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Ultimate NFL Draft Preview: Pitts Leads Weak Group of Tight Ends

Get to know the top tight end prospects in the NFL Draft with analytical stats, personal stories and scouting reports.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that you know who might not be a consideration and why the Green Bay Packers might be shopping even with a solid depth chart, here is a look at the 2021 NFL Draft class of tight ends.

Pitts the Lone First-Round Fit

Kyle Pitts, Florida: The word “freak” is tossed around too frequently this time of year but the word suits Pitts. He’s 6-foot-5 5/8 and 245 pounds, ran his 40 in 4.40 seconds and has enormous 10 5/8-inch hands. On passes of 20-plus yards last season, he caught 10-of-17 and scored five touchdowns. There is a 0 percent chance he gets to the ninth pick, let alone the Packers at the 29th pick. If the gap between Trevor Lawrence and the next-best quarterback is the distance from Earth to Mars, then the gap between Pitts and the next-best tight end is Earth to New Horizons.

Short List for Day 2

Pat Freiermuth, Penn State (6-5, 251; DNP testing/shoulder; 9 7/8 hands): Freiermuth won the Big Ten’s Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year Award even while missing five of the Nittany Lions’ nine games due to a shoulder injury. In 30 games over three seasons, he caught 92 passes for 1,185 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 23 passes in his four-game 2020 season. According to Sports Info Solutions, he dropped one pass (4.2 percent), averaged 5.8 yards after the catch and had a blown-block rate of 2.7 percent. He is not a deep threat; a scout pegged him as having 4.7 speed.

“Guys like him don’t come around often,” tight ends coach Patrick Foley said. “The size, you can’t teach or coach that. He was blessed with that. And then the athleticism. … He catches anything you put near him. He made some incredible catches where you would go, ‘How did he catch that?’ He’d not only catch it, but he’d come up running with it.” He’s called “Baby Gronk” back home in Merrimac, Mass. He was even given No. 87 at Penn State. “I want to be known as one of the best tight ends who ever played (at Penn State),” he told the Boston Herald. “And hopefully in the NFL.”

The shoulder injury cut short his final season. At pro day, he said he’d be “full go, cleared for contact.”

Draft Bible says: His long, lean, frame has yet to fill out, as Freiermuth owns great height and athleticism, to go along with excellent quickness. When he tucks the ball and lowers his shoulders, Freiermuth has shown the propensity to run defenders over with a full-steam-ahead run style after the catch; he has flashed a devastating stiff arm. His size also makes him a significant red-zone target. That being said, while he’s an adequate blocker, Freiermuth isn’t a killer seeking out contact in the second level; he has bypassed some opportunities to make his presence more known. His route running has improved but remains a bit rough around the edges.

Tommy Tremble Notre Dame (6-3 3/8, 241; 4.63 40; DNP shuttle/ankle; 36.5 vertical; 9 1/4 hands): The latest in a long line of Fighting Irish tight ends is Tremble. In two seasons, he caught 35 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns. According to SIS, his drop rate was 15.8 percent and he averaged 3.4 yards after the catch in 2020. His calling card is blocking and physicality, though. He might be the best in the class in that phase of the game. His blown-block rate was 1.5 percent in 2020 and 1.0 percent for his two seasons.

“Honestly, I just loved contact,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I loved playing the game of football. It’s just pure passion for me. I don’t know. Every time I’m on the field, I want to just be dominant — and I try my best to [be].”

His father, Greg Tremble, starred at Georgia and played in 11 games for the Cowboys and Eagles in 1995. Tommy Tremble grew up in Georgia. As a high school senior, he suffered a gruesome injury. “I’ve only seen my husband cry a couple times, and usually it’s been because a new baby’s been born,” Abigail Tremble, Tommy’s mom, told the Indy Star. “My husband had tears dripping down his face. He was like, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It’s terrible.’ … He dislocated his foot around his ankle.” Emergency surgery was required but months of rehab followed.

Draft Bible says: The competitive run blocker is successful on the move and has some nasty to him, finishing blocks with defenders on the ground. He is smart in pass protection, recognizing blitzes from the second level and absorbing contact before anchoring. Tremble is light on his feet in the open field, getting in and out of his breaks to gain separation. Using physicality and leverage, he can create small windows at the top of his routes. Tremble projects as a blocking tight end with untapped potential as a receiver, especially between the hashes. He would fit into a wide zone that utilizes tight ends on split zone play actions, taking advantage of his blocking and athleticism.

Brevin Jordan, Miami (6-2 5/8, 247; 4.67 40; 4.50 shuttle; 34 vertical; 9 3/4 hands): Jordan was all-ACC all three seasons, finishing his career with 105 receptions for 1,358 yards and 13 touchdowns. He saved his best for last. Even while missing three games due to a shoulder injury, Jordan set career highs with 38 receptions, 576 yards, 15.2 yards per catch and seven touchdowns in just eight games. According to SIS, he had two drops (5.0 percent), averaged a ridiculous 9.6 yards after the catch and didn’t have any blown blocks.

Jordan was either the best or second-best tight end coming out of high school. Miami tight ends coach Todd Hartley called Jordan “a high-end player” with “unbelievable ball skills — just the ability to track a football and make the catch, body control in the air. Once he makes the catch, he’s such an athlete and makes plays in space that most big men can’t make. And then he has the size and girth to break an arm tackle or run through a DB trying to tackle him. Then, he has the ability to get on the line of scrimmage and block anything that anybody throws at him.” He’s more than just a receiver, though. “Amazing,’’ is how talented defensive end Greg Rousseau described Jordan to the Miami Herald. “He’s one of those deep threats. He’s an intermediate threat. You can throw the ball to him anywhere. But for me the thing that stands out [about] him is he’ll pull around and hit a 320-pound D-tackle and smack him. Blocking D-ends, linebackers — he will put his nose in anything.’’

His father, Darrell, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons as a linebacker in the ninth round in 1990. He died of a heart attack in 2018.

Draft Bible says: He is an explosive athlete who offers immediate mismatch ability going against most linebackers and even a large portion of defensive backs. That will be his big calling card early on to create separation. Jordan is cat quick and shows promise as a route runner but it is too hit or miss currently. In the run game, Jordan shows effort as a positional blocker and understands how to attack leverage. He showcases some initial pop behind his thick build. There is a lack of length to his game that shows up too often in the run and pass game.

Hunter Long, Boston College (6-5, 254; 4.68 40; 4.42 shuttle; 32.5 vertical; 9 1/2 hands): Long led FBS tight ends with 57 receptions in 2020, which he turned into 685 yards, five touchdowns and All-American accolades. He’s neither fast nor explosive but he knows how to get open and catch the ball. According to SIS, he had four drops (6.6 percent) in 2020 after having one drop (3.0 percent) his first two seasons. He averaged 3.4 yards after the catch but 6.2 for his career. His blown-block rate was 1.0 percent.

“He can be a huge weapon and even more important is his blocking,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said early this past season. “When you find a tight end that is successful in the pass game they are usually not as good of a blocker. You are looking at the complete tight end. He can line up and help us a ton in the run game and at the same time he can flex out and mix in as another receiver for you.”

Long built his first computer when he was 13. “This guy builds computers from scratch,” Jim Reid, who recruited Long to Boston College, told the Athol Daily News. “He doesn’t buy kits, he builds them. He’s a computer genius, he’ll be like Steve Jobs. I’m like ‘Holy mackerel!’”

Draft Bible says: Unknown to the masses entering 2020, Long is not a secret amongst NFL teams, as the tall, long tight end has flashed the speed required to stretch the field and can work all parts of the field. Long shows the ability to break tackles in the open field, along with tremendous yard after catch ability due to his quickness and run power. He also shows the strength and technique to be a solid blocker at the next level.

Worth a Shot in Day 3

Tre’ McKitty, Georgia (6-4 1/4, 246; DNP workouts/knee surgery; 10 3/4 hands): McKitty caught a total of 49 passes for Florida State in 2018 and 2019 before transferring to Georgia for his final season. In seven games – he missed two due to a knee injury that dogged him all season – he caught only six passes for 108 yards and one touchdown. After dropping five passes in 2018, he had two drops (4.8 percent) and averaged 7.4 yards after the catch the past two seasons, according to SIS. His blown-block rate in 2020 was 1.4 percent and just 0.5 percent for his career.

“Tre’ is the modern-day tight end,” FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett told Dawg Nation. “The modern-day tight end is a guy that is not necessarily a great run blocker — he’s a position blocker — but he can run, and he can really catch.”

To say the sky’s the limit for McKitty would be an excellent play on words. At FSU, he started working toward getting his pilot license.

Draft Bible says: Seriously underutilized both at Florida State and Georgia, McKitty is a lot more talented than the box score would indicate. Used similarly at Florida State before he transferred, McKitty aligned regularly as an H back. McKitty is an extremely smooth operator who can be a tough cover for less-athletic second-level defenders working vertically. He is extremely flexible as a route runner, creating easy separation for a player his size. Boasting a well-proportioned frame with room to grow, McKitty is a positional blocker who offers solid angles in the run game to get his hips aligned consistently. McKitty isn’t a player who has been used a ton inline. There is a lack of lower body power to hold up consistently at the point of attack. His best football is in front of him.

Kenny Yeboah, Mississippi (6-3 7/8, 250; DNP 40 and shuttle/hamstring; 34 vertical; 9 12 hands): Yeboah spent his first four seasons at Temple before transferring to Ole Miss for his final six seasons. He had by far the best season of his career with 27 receptions for 524 yards (19.4 average) and six touchdowns. Of note, he caught seven passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns against eventual national champion Alabama. According to SIS, he had two drops (6.9 percent) and averaged an outstanding 10.0 yards after the catch. His blown-block rate was 1.1 percent. According to PFF, he caught 5-of-6 passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield.

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Yeboah was a prolific receiver in high school but made the move to tight end at Temple at the urging of then-coach Matt Rhule, who’s now the coach of the Carolina Panthers. "I think of myself as a pass-catcher and a blocker. I know a lot of people say it, but if you turn on the film, I block. I actually enjoy blocking. I enjoy pancaking people," Yeboah told SI.com. "I take pride in my blocking. If I miss a block, I'm going to get pissed off. It's something that a lot of people don't know about me, but it was part of the Ole Miss pitch to me."

Draft Bible says: Presenting a tough matchup for opposing defenses, Yeboah is your modern flex option at tight end who has the ability to line up anywhere from inline, H-back, in the slot and on the perimeter. He is a smooth mover who eats up ground in a hurry, presenting tough matchups specifically for less athletic second level defenders. With outstanding flexibility, he is able to adjust well with the football in the air. Yeboah is a well proportioned athlete who is tough to corral after the catch with his combination of athleticism and physicality. He does show some nice effort as a blocker, doing some of his best work from the H-back position, winning quick leverage on opposing defenders on inside zone concepts.

Matt Bushman, BYU (6-4 5/8, 245; DNP 40 and shuttle/Achilles; 32.5 vertical; 9 3/8 hands): The 25-year-old Bushman arrived at BYU after a two-year mission to Chile. From 2017 through 2019, he caught 125 passes for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns but missed the 2020 season with a torn Achilles suffered about a week before the opener. “I knew something had gone terribly wrong,” he told Deseret.com in January. “I will never forget that moment.” In 2019, he dropped one pass (2.1 percent), averaged 4.9 YAC and had a blown-block rate of 1.0 percent. That’s a good blown-block rate but he’s more of a positional blocker than a people-mover.

Athletics are a huge part of his family. Bushman’s mother played volleyball at Ricks College, brother Riley played football at BYU, sister Madeline played volleyball at Dixie State, uncles David Quinn and Scott Gooch played football at BYU, and uncle Douglas played basketball at Utah. His wife, Emily, plays volleyball at BYU. They are new parents.

“It was probably the worst timing to get injured for me — a week before first game,” Bushman said. “And then I got surgery five days before our daughter was born. … I had a cast on, had to be laying down a bunch, and was in a little knee scooter. I just felt bad not being all the way there, and not being as helpful as I could have been. So, that was tough.”

He started a foundation that provides athletic equipment and opportunities to underprivileged kids. “Whether it’s helping pay their admittance fees to get them on a team, or to help teams that don’t have the most resources with uniforms or equipment,” Bushman told ABC4. “We just want to be a resource to those people and give back.”

Draft Bible says: From a physical perspective, Bushman hits the size thresholds NFL evaluators are searching for. He is able to use that physicality in both the run and pass game, where he is able to win through contact, while profiling as a plus blocker in the run game. He is a lengthy target who is a hard player to handle as a pass receiver. Bushman is a smooth athlete who is a tough matchup for opposing second level defenders. With a solid athletic profile and route running ability, he is reminiscent of former BYU standout and Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta.

Zach Davidson, Central Missouri (6-6 5/8, 245; 4.62 40; 4.26 shuttle; 37.5 vertical; 9 1/2 hands): Who says punters aren’t athletes? A three-time all-conference punter, Davidson blossomed into a Division II All-American tight end in 2019 by catching 40 passes for 894 yards (22.4 average) and 15 touchdowns. Because of COVID, the 2020 season was canceled and Davidson set his sights on the draft.

What a path to the draft. When his high school’s JV punter was suspended, the coach sought volunteers. “I told him that I had punted some, and then I hit five balls and the third or fourth one went like 50 yards," Davidson told CBS Sports. You can guess who took over the job, and never gave it back. I'm glad he decided to hit a couple of mailboxes. Without that, I may never have played college football. I may never may have gotten to this point. No doubt about it. It's pretty crazy to think about.” It was his punting that took him to Central Missouri. Said coach Jim Svoboda to KSN: “It was interesting too in the recruiting process, his dad was pretty emphatic that this kid is more than a punter and, boy, was he right. Any time you average 20 yards a catch and are in the top 10 in the country as a tight end, you have legitimate skills.”

Draft Bible says: In order to transcend the level of competition, especially on the Division II level, serious NFL prospects have to consistently dominate the competition level. That is something that was littered throughout Davidson’s film. To couple with his production, Davidson boasts a next-level frame that still has a ton of room for physical development. Davidson uses his god given length to his full advantage, outleveraging defensive backs working down the seam and in winning in contested catch situations. Despite limited impact on the offensive side of the football going back to Webb City High School, Davidson has developed into one of the more intriguing seam busters regardless of level. He is currently much more wide receiver than traditional tight end, boasting a very thin lower half that lacks power to work with his efficiency as a run blocker.

Noah Gray, Duke (6-3, 240; 4.60 40; 4.45 shuttle; 35 vertical; 9 14 hands): Gray caught 20 passes as a sophomore, 51 as a junior and 29 as a senior, giving him a four-year total of 105 receptions for 948 yards and eight scores. No tight end in school history caught more passes than Gray. According to SIS, he had only three drops (2.8 percent) for his career. His 4.6 YAC in 2020 was the best of his career. His blown-block rate was 1.8 percent.

“I would say that he doesn’t only inspire his fellow teammates, he inspires his coaches including this one right here,” coach David Cutcliffe said of the high school quarterback. “He is a very inspirational young man. Every day we go to practice, he means more to this team than people might realize. Noah empties the bucket every day. I’ve never seen Noah take a rep off or a day off and his teammates would all tell you that. People are going to listen to your actions by far more than they’re going to listen to your words. Noah doesn’t say a whole lot, doesn’t have to. He’s inspirational.”

Gray is the co-founder of the Diabetic Athletes Forum. “My freshman spring, I was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes,” he told SI.com’s Draft Bible. “The disease has completely changed the way I viewed my diet and the effects it has on my body. I have been able to eat healthier since the diagnosis and believe that it has made me a better football player because of it. Diabetes has taught me how important it is to take care of every aspect of my life to the fullest. Due to that mindset, I have never missed a practice, weight room, session, or any other activities due to the disease.”

Draft Bible says: Wearing a variety of hats, Gray is the type of flexible athlete who can cause a variety of mismatches. Some of his best reps come from the H back position where he is given a free release to attack second level defenders, causing a ton of mismatches. Gray is a very smooth athlete who is extremely flexible for the position. This allows him to run a varied route tree with high success. He also offers enough juice to threaten the seam with some regularity. In the run game, his best reps come from a detached position, especially on cross zone reps, taking on the role of a glorified fullback.

Briley Moore, Kansas State (6-4 1/4, 240; 4.64 40; 4.37 shuttle; 37.5 vertical; 9 7/8 hands): Moore caught 22 passes for 338 yards and three scores in nine games in 2020, his lone season with the Wildcats. According to SIS, he had two drops (8.3 percent), averaged 6.9 YAC and had a blown-block rate of 1.8 percent.

Because of a knee injury sustained as a junior at Blue Springs (Mo.) High School, Moore was a zero-star recruit despite being an all-state receiver as a senior. With no FBS offers, he chose Northern Iowa. Moved to tight end there, he started 20 games in 2017 and 2018 but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the 2019 opener. With the FCS season moved to the spring, Moore transferred to Kansas State for his final year.

He suffered a scary concussion in a game at Youngstown State in 2019. “Went into a head-on KOR (kickoff return) with my head down and stumbled a little bit and just hit the crown of my helmet on the back of one our players, actually, and came out with a concussion. Everything was OK but I was laying there for 15, 20 seconds not really able to move or know. It was a crazy experience not moving. I could hear people talking to me but couldn't really respond. It’s almost a life-changing experience to know how close I really could have been to maybe never walking again and it not being short-term, but it being permanent. But I knew football was my calling. This is what I was supposed to do. I love this sport. So, there was never a question on is this experience going to make me not want to play football anymore. It comes with the game, especially the way I play.”

Draft Bible says: Boasting a powerfully built frame, Moore is a versatile player who can assume various roles for an NFL offense. Whether in line, in the slot, H-Back or aligned at fullback, Moore is a high effort blocker who understands how to attack leverage and has zero issue mixing it up with more physical defenders. That physicality that Moore plays with in the run game also shows up in the passing game in post catch situations, punishing defenders working through contact. His speed is just average, leaving a little to be desired to attack the seams consistently. There are durability concerns.

Ben Mason, Michigan (6-2 3/4, 246; 4.75 40; 4.44 shuttle; 37.5 vertical; 9 3/8 hands): Mason played in 45 games with four starts – three at fullback and one on the defensive line. In 2020, he played in all six games and caught two passes for 17 yards and one touchdown. He was recruited as a linebacker, played fullback in 2017 and 2018, and moved to defense for the start of 2019 before going back to offense. He is the best fullback in the draft and perhaps the only draftable player at the position. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy called him a “complete stud.”

"I want [NFL teams] to know that they’re getting a guy who’s going to do everything he can for the organization," Mason said before Michigan's pro day. "They’re getting a guy who, he’s gonna run down on all the special teams and be a mad man, make a lot of plays, and he’s going to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a talented player, and he’s going to do everything he can for the organization and be a good guy to have for the culture."

Draft Bible says: Fullbacks matter and maybe none more so than Ben Mason from Michigan. Mason is one of the top fullbacks in the draft class and a Senior Bowl participant in 2021. Mason excels in the uglier areas of the game. He is a fantastic blocker and people mover generating power from his strong lower body effectively. He uses his natural leverage to move bigger guys at an extremely high rate. Mason is very smart and knows and executes the correct assignment. There are very few mental mistakes on his tape. He is an immediate impact player at the fullback position but he may be able to carve out an even bigger role on special teams right away.

Luke Farrell, Ohio State (6-5 1/2, 251 pounds; 4.80 40; 4.33 shuttle; 36.5 vertical; 9 1/4 hands): In 44 career games, Farrell caught only 34 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 20 passes in 2018 but only 12 the next two seasons. He will block, though, making him an old-school tight end with the potential to play a Marcedes Lewis-style role down the road. For his career, he had a drop rate of 10.8 percent (four drops), averaged 4.8 YAC and had a blown-block rate of 1.3 percent.

“I think I'm the best blocking tight end in the draft,” he said at OSU’s pro day. “And I think I'm more than capable in the pass game.” To get there meant the consumption of a lot of calories and protein shakes. “I’d wake up at 3 a.m. and make one. It was part of my diet,” he told Eleven Warriors. A staple on the Big Ten all-academic team he graduated with a 3.78 GPA with a focus on physical therapy.

Draft Bible says: Farrell has a chance to be a solid prospect in the NFL due to his size, athleticism and his promising recruiting profile. While Farrell has not opened eyes in the passing game due to his limited usage, he has shown that he can be a weapon when called upon. Farrell has natural hands and has an exceptionally large catch radius with his long arms. His separation ability is solid as he usually relies on his instincts to read defenses zone coverage and find the soft spot to get open. Farrell is a great blocker and uses his size and leverage ability to wash down incoming defensive ends.