Is a Jimmy Graham Replacement Needed?

Even after drafting Cole Kmet in Round 2 last year, Bears could be in the market for more tight end help later in this year's draft.
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The Bears made tight end a priority last year and Cole Kmet finished strong in his rookie year, leading to hope they hadn't squandered a second-round pick the way they did three years earlier with Adam Shaheen.

It remains a position of interest because a team can use two or even three tight ends, but other needs rule out any interest in selecting Florida's consensus first-rounder Kyle Pitts, if not Boston College's Hunter Long and Penn State's Pat Freiermuth.

Both Long and Freiermuth come from schools long associated with the tight end position and are expected to be second- or early third-round selections by FanNation's NFL Draft Bible during a year when the tight end class looks deeper.

There are others available in this draft and tight ends who can count blocking as a particular strength could be of more interest to the Bears since it isn't a quality they have in abundance.

They may need a replacement quickly for Jimmy Graham if they decide to cut his salary from the books. A replacement for third tight end Demetrius Harris seems more certain, as he didn't make much impact and is a free agent.

The way tight ends coach Clancy Barone brought along Kmet last year could give rise to the hope he could do the same with a second tight end prospect later in the draft. Here are the top options for the Bears to onder after the top three. 

Brevin Jordan, Miami (FL)

With 105 receptions, including 13 TDs, Jordan is no Y or in-line tight end. He definitely fits into the move position, the tight end who goes all over the formation chasing passes. Scouts say the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder makes an effort as a blocker but his technique needs plenty of work. Fortunately for Jordan, the same can't be said of his receiving ability. It's already at a high level in all aspects. NFL Draft Bible and Mel Kiper both list him as the fourth-best tight end available in the draft and he gets a third-round grade from NFL Draft Bible.

Tre McKitty, Georgia

McKitty played almost all of his career at Florida State, except for a few games last year. At 6-4 1/2, 248 pounds, he has the build and overall ability to do much more than the 56 catches for 520 yards and three TDs he had in college. A respectable blocker, he is lauded for his ability to accelerate past defenders. The 81-inch wingspan McKitty has puts him among potential naturals for this position. He's graded a fourth-round potential by NFL Draft Bible and the fifth-best overall tight end according to Kiper and the NFL Draft Bible.

Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame

Tremble made 16 receptions in 2019 when he played behind Cole Kmet, and much was expected. The fact he had only 19 receptions and finished his career with 401 receiving yards was more a testament to the large number of targets the Irish have had at all positions than any deficiency of his He is a solid blocker and at 6-4, 250 doesn't shy away from contact. NFL Draft Bible rates rates him a potential fourth-round pick and he's No. 6 on Kiper's tight end board. He's only a redshirt sophomore so more development might be necessary.

Kenny Yeboah, Mississippi

A 6-4, 240-pound move tight end, he rates an elite level as a receiver and played four years at Temple first, then went over to Mississippi against SEC competition to haul in 27 passes for 524 yards. Yeboah showed up as a real red-zone threat with a career-high six touchdowns. Most of his work was done over the middle but scouts saw enough burst and route-running ability to think he could be a tight end who gets downfield on seam routes in the pros. He had 12 TD catches in his Temple career and made 74 receptions for 1,062 yards overall. Not a blocker at all but was able to make some good seal blocks on the edge on runs to impress a few scouts. He needs to add some bulk and that, along with his blocking ability has led to a fifth-round grade from NFL Draft Bible. 

John Bates, Boise State

Another school where tight ends seem to crop up is Boise State and Bates is an all-around athlete who could make an impact filling various roles with a team, from special teams to blocker to pass catcher. At 6-5 1/2, 259, he has the height and can go vertical. He was a standout track athlete in jumps, hurdles and the javelin. Boise State liked using him in a dual role as receiver and blocker but his production didn't jump out as he had just two TD catches. His blocking technique needs to improve but he can be a very tenacious blocker. He opted out after three games his final year. In all, he had 47 receptions for 579 yards but drew just a seventh-round grade from NFL Draft Bible, as a lack of overall speed bothered some scouts. Kiper rates him the seventh-best tight end on the board.

Pro Wells, TCU

Some scouts aren't keen on him because he wa a Juco player at Northwest Mississippi Junior College before moving on to TCU, but he very good red-zone production as a receiver at 6-4, 250. In fact, a quarter of his 32 receptions went for touchdowns. Viewed more as a U or move tight end, his physical skills are such that he could become a decent in-line tight end as a blocker but will need to grow into this role. Kiper rates him the 10th best tight end prospect while NFL Draft Bible calls him an undrafted free agent type.

Zach Davidson, Central Missouri

Each year it seems some smaller-school tight end wows everyone with athleticism and abilities normally seen at the D-1 level or higher. Davidson is this year's player like this. He not only was a tight end who averaged more than 20 yards per reception, but he punted and had averages of 40.3, 44.3 and 42.8. At 6-7, 245, his size and ability to pluck passes dazzled some scouts. He knows how to use his height. Of his 40 receptions, 15 were for TDs. Measuring how he'll do at the NFL level is the problem, of course. Adam Shaheen failed to live up to Ryan Pace's expectations in a similar situation. NFL Draft Bible gives him a fifth-round grade. Kiper didn't have him in the top 10.

Noah Gray, Duke

Maybe another Zach Miller? He was a QB in high school like Miller. Then he became a U-tight end, moving all over the formation at 6-3 1/2, 240. A proven receiver and versatile, but not much as a blocker because he lacks strength. His route running also could improve but his numbers jump off the page. He had 105 catches for 948 yards and eight TDs. The 51-catch 2019 season, in particular, was impressive, with a career-high three TDs. No. 9 on Kiper's tight end board, he received a sixth-round NFL Draft Bible grade.

Tony Poljan, Virginia

A very experienced, redshirt senior but not an experienced tight end. He played quarterback at Central Michigan in 2017 and 2018, completing 89 of 168 for 703 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions, then switched to tight end and showed immediate promise. Considering he's 6-7, 265 he seems a natural for the position. He haulted in 71 passes the next two seasons for 907 yards and finished with 12 college TD catches. The final season was a step up in competition at Virginia and he had a career highs of 38 receptions and six TDs. Blocking and better route running are needs, but he has the athletic ability. He didn't make Kiper's top 10 but received a fifth-round grade from NFL Draft Bible.

Matt Bushman, BYU

Zach Wilson's security blanket, the 6-5, 240-pounder put up good numbers for a college tight end for three years but didn't play in 2020. His ability to get downfield after the catch or in a seam was apparent throughout his three seasons and he displayed good hands. He had 125 catches for 1,719 yards and a wide receiver-like 13.8 yards a catch. He had nine TDs. Not really a blocker at all, he'll need to work on this. Rated a seventh-round pick by NFL Draft Bible, but not on Kiper's big board and there two reasons. The first is he's 25 years old. The second is he suffered an Achilles tear prior to the 2020 season. However, by the time training camp starts it will be about a year since his injury so he should be ready to go.

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