An Eagles-based NFL Combine Shopping List: Tight Ends

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It’s combine week in the NFL and PSN has got you covered for the Eagles positional targets. Each day we’ll be going position by position to highlight some of the prospects to keep your eyes on. This article will be looking at one of the more overlooked positions in this year’s draft: the tight ends.

Why?

While the Eagles have one of the best one-two punches in the league at tight end, the third tight end position has become an increasingly important piece of the puzzle for Philadelphia. Whether due to injury, game script or positional match up, the Birds used a third tight end in 12% of their offensive snaps over the last two years. Plus, we were able to see the full force of what a talented third tight end can bring to the offense in 2017, when Trey Burton saw the field 26% of the time.

There are two trains of thought for the type of tight end the Eagles may be looking for. The first is a steady blocker. Dallas Goedert is one of the better blockers at the position and Zach Ertz has drastically improved his skills since coming into the league. Still, both players are much more valuable as receiving threats and adding a third-in-line tight end could free them up for that purpose. Also, we’ve seen the Eagles use more three tight end sets the last few years, with linemen like Isaac Seumalo taking on the role. Instead, the team could look to add a third tight end for those situations. In this case, the focus would be to find a solid blocker, with some athletic upside as a pass-catcher.

The other lens the Eagles could be looking at prospective tight ends through is a versatile move tight end with slot capabilities. We saw more of this with Joshua Perkins last year, especially after the Eagles became thin at receiver. While the hope is to have more health in the receiver room this season, an offensive mastermind like Doug Pederson can never have too many aerial threats on the field. Still, even if the player’s primary role will be as a pass-catcher, the Eagles will need a capable blocker to fill in — something that Perkins did not offer.

Who?

It would be absolute bedlam if the Eagles decided to use a top selection on a tight end, so names like Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, Washington’s Hunter Bryant, and Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins won’t be on the radar. Realistically, a large portion of the tight ends at the combine will likely be too rich for the Birds, who are already relatively set at the position. Still, just to add some fun to Thursday’s drills, here are some names to watch out for.

In-Line Options

Thaddeus Moss | Louisiana State

Yes, that Moss. Despite being the son of an NFL legend, Thaddeus brings a very different skill set to the table than his father. The LSU prospect makes most of his money as an imposing in-line blocker. He’s got fantastic technique and is a polished blocker both in the run game and in pass protection — something not as common in tight ends these days.

Although his game is currently limited by his rigidity as a route runner and overall athleticism, there is some upside in both regards. If nothing else, he’ll enter the league as an accomplished red-zone receiver, carrying over his ability to box out defenders and high point the football. However, a solid 40 and 3-cone drill time would turn some heads. What will be most important is how fluid he looks running his routes and how well he catches the football.

Jared Pinkney | Vanderbilt

6’4″, 254 lbs and tough, Pinkney brings exactly what you would want in a third tight end. As a blocker, his size translates well and he shows flashes of what could be a dominant force. As a receiving option, he has dependable hands and can get open running simple routes. For a guy his size, he’s even got some impressive athleticism that leads to a more expansive role with practice. For Pinkney, the biggest obstacle will be putting all of these facets together and bringing them consistently.

With knocks on his explosiveness, a solid 40 time would do wonders for his draft stock. Running smooth routes and displaying natural hands would also be in his best interest. He may also be able to set himself apart with a dominant showing on the bench press. He’s shown glimpses of how overpowering he can be, but having tangible evidence would really drive the point home.

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