Top Tight Ends in NFL Draft: Best of the Rest
Here is the rest of our top 14 tight end prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft.
No. 6, Devin Asiasi, UCLA (6-3, 257; 4.73 in the 40): Asiasi replaced record-setting Caleb Wilson and had a career season with 44 catches for 641 yards, including a monster game of 141 yards vs. USC and 13 receptions of 20-plus yards. He dropped just one pass (2.1 percent). His blocking needs help but it’s not from a lack of desire.
He started his career at Michigan with two catches in 2016, had to sit out 2017 due to NCAA transfer rules and watched Wilson (and served a three-game suspension) in 2018. Asiasi is of Samoan and Tongan descent. “I’ll be the first one in my family to go to college,” Asiasi said. “That’s my inspiration. That’s what drives me every morning. … I’m all about family. I don’t want my last name to be put to shame. I’ve got to hold my family’s name up high and show we can do a lot. With me doing [football] and going as far as I can with it, I know it’ll help me out and help my family out.”
No. 7, Hunter Bryant, Washington (6-2 1/4, 248; 4.74 40): Bryant earned some All-American honors after catching 52 passes for 825 yards and three touchdowns. He had a three-season haul of 85 receptions for 1,394 yards, numbers that ranked second and fourth all-time among Washington tight ends. According to PFF, his 2.90 yards per pass route trailed only Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant.
He caught 7-of-18 deep passes and averaged an excellent 8.0 YAC per catch, though his 8.2 percent drop rate (five drops) was a disappointment. The YAC stands to reason, since he played running back when he started playing football when he was 5. “I played running back growing up. I didn't play tight end until college. So, growing up, I loved Walter Payton and Eric Dickerson and their running style and how smooth they were because that's how I played and I kind of emulated that style.” Clearly, by his size, he’s more of a slot receiver than traditional tight end.
No. 8, Colby Parkinson, Stanford (6-7 1/4, 252; 4.77 40): After a breakout sophomore season in which he caught seven touchdown passes, Parkinson grabbed 48 passes for 589 yards and one touchdown in 2019. In 2018, he tied a school record with four touchdown catches against Oregon State. He’s not a good blocker and he offers nothing after the catch (16.0 catches per broken tackle is the worst of our top 17 prospects) but he’s a tremendous receiver. He had zero drops and led the tight end class with 14 contested catches.
“I think my pass-catching ability is going to help me get on the field early on. I’ll develop into a more all-around tight end as we get going. But I think early on, I’ll be someone who can go in and consistently catch the ball, catch the ball in traffic and make some plays down the field. … I just want to be a more complete tight end. I think right now I’m almost there. My blocking’s gotten a lot better, but I continue to grow in that. Making sure I’m not just a one-dimensional tight end, but someone who can be on the field for every play.”
No. 9, Thaddeus Moss, LSU (6-1 7/8, 250): Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, surprisingly won the starting job in 2019 and recorded 42 receptions for 534 yards. He had a 62-yard touchdown in the playoff win vs. Oklahoma and also scored a touchdown in the championship game vs. Clemson. He didn’t drop a pass but offers little after the catch (11.75 catches per missed tackle was third-worst of our top 17 tight ends).
Moss spent only one season at LSU, having started his career at North Carolina State. He sat out the 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules and the 2018 season due to foot injuries. In 2016, he caught six passes at NC State. He also attended five high schools.
While his father was one of the best receivers ever, Moss has played tight end since second grade. He’s not afraid to do the dirty work. “Physicality's in our DNA (at LSU). So run game-wise, I was asked to do a lot. I looked forward to it. I love blocking. I love the physicality of football. Passing-game wise, I was in protection a good bit. I wouldn't say a lot. I got out on routes more than I pass-blocked, but I was asked to do a little bit of everything this past season, run-blocking and pass blocking.”
No. 10, C.J. O’Grady, Arkansas (6-3 3/4, 253; 4.81 40): In his final two seasons, O’Grady caught 47 passes for 486 yards and seven touchdowns, including 29 receptions for 383 yards and six touchdowns in nine games as a senior. One of those touchdowns was a 62-yarder in which he broke five tackles. The production was fantastic. He was at or near the top of the draft class with a 94 percent catchable-pass catch rate, 4.13 catches per missed tackle, 6.9 YAC per catch and a contested-catch rate of 58.3 percent. He’s shown flashes of being a good run blocker, too.
He missed the final few games of the season following a third suspension during his career. He was suspended for two games in 2018, then came back and made an immediate impact. At that point, the coaches were hopeful he had turned a corner. “I’m not ready to put him on a pedestal just yet,” offensive coordinator Joe Craddock said. “I’m hoping he’ll do the right things, because obviously you’ve seen what kind of a weapon he can be with the ball in his hands. He’s a guy that we’ve got our arm around. We’ve got to kind of pull him through a knothole and make sure we get him to the game on Saturdays.” His father, the late Larry Marks, was a three-year letterman on Arkansas’ basketball team. O’Grady was 3 at the time. “Early on, even in elementary school, I was just not the best kid,” O’Grady said.
No 11, Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech (6-4 1/8, 253; 4.71): Keene played in 36 career games, hauling in 59 passes for 748 yards (12.7 average) with eight touchdowns. As a junior, he tied for fourth on the team with 21 receptions (for 240 yards) and was second on the squad with five receiving touchdowns. He also carried the ball 11 times for 33 yards. He had only one drop and led the draft class with 8.4 YAC per catch. He can pitch in at tight end, fullback and slot.
Longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster coached Keene’s father, Wes, at Murray State. Foster hosted the Keene family at his lakehouse when Keene was about 5. “Next thing you know, Wes grabs Dalton and kind of flips him up and he spins around and, boy, he belly flops,” Foster told Roanoke.com. “But he no sooner hit that water that he jumped up and he was just screaming bloody murder. And that’s when Stacy, Wes’ wife, I’ve never seen a woman beat a guy so much in my life. But I saw some toughness out of Dalton at that time right there.” He goes by the nickname of “Rambo.”
No. 12, Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt (6-4, 257; 4.96 40): Pinkney caught 20 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He was much more productive with Kyle Shurmur slinging the rock as a junior, when he hauled in 50 passes for 774 yards – the third-most receiving yards among tight ends – and seven scores to earn second-team all-SEC. He went from 2.6 yards per route and an 85 percent catchable-pass catch rate to 1.1 yards and 71 percent.
Subpar production and a plodding 40 times were major blows to his draft stock. He called the drop in production the “biggest question” he was asked by teams. “I just tell them that everything wasn't able to come together. And it’s unfortunate, but we were just never able to get off the ground. It was unfortunate. It sucked. But I think it was an important lesson, not only in my football development, but just life.”
No. 13, Sean McKeon, Michigan (6-5, 242; DNP 40): McKeon was an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team following each of his final three seasons. His four-year totals were 60 receptions for 668 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 13 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns as a senior. He had one drop but maximized his opportunities with 4.33 catches per missed tackle and 6.2 YAC per catch. He’s perhaps the best blocker among the tight ends.
McKeon caught tennis balls with former Michigan tight end Jake Butt to improve his hand-eye coordination. “I wasn’t too great at it at first, but after a little bit, I got a little better,” McKeon told the Michigan Daily. “That helped out a lot and just catching footballs, too. Footballs and tennis balls. It’s all about hand coordination and reaction time.”
No. 14, Jacob Breeland, Oregon (6-4 7/8, 252; DNP 40): An overgrown receiver with little horsepower as a blocker, Breeland set career highs with 26 receptions for 405 yards and six touchdowns despite playing only six games as a senior because of a torn ACL. In a limited sample size, his 3.6 yards per pass route led the nation’s tight ends. He’s a threat deep (4-of-5 on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield) and short (3.71 catches per broken tackle; tops in the draft class). On 74 career catches, he averaged a robust 16.6 yards per catch. “I would say my athleticism and size with the speed that I have. I created good mismatches against linebackers and safeties. I loved competing. I love to win so I would play hard.”
Breeland’s father, Garrett, started at linebacker at USC and was drafted by the Rams in 1986. A week after Jacob Breeland signed with Oregon, Garrett Breeland died of a heart attack. “A huge influence. He made me the man I am today. He made me hard working. Loved to compete, to never quit. He was my hero growing up. It was super hard as he passed away right before college.”