Early look at the 2019 TE class
The 2019 TE class has more impressive athletes than football players at this point, but that could change for a group dominated by underclassmen.
2019 TE class rankings
|3)||Dawson Knox||R2||Ole Miss||6’4||257||rJR|
|8)||Irv Smith Jr.||Alabama||6’4||241||JR|
|9)||Alize Mack||Notre Dame||6’5||247||SR|
|12)||Tommy Sweeney||Boston College||6’5||260||rSR|
2019 TE class player profiles
Noah Fant | Iowa, JR
- Primarily used as an in-line Y-TE in the Hawkeyes’ run-first, pro-style offense.
- Impressive true sophomore production for Iowa: 30 catches, 494 yards (20% of Iowa’s passing yards) and 11 TD’s (41% share). Added weight this offseason, and projects as a receiving weapon in the NFL with his special combination of size, speed, explosiveness, quickness & strength. Rare vertical/deep threat at TE – led the country in TDs & YPR.
- Outstanding athlete – it shows in space with & without the ball, and when blocking on the move. Posted elite testing results this spring, including a 41” vertical and 3.95 short shuttle. No TE has ever run a sub-4.00 shuttle in NFL Combine history.
- Rudimentary route runner – sometimes slow in and out of breaks despite his freakish athleticism, and lacks the nuance to dependably separate (other than with pure burst).
- It’s not just his routes – he’s raw in all facets of the game at this point. Not very natural at the catch-point, from ball-tracking to adjusting his body and comfortably hauling it in. Capable of making superb blocks on the move (on occasion) with his fast-twitch movements & power, but is limited technically as of now. Often loses the leverage battle because he stands up too high on contact, and struggles to sustain. Also takes poor angles trying to seal blocks on the outside, often over-shooting them.
- There’s so much upside here, and his production was fantastic considering how raw he was last season. If he can continue to better harness his athleticism across all parts of his game, he’s got top-15 upside.
Albert Okwuegbunam | Missouri, rSO
- Strong production as a redshirt frosh in 2017 considering he only had 165 snaps in route: 29 catches for 415 yards (14.3 avg) and 11 TDs.
- Rarely-used backup at the beginning of the year, but earned steady playing time & flourished over the second half of the season. Started the last 8 games, with line of 24/335/10. Still inconsistent over that stretch with two zeros vs. Florida & Tennessee, and most of his production came vs. weak defenses.
- Standout (elite?) athletic profile for a TE. Already 6’5, 260 lbs heading into redshirt sophomore year, with track speed & quick short area burst.
- Not many in-line reps – often lined up as a Wing-TE or Slot receiver in a basic, wide-open spread offense. His route tree was extremely limited as well. How he performs in their new pro-style offense with traditional route concepts this year will greatly impact his draft stock.
- Doesn’t always look pretty when blocking and you’d like to see more tenacity, yet he does a serviceable job for someone so early in his development. Capable of some powerful blocks with his size when engaged. Kept in to pass protect a lot, and helped keep a clean pocket in Mizzou’s quick-hitting offense.
- Soft hands – effortlessly plucks the ball away from his body. Huge red zone weapon, especially on delayed seam routes off play action (in 2017). Big target & natural pass catcher who moves so well in space = significant NFL upside.
Kaden Smith | Stanford, JR
- Stanford’s run heavy, pro-style offense often utilized 2+ TE’s on the field at a time. However, they employed a 4-man TE rotation in 2017 with Smith as one of the backups behind Dalton Schultz. His snaps were limited, yet he flashed promise as a receiver when given those opportunities. Primarily a slot/move-TE last year, with some in-line usage.
- Strong line of 23/414/5 considering his time on the field – 18.0 yards/catch average would have led all TE’s in the country if qualified.
- His athletic profile is solid, but not spectacular. Excellent size at 6’5, 253 lbs with a decent combo of mobility, balance & coordination. Not a ton of short-area burst or deep speed, but is still a downfield threat. Tracks, adjusts & high points the ball with superb timing down the seam, and projects as a red zone weapon on the outside with that skill set.
- Doesn’t yet gain a ton of separation and it’s fair to question how much he ever will, but he’s skilled at catching the football.
- Not used much as an in-line blocker as the Cardinal had 2 great options last year, while Smith was easily their best option in the slot. Everybody is taught how to block properly in that offense though, and he’s no exception. Performed well vs. smaller defenders in space, and he should receive more in-line opportunities to prove his mettle this season.
- I imagine Stanford continues to use its heavy TE rotation in 2018, though Smith will be at the head of it this year. His production should spike accordingly. High floor prospect with his size & skills – does he have the athletic upside to be an early round guy? I think so.
Caleb Wilson | UCLA, rJR
- Huge line of 38/490/1 in 5 games for UCLA last year before foot surgery ended his season.
- Josh Rosen with Wilson: 159/245 (64.9%), 2135 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 156.9 rating.
- And without Wilson: 124/207 (59.9%), 1621 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs, 135.2 rating.
- Undersized at only 235 lbs, but not afraid to get his hands dirty in the running game. Good positional footwork to angle defenders, gets into the chest and competes with physicality.
- Lengthy, smooth moving receiver who already runs polished routes. Separates at the top of his routes with subtle fakes, crisp footwork and long strides out of breaks. Repeatedly got open for intermediate completions with a post / stick-n-nod route vs. Texas A&M.
- Not an explosive athlete – speed & quickness are solid at best, yet he knows how to consistently get open. Great feel for finding the soft spots between zones in the middle of the field.
- Targeted a lot on intermediate passes, where he reliably separates from LBs & safeties for chunk gains. Not much of a vertical weapon or YAC threat.
- Terrific hands – makes great catches at full extension, and/or after adjusting to the ball.
- How will his production hold up without Josh Rosen slinging him passes? And how will his foot injury affect him moving forward? It’s hard to imagine him matching last fall’s dominance, though I think his pass-catching ability may warrant a day-2 pick in 2019.
C.J. Conrad | Kentucky, SR
- High effort player – runs his routes hard (if somewhat loosely) and competes with good technique as a blocker.
- Huge YAC numbers – 12.0 per reception.
- Had season-ending surgery on his foot in November. 2 years of solid play but hasn’t put it all together to emerge as a top-flight prospect yet.
- Good size, and has some twitchy burst/quickness to work with. Not an elite athlete, but he has the tools to succeed in the NFL.