He can be utilized in a flex position. He's a good enough blocker to help with screens. Taking a shot on Sullivan can pay off big or he can be a project.
#4 - Brycen Hopkins, Purdue (6-5, 245 lbs,) - He certainly can run. Glides down field. Has big play potential. 36 of his catches went for at least 15 yards. My concern with Hopkins is consistency- catching the football and being able to create yards after the catch. Brycen can definitely play, he just has to stay focused at the catch point.
#3 - Adam Trautman, Dayton (6-5, 255 lbs.) - He is a solid TE that can do it all. Good hands. Worry about the competition he has played against. He's very athletic and can move with good hands. Seems like he has the "IT" factor and plays aggressive.
#2 - Hunter Bryant, Washington (6-4, 243 lbs.) - Has the athleticism of a WR and can run really good routes. He's a little undersize for a blocking tight end, but we have seen Delanie Walker do it being only 6'1". I love the way he attacks the ball and is a beast after the catch. He has an aggressive style of play. He is definitely different athletically then the other guys.
#1 - Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (6-5, 262 lbs.) - Looks the part with his great size and frame. I love the fact he's done with baseball and now fully focused on football. This should give him time and ability to fill out and master his craft. I think there is more upside to his game. He's great up the seam and has a big catch radius. He must get more consistent as a run blocker. He can be a 3 down tight end with his size and potential.