Vowing to forge ahead, the 2020 NFL Draft is still on schedule to run April 23-25 in Las Vegas. Prior to the draft, betting boards are being populated with a variety of props that offer a diversion until games return.
Once dismissed as just blockers, pass-catching tight ends have become a key component to running a successful NFL offense. A combined six tight ends were selected in the first round in the previous three drafts, but that streak may end this year. Since casual fans may not recognize some of the prospects, let’s break down the 2020 tight end draft class.
Cole Kmet, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-110)
Listed as a heavy favorite, Cole Kmet is projected to be the first tight end selected during the 2020 NFL Draft. Kmet didn’t see much action during his first two years at Notre Dame, as he totaled just 17 receptions and 176 receiving yards over 13 games. That changed last season, though, as Kmet caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns. He followed that up with a solid performance at the NFL Combine, as his 37-inch vertical jump was the highest among tight ends and he was second in the broad jump. Green Bay is thin at tight end and may use the 30th overall pick on Kmet.
Adam Trautman, Dayton Flyers (+420)
About to make history, Adam Trautman will be the first Dayton player taken in the NFL Draft since Seattle selected tackle Bill Westbeld back in 1977. A four-year starter, Trautman recorded 178 receptions, 2,295 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns over 44 starts. That includes 70 catches, 916 yards and 14 scores during his senior season.
Trautman (6-foot-6) is a huge target with solid pass-catching skills, but needs to improve his route running and pass blocking. Following an underwhelming performance at the combine, Trautman projects as a late second-round pick.
Brycen Hopkins, Purdue Boilermakers: (+750)
After being redshirted during his freshman year, Brycen Hopkins played in 40 games over four seasons in Purdue. Playing against tough teams in the competitive Big Ten conference, Hopkins posted career highs in catches (61), receiving yards (830) and touchdowns (7) during his senior season.
Boosting his draft stock, Hopkins posted a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash, which tied for second amongst all tight ends. Securing the ball has been an issue, but that is a coachable skill at the NFL level. Hopkins has been linked to Chicago in Round 2, but the Bears may look elsewhere after signing Jimmy Graham.
Thaddeus Moss, LSU Tigers (+750)
Son of Hall of Fame legend Randy Moss, Thaddeus Moss struggled through a rocky college career. After playing six games for NC State in 2016, Moss transferred to LSU but had to sit out the 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Moss was granted a medical redshirt after he missed the entire 2018 season with a foot injury.
Finally getting on the field full-time, Moss had 570 receiving yards and four scores last season. Two of the touchdowns were during the Tigers' National Championship victory over Clemson. Inexperience will keep Moss from being the first tight end selected.
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri Tigers (+900)
A three-year starter in Missouri, injuries limited Albert Okwuegbunam to nine games during each of those seasons.
Exploding onto the scene, Okwuegbunam scored 11 touchdowns on just 29 receptions during his freshman year. His production slipped after that though, as he caught six touchdown passes in each of his final two seasons.
Improving his draft stock, Okwuegbunam was the fastest tight end at the combine, posting a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash. Okwuegbunam will enter the NFL as a work in progress and that makes him a longshot to be selected first at his position.
Hunter Bryant, Washington Huskies: (+1000)
Following two injury-plagued seasons, Hunter Bryant closed his three-year career in Washington with 52 catches, 825 yards and three touchdowns last season. A history of knee injuries, plus low-level blocking ability, contributes to Bryant’s large underdog odds.
Bryant’s value comes from his production as a receiver, so teams may be willing to look past his blocking ability. Tied for seventh with a 4.73 in the 40-yard dash, Bryant was slower than expected at the combine. Since he won’t be an every-down player, Bryant projects as a late third-round selection.
Harrison Bryant, Jared Pinkey and Colby Parkinson round out the list as underdogs. It’s difficult to see any of them being selected much higher than fourth overall at the position.
Based on his performance last season, plus his strong showing at the combine, Kmet deserves to be the favorite. Hopkins is worth a look as a longshot.
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