Over the past 10 drafts, there have been a total of nine tight ends selected in the first round. Of those nine, six were selected in the past three drafts combined.
Stated differently, it was more likely to not have a first-round tight end (four times) than it was to have one (three) in the previous seven drafts over the last decade.
This year’s draft class doesn’t have a top-10 prospect (like T.J. Hockenson last year) or even a consensus top tight end. While it’s possible that one sneaks into the back end of Round 1, it’s more likely that the first tight end in this year’s draft will be selected on Friday (Day 2), not Thursday.
Over that 10-year span, there have been an average of 5.1 tight ends off the board within the top 100 picks with 146 (14.6 per year) drafted overall.
Continuing my positional NFL draft rankings series, here are my tight end prospect rankings for the 2020 draft:
1. Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (JR, 6'5", 250 pounds)
Expectations were that Kmet would return to school in 2020, but the dual-sport athlete (with baseball) for Notre Dame had a change of heart and has the potential to be the first tight end off the board. A safety valve for Ian Book as a junior, Kmet became more involved in the passing attack and finished with 43 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns in 2019. More of a receiving threat than blocker at this point in his development, he has experience both in-line and detached with a frame to add more mass.
2. Hunter Bryant, Washington (JR, 6'2", 239 pounds)
Not equipped for an in-line role, Bryant is best utilized flexed out and as a move tight end. Highly productive as a receiver, he finished 2019 with 52 catches for 825 yards (15.9 Y/R) and three touchdowns with at least 5/82 in each of his final four games. Creating matchup problems in the passing game, Bryant has elite athleticism for his size and position while possessing excellent ball skills and run-after-catch ability. Knee injuries limited him to just 14 games as a freshman and sophomore.
3. Brycen Hopkins, Purdue (rSR, 6'4", 241 pounds)
The son of former Titans offensive tackle Brad Hopkins, Brycen didn’t begin playing football until high school. Due to his speed and route running, Hopkins has been more productive as a receiver than effective as a blocker. More of a straight-line player, but Hopkins averaged 15.0 yards per reception over his collegiate career. That said, he has inconsistent hands and has struggled with drops.
More NFL Draft:
* Prospect Rankings: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers
* Kevin Hanson's Mock Draft 3.0: Who Will Trade Up for Tua?
4. Adam Trautman, Dayton (rSR, 6'5", 251 pounds)
Trautman dominated the lesser competition he faced at Dayton as the former high school quarterback turned 70 catches into 916 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior and racked up 2,295 yards and 31 touchdowns over his career. Proving he more than belonged during Senior Bowl practices, Trautman is a prospect that can continue to rise during the pre-draft process. A big target at (6' 5", 251 pounds), Trautman’s route-running, speed for his size and ball skills are all pluses.
5. Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (SR, 6'5", 242 pounds)
The 2019 John Mackey Award recipient as the nation’s top tight end, Bryant had 65 catches for 1,004 yards (15.44 Y/R) and seven touchdowns in his final season. A mismatch against smaller defensive backs and slower linebackers, Bryant has the athleticism and route-running chops to separate and become a high-volume target in the passing game at the next level. Due to his development as a blocker during his time at FAU, however, he’s one of the more versatile and well-rounded prospects at the position.
Here are the next 10 tight ends in my rankings:
6. Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt (rSR, 6'4", 254 pounds)
7. Thaddeus Moss, LSU (rJR, 6'3", 249 pounds)
8. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri (rJR, 6'5", 255 pounds)
9. Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati (rSR, 6'3", 245 pounds)
10. Colby Parkinson, Stanford (JR, 6'7", 251 pounds)
11. Cheyenne O’Grady, Arkansas (rSR, 6'4", 248 pounds)
12. Stephen Sullivan, LSU (SR, 6'6", 254 pounds)
13. Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State (SR, 6'2", 244 pounds)
14. Jacob Breeland, Oregon (rSR, 6'5", 250 pounds)
15. Sean McKeon, Michigan (SR, 6'5", 246 pounds)
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2020 NFL Draft season. His NFL Mock Drafts have graded as the most accurate over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His 2015 NFL mock draft graded as the most accurate and his 2019 NFL mock draft was the second-most accurate out of 101 draft analysts.