Top Tight Ends in NFL Draft: Adam Trautman

Bill Huber

Dayton’s Adam Trautman, a former option quarterback, is our No. 3-ranked tight end.

After a record-setting career at Elk Rapids High School in Traverse City, Mich., Adam Trautman went to Dayton to play quarterback and study petroleum engineering.

Five years later, the standout tight end is a lock to be the first Dayton player drafted since running back Gary Kosins in 1972.

“It would mean the world to me,” Trautman said at the Scouting Combine. “Just the amount of time and blood, sweat and tears I put into that program and the amount of love I have for that program, I wouldn't change a thing about where I went to school. It would mean the absolute world to me.”

As a senior, Trautman was an FCS All-American and a finalist for the Walter Payton Player of the Year Award as the top offensive player. He finished his Dayton career with the school record for receptions in a season (70), touchdowns catches in a season (14), career receptions (178) and career touchdown catches (31). He was the top-rated tight end in FCS in receiving touchdowns (14), receptions (6.4 per game), receiving yards (916) and scoring (7.8 points per game).

Video: Hear from Trautman at the Scouting Combine

Not bad for a former triple-option quarterback.

“High school-wise, I played with, like, 18 kids on my varsity team my junior year of high school, 22 my senior year,” Trautman said. “The team concept was a little rough, to be honest. And then when I got to Dayton, you play nonscholarship football. No one has any egos, and you truly play for each other. And that's something that I thought was so special and I wanted to be a part of so fast. So, I was the one that offered it up to our OC (Eric Evans), and he kind of looked at me weird. It was only, like, seven days into camp, and I was like, ‘Hey, I just want to be a part of this, and I know I can bring a whole new dynamic to the tight end position.’ I eventually made the switch, and it was the greatest decision I've ever made in my life.”

A diving catch at his first practice fast-tracked Trautman’s path to the NFL. Starring at the FCS level in the nonscholarship Pioneer League is one thing. Doing it against the best of the best is quite another. Thus, his showing at the Senior Bowl was infinitely more important than his four touchdowns vs. Jacksonville and three vs. Valparaiso.

“The Senior Bowl was huge for me,” he said. “I've always wanted an opportunity to go against kids with the Alabama stickers on their helmet, the Ohio State, Michigan, and it was huge for me, obviously, confidence-wise.

“What I learned about myself was, level of competition, sure, it's a jump, but I had no problems with it at all. I didn't think the transition was very rough. ... After the first few reps, I was like, 'All right, this isn't really any different.' Sure, the kids close a little faster in the pass game and they're bigger and a little more stout in the run game, but I trust in my technique and how hard I worked, and I didn't really have a problem with it.”

What we like

Trautman beat up on lower-level competition. And while that might elicit a shrug of the shoulders, a player can only control what he can control. He dominated in contested-catch situations and dropped just two passes, a superb 2.6 percent drop rate. He didn’t run a fast 40 at the Scouting Combine but his 10-yard split showed he gets up to speed in a hurry. “Just a relentless style of play along with an edge. Every level I've been at, I've been not good enough. Coming out of high school, you're not good enough to play FBS. And then going to Dayton, no one's ever really played in the NFL. I’m here to keep fighting that and always use that edge and carry it with me.”

What we don’t like

Trautman ran his 40 in 4.8 seconds. So, that’s one strike against him. Talent-wise, scouts didn’t think Trautman looked out of place at the Senior Bowl, but he’ll be a bit of a project. Through sheer size and skill, he was a man among boys in the Pioneer League. He’ll face a whole other caliber of player in the NFL. He’ll have to do the little things to succeed. That starts as a blocker, but his mentality should help. According to Pro Football Focus, he averaged just 4.6 yards after the catch, a surprising number considering the competition.

Bill Huber’s Tight End Profiles

No. 1: Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet

No. 2: Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant

No. 3: Dayton’s Adam Trautman

No. 4: Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins

No. 5: Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam

Nos. 6-14: The Best of the Rest

SI.com: Which School is Tight End U.?

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