Cole Hikutini, one of eight tight ends currently listed on the New York Giants’ 90-man training camp roster, was originally signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville following the 2016 season, capping a fairly productive two-year stint in which he caught 69 passes for 1,016 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Hikutini, who saw time on the 49ers practice squad as a rookie before finally being promoted to the 53-man roster, appeared in four games as a rookie, catching two out of three pass targets for 15 yards. But now, he joins Levine Toilolo and Kaden Smith as tight ends on the Giants roster who have origins with the 49ers.
Unlike Toilolo and Smith, the 6’4”, 240-pound Hikutini, who finished his rookie season on injured reserve, also has stints with Minnesota and Dallas, both as a practice squad member. During his stint in Dallas, which ran during the 2019 season, Hikutini obviously crossed paths with then head coach Jason Garrett, now the Giants offensive coordinator.
What He Brings
Hikutini is more of a move tight end than an in-line one, this probably due to his listed weight of 240 pounds, which puts him on the light side when it comes to blocking defensive ends that are 20+ pounds heavier than him.
But that said, Hikutini, as a receiver, has some value. According to Pro Football Focus, 69% of his pass targets in his final year of college football came on out routes, crossing routes, and hitches, all routes Garrett seems to like to have tight ends run.
Hikutini also excelled in finding the holes in zone coverage while also showing enough athleticism to win one-on-one battles against linebackers in the passing game.
Hikutini is signed to a one-year reserve futures contract worth $780,000 with no signing bonus.
The Giants, much like any other team, want their tight ends to be versatile enough to block and catch, the former being something that Hikutini was inconsistent at doing when he first entered the NFL.
Unless he’s improved by leaps and bounds during his stints on the 49ers, Vikings and Cowboys practice squads as a blocker, he could be facing a steep uphill battle to make a Giants roster where the early projections have Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Toilolo and Smith as filling out the tight end spots.
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