A 2025 NFL Draft gem is hidden at Bowling Green State University

Who would have thought that one of the top 2025 NFL Draft tight ends would come from Bowling Green?
Sep 24, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Bowling Green Falcons tight end Harold Fannin Jr. (44)
Sep 24, 2022; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Bowling Green Falcons tight end Harold Fannin Jr. (44) / Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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One of the best parts of the NFL Draft process is finding the small school players who can make a big-time impact, and Bowling Green State University tight end Harold Fannin Jr. may not just be one of the best tight ends in the 2025 NFL Draft, but in the nation.

A former linebacker, Fannin Jr. made the switch to tight end with the Falcons and took off in his sophomore season. In his first season as a full-time starter, Fannin Jr. racked up 623 yards and six touchdowns on 41 catches. He established himself as a threat that must be identified by opposing teams on a week-to-week basis.

Now entering his true junior season, Fannin Jr. has legitimate 2025 NFL Draft hype, so much so that it is hard to find more than two or three tight ends in the class with better tape and translatable NFL traits. You read that correctly.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Fannin Jr. may be considered undersized by some, but his frame on film shows a player who can bulk up without compromising the athleticism that has got him where he is today. There would be no issue with him playing at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds if that is where he were to measure in when he gets to the NFL level.

What about what he does on tape will translate to the NFL level, though? Let's dive into what Fannin Jr. does so well that makes him one of the best tight ends in the country:

A crisp route runner with lethal vertical prowess

The NFL wants to create more explosive plays. This is the way of the future in a league that can put points on the board at an accelerated rate. And having a tight end who can cook linebackers and safeties down the field is of the utmost importance. Look what the Cleveland Browns have done with David Njoku (who I think is a great comp for Fannin Jr.) and what the Jacksonville Jaguars have done with Evan Engram.

At the top of his routes, Fannin Jr. has a purposeful stab to add suddenness to his routes. His head and shoulders help create the mirage of a break as well before snapping his route off. There is room for him to get more physical with his hands to create another subtle cushion of separation, but he does a good job of leaning into defenders when working vertically to force them to commit more weight in the opposite direction.

Fannin Jr. runs a pretty diverse route tree as well. He can sit underneath and find cushions in zone coverage, he knows how to bend his routes around coverages and slow up into green grass to give his quarterback a target to throw to, and has no issues snapping off out routes toward the boundary. There is a ton to like about Fannin Jr. as he enters his true junior season at Bowling Green.

As sure-handed as they come

Fannin Jr. was targeted 57 times by the Falcons a year ago and was charted with zero drops (according to PFF). You read that right. He went a whole season without letting a single football that touched his hands hit the ground. Tight ends routinely become the best friends of quarterbacks at the NFL level, and Fannin Jr. has the makings of a player who will immediately earn the trust of his.

While there is evidence that he can play through contact at a higher level, Fannin Jr. possesses vice grips when the football is in his reach. This has translated to explosive plays down the field and even spectacular one-handed catches in the back of the endzone.

Good luck bringing him down in the open field

A growing indicator of NFL success from tight ends is their ability to create yards after the catch. And for Fannin Jr., only first rounder Brock Bowers had more yards after the catch than him in 2023. Of all tight ends in college football, Fannin Jr. was fifth in average yards after the catch per reception. He is such a threat with the football in his hands that Bowling Green would even give him carries out of the backfield as well.

A huge part of his ability to create after the catch is due to his ability to run through arm tackles. However, we have already discussed how fluid of an athlete he is, and this translates in the open field as well. There are multiple reps in the three games that I watched where Fannin Jr. sticks his foot in the ground and makes a linebacker look silly in space.

It also helps that Fannin Jr. has upper-tier explosiveness and speed to pull away from defenders when he does have the ball in his hands and green grass ahead of him. Good luck bringing him down from behind.

Want to be a good tight end in the NFL? Create yards after the catch. And Fannin Jr. does that among the best in the nation.

Blocking means something to him

Not only is Fannin Jr. an explosive athlete with the football in his hands and as a route runner, but he is not afraid of the dirty work either. Tight ends are by nature at a bit of a disadvantage as blockers going against edge rushers, but that does not make a difference to Fannin Jr.

His leg drive is impressive, his desire to play through the whistle will make a coach fall in love with him. Fannin Jr. can routinely be found blocking 15 yards down the field for a receiver trying to create more yards after the catch. He will frame off running lanes out wide, even lines up at fullback to act as a lead blocker, and shows impressive core strength to take on edge rushers one-on-one in pass protection as well.

One of the most impressive reps shown from Fannin Jr. in the three games watched was when he took on Western Michigan defensive end Marshawn Kneeland, a second round pick to the Dallas Cowboys in the 2024 NFL Draft, in pass protection, and anchored him in.

Fannin Jr. shows a real tenacity and desire to be a great blocker.

Putting a bow on Harold Fannin Jr. and his 2025 NFL Draft hype

I have no clue how Bowling Green was able to keep him or how Fannin Jr. did not get a bag to transfer up to a Power Five school. As one of the best tight ends in the nation, Fannin Jr. has the skillset of a second round player.

He is a fluid mover in and out of his breaks, shows suddenness at the top of his routes, and is lethal with the football in his hands. While Fannin Jr. has room to grow in becoming a more physical receiver at the top of his routes and at the catchpoint, he doesn't allow that to translate to his game as a blocker. Fannin Jr. cares about blocking, cares about sealing off running lanes for his backs, and shows the core strength and leg drive to wipe away any mismatch the man across from him might have on paper.

Still an extremely young player, Fannin Jr. has sky-high potential. And if he continues to grow and takes another leap in 2024, he could be the first tight end off the board by the time April of 2025 rolls around.

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Cory Kinnan