The tight end unit for the New Orleans Saints was arguably the worst of any position group in the entire NFL in 2021. Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, and Nick Vannett had a combined 49 receptions for 555 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. Nineteen NFL tight ends had better production than that trio in 2021 by themselves.
More than just abysmal receiving production, the unit also struggled in run blocking assignments much of the year. Despite this, the Saints passed up the opportunity to grab any of the top-tier and somewhat affordable tight ends early in free agency. New Orleans also didn't add one among their five draft choices last weekend.
Utility weapon Taysom Hill has been moved to tight end. However, expect Hill to continue to be used in his familiar role as a gadget player around the formation instead of as a traditional tight end.
Unless the Saints look at an available veteran well past their prime like Jimmy Graham or Kyle Rudolph, it seems that the team is content to roll into the year with what they had last season.
There is one undrafted player that New Orleans brought in that could have a chance at a roster spot at the position. He’s the subject of today's rookie profile.
LUCAS KRULL, TE
A native of Shawnee, KS., Krull attended the University of Florida for the first two years of his collegiate career. Buried behind 2020 first-round choice Kyle Pitts on the Gators depth chart, Krull caught just nine passes for 108 yards in 2018 and 2019. A transfer to Pitt in 2020 yielded him no better luck, as a knee injury ended his year after just one game.
Krull finally had a chance to showcase his skills for the Panthers in 2021. He earned 2nd Team All-ACC honors with 38 receptions for 451 yards and six touchdowns.
Krull wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. However, he showed off his athleticism at Pitt's Pro Day with a 4.54 in the 40, a 10-foot broad jump, and standout performances in the cone drill and shuttle run.
A hulking presence on the field, Krull should dominate physically but doesn't. Despite his frame, he is much more of a finesse player and actually avoids the physical aspect of the game at times. This especially shows in his run blocking, where he consistently failed to gain an advantage on the edge for his running backs.
As a receiver, Krull also needs to use his height and bulk better to shield defenders from the pass. He loses a surprising amount of contested throws because he doesn't use his physical advantages. He’ll need to sharpen his route breaks at the next level to prevent defenders from getting a jump on the ball.
Krull has terrific raw athleticism for a player of his size. He has the speed to beat linebackers down the field. If he learns to use his size, he’ll be a mismatch for most defensive backs over the middle.
Despite his inexperience, Krull has good coverage recognition to adjust his routes. His sheer size and catch radius can be a safety net for his quarterback.
Krull really has just one year of major college experience. Despite that, his skills as a receiver are enticing. He has the athleticism to be a motion tight end in passing situations, with the size to be a matchup advantage in the open field.
It’s clear that the Saints passing game will revolve around their wideouts and Alvin Kamara. Still, the team desperately needs some production from its tight ends.
Trautman, entering his third season, might still develop. Juwan Johnson is the best natural receiver of the returning group, but is undersized as an in-line blocker.
With his frame, Krull has the physical traits to develop as a blocker. If he does so to even an adequate level, his receiving ability could make him a developmental starter. Especially at a position so desperate for production in New Orleans.