when he was the head coach at the University of Arizona, current Oklahoma Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knew a great tight end when he saw one. Now he forecasts big things for Andrews, who was named the John Mackey Award winner as the nation's best tight end in 2017.
Stoops sees plenty of similarities to Gronkowski in his latest Arizona-based prodigy. "Gronk is probably an inch taller. Maybe a little more length," Stoops told media members prior to the Rose Bowl. "But their ability to run routes and get open are what's unique about those guys."
"Mark can do whatever he wants on the football field," Stoops continued. "Create matchups, that's what Mark is going to be able to do at the next level."
That isn't just a proud coach talking. Andrews caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns this season, leading Oklahoma in catches and touchdown receptions, as well as all FBS tight ends in yards receiving. While splitting time between tight end and wide receiver earlier in his career, Andrews always showed a nose for the end zone, catching seven touchdowns each in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, after redshirting his first season on campus.
Andrews, who signed with Oklahoma in part because the Sooners agreed to let him play receiver, played in nine games in 2015, catching 19 passes for 318 yards - good for a very receiver-like 16.7 yards per reception. Playing in 12 games a year later, Andrews' production rose to 31 receptions for 489 yards as a redshirt sophomore before exploding in 2017 as Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield's favorite target.
Asked to play out of the slot as often as he lined up as a traditional in-line tight end in Oklahoma's spread attack, Andrews will need to improve his strength and tenacity as a blocker to be the all-around standout Gronkowski has become in New England. His ability to be a mismatch in the receiving game, however, is likely to make Andrews the first tight end off the board in 2018 with a chance at the first round.
Four-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout ... Three-year starter ... Registered 68 receptions for 1,122 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior ... Had 81 receptions for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior ... Caught 58 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore ... Played for West in Army All-American game ... No. 7 tight end (ESPN) ... No. 10 tight end (Scout) ... No. 13 tight end (Rivals) ... No. 2 player in Arizona (Rivals) ... No. 4 player in Arizona (247Sports) ... No. 7 player in Arizona (ESPN) ... Also had offers from Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
Former receiver who grew into the tight end position and possesses the frame to add at least another 10 pounds without a significant loss of quickness. Possesses broad shoulders and a tapered, athletic frame with good overall weight distribution. Good initial quickness off the snap with active hands to gain a clean release, showing the light feet and easy change of direction to generate separation as a short an intermediate target. Good speed for the position, possessing enough burst to attack down the seam. Reliable hands receiver, extending his arms away from his body to easily pluck the ball. Shows good hand strength and concentration to secure the ball even with defenders draped on him, as well as the flexibility in his core to adjust to low and high passes. Competitive after the catch, showing enough agility and speed to elude and run away from defenders as well as the strength and determination to lower his shoulder to bulldoze his way through would-be tacklers. Improved awareness and positioning as a blocker in 2017. -- Rob Rang 1/11/2018
Wall-off blocker who currently lacks the upper body strength and nastiness in his play to provide much help in this role, struggling to sustain blocks for long. Accustomed to working in space and is too easily knocked off his route by physical defenders. Can be a bit lazy with his routes, rounding them off rather than exploding out of his cuts. Some drops on tape, though these appeared to be momentary lapses in concentration as he was looking to make a defender miss as the ball arrived... Has type 1 diabetes and monitors blood sugar levels several times per game. - Rob Rang 1/11/2018
COMPARES TO: Zach Ertz, Eagles - Like the 6-5, 250 pound Ertz (who played his collegiate ball at Stanford), Andrews played in a tight end-friendly offense at Oklahoma, allowing him to rack up impressive numbers. Neither is the glass-eating 6th offensive lineman some teams are looking for at tight end but each possesses the agility and speed to threaten the seam, as well as the ultra-soft hands to excel in the red zone.
IN OUR VIEW: Andrews is currently a bit soft as a blocker but that may not matter because his hands are even softer. Big, agile and fast, Andews is a mismatch against linebackers and safeties, projecting best as a massive slot receiver and H-back rather than as a traditional full-service tight end with half of his duties serving as an in-line