Going into the 2020 season, the Eagles were in a great TIght End situation with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert forming an elite 1-2 punch. Fast forward to the present day and it’s pretty clear that Ertz has played his final game in midnight green and the position may be one of need, depending on how much 12 personnel new Head Coach Nick Sirianni wants to play. Here are my top 5 tight ends in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kyle Pitts – Florida
If you came into this piece knowing anything about the tight end class this year, then you knew Kyle Pitts would be at the top of this list. Pitts enjoyed an outstanding 2020 season for Florida and easily became one of the hottest prospects in this year’s draft.
Standing at 6’6, Pitts is a walking mismatch and proved he could play in almost any position you wanted him to, whether that be in the slot, outside, or as a traditional tight end. He was simply unstoppable.
He’s easily one of the best tight end prospects I’ve ever seen coming out of college. His ball skills are top tier and paired with freakish body control for a man of his size means defenders stand little chance at making a play for the ball. For a tight end, Pitts’s route running is incredibly smooth.
Whilst Pitts is a top-tier ballplayer, his blocking will need some work. He shows good effort when blocking but needs to improve his technique. Another thing Pitts needs to work on is his play strength. For a man of his size and build, Pitts sometimes struggles when corners get their hands on him to try and disrupt him. If Pitts can find a better way to combat press coverage, he’ll easily become one of the most dominant young players.
Hunter Long – Boston College
This is where it gets tricky. Hunter Long can do everything you want him to. Hunter is a highly intelligent tight end who demonstrates great route running ability. At 6’5 and 254 lbs, he is a matchup nightmare.
His short-route explosiveness is actually really surprising for a tight end of his frame His catching ability is really helped out by great ball tracking and body control, and he does well to extend as much as he possibly can to make the catch.
The area he really excels in however is blocking. Long has grown into one of this year’s premier blocking tight ends after playing in such a run-heavy offense in college.
One thing that Long lacks in comparison to a lot of the tight ends in this class is athleticism. Whilst I mentioned how good his body control is, his long-distance speed hurts him on vertical plays and he’ll struggle after the catch.
Pat Freiermuth – Penn State
Going into this season, Freiermuth was TE1 for a lot of people but unfortunately, he’s slipped down rankings. However, the Nittany Lion is still a top prospect who has a great blend of athleticism, size, and catching ability. Freiermuth’s route running is strong for a tight end and his short-area quickness is very impressive.
Whilst at Penn State, Freiermuth demonstrated strong body control and ball tracking ability, making him a contested-catch monster and red-zone machine. Even though he hasn’t got blazing speed, Freiermuth is a physical runner down the field and uses that to break tackles and get as many yards as he can.
Freiermuth still struggles when blocking, failing to use his hands properly. His 2020 season came to a short end with a shoulder injury that required surgery, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s doing after that.
Brevin Jordan – Miami
Brevin Jordan is definitely one of the more exciting players in this draft and is the prototypical modern-day tight ends, mainly down to his absurd athleticism and how he uses that to destroy defenders in coverage.
At 6’3 and 245 lbs he’s a little smaller than the other tight ends I’ve mentioned so far, but his speed and athleticism more than compensate for this.
Jordan is a great pass catcher who extends for the ball. For a smaller tight end, he has a knack for plucking the ball out of the air and works really well in traffic too. However, Jordan shines the most after the catch, using his vision and speed to beat defenders in the open field and gain big yardage.
Jordan won’t be a blocking tight end at the next level, he simply doesn’t have the technique or the strength to handle that role, but that won’t hurt him too much given what he offers as a pass catcher and offensive threat.
Matt Bushman – BYU
Bushman is probably the only tight end that comes anywhere near Kyle Pitts as a pass-catcher. In his time with BYU, he proved he can be a true threat at all three levels and showed impressive hip fluidity.
His athleticism also allows him to come out of his breaks really well when running short and medium routes. Bushman is a very intelligent player who can quickly identify holes in the defense and exploit them. His awareness also makes him an excellent target when in traffic.
Bushman won’t be a tight end that gets many yards after the catch as he struggles to break tackles when in the open field. Whilst he’s a solid blocker, Bushman definitely can improve in more complex systems and he needs to learn how to regain leverage when it’s initially lost.
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