The New Orleans Saints traded four Day 3 selections in the 2020 NFL draft to the Minnesota Vikings to move back into the 3rd round of last year’s draft. They used the 105th overall selection on the tight end from the University of Dayton, Adam Trautman. Trautman appeared in 15 games last season, catching 15 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown.
Once Trautman got acclimated to the speed and intricacies of the NFL, he earned more playing time as the year progressed. He started five of the year’s last seven contests, and 12 of his 15 receptions came in the previous nine games. Veterans Josh Hill and Jared Cook were ahead of him on the depth chart; however, the team planned to groom Trautman to become the starter in 2021 eventually.
The Saints released both Hill (since retired) and Cook this offseason. Trautman will assume the starting position, but depth at this spot is now a question. Some felt that the Saints would add another tight end through the draft, but they instead signed a veteran free agent.
Let’s have a closer look at the New Orleans current roster of tight ends. (Number and age)
- Adam Trautman - #82 (24)
- Nick Vannett - #81 (28)
- Ethan Wolfe - #86 (25)
- Garrett Griffin - #45 (27)
- Dylan Soehner* - #89 (23)*
* = rookie
Trautman is viewed as a potential breakout candidate for the New Orleans offense. He has excellent hands, precise route-running ability, and presents an athletic mismatch for most linebackers. His blocking skills initially caught coaches' attention last year, earning him early playing time as a rookie. Trautman can be an offensive contributor in every situation and can be an effective receiver from the slot or an in-line tight end.
Vannett came into the league as a 3rd round choice in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State by the Seattle Seahawks. He was traded by Seattle to the Pittsburgh Steelers midway through the 2019 season, then signed with the Denver Broncos as a free agent last season. He has 75 receptions for 686 yards and 5 touchdowns in his six-year career.
Vannett has terrific size at 6’6” and 261-Lbs. He is an outstanding in-line blocker who will complement Trautman well in two-tight end sets. Vannett doesn't offer much as a downfield receiver but has been an effective target through the intermediate zones.
Ethan Wolfe has yet to appear in an NFL game since entering the league as an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee in 2018. After spending time on the practice squads of three different teams, Wolfe signed with the Saints last offseason but would suffer a season-ending injury in training camp.
Wolfe presents a big target at 6’6” 252-Lbs. He must improve his in-line blocking but has underrated agility as a downfield receiver. Wolfe had 91 receptions for 991 yards and 7 touchdowns in four years at Tennessee, where he was a college teammate of Alvin Kamara.
Garrett Griffin has been on-and-off of the New Orleans practice squad since entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie from the Air Force Academy in 2016. He has appeared in nine games with the Saints in five years, including playoffs.
Griffin caught 2 passes for 12 yards and a touchdown in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, the only receptions of his career. He is an undersized player who isn't an athletic receiver. Griffin is a gritty blocker that knows the team's system and has contributed on special teams.
The Saints quickly added Dylan Soehner as a rookie free agent after the draft. He had 26 receptions for 312 yards and a score during his last two years of college at Iowa State. Soehner's chances to make this roster lie in his blocking ability more than his skills as a receiver.
A mammoth of a player at 6’6” 270-Lbs, Soehner is a punishing in-line blocker. He must refine his technique but could be an instant contributor in short-yardage and goal-line packages. He doesn't offer much as a receiver but is a former basketball player who works through zone coverages with decent agility.
Adam Trautman could have a big year as the team's featured tight end. Nick Vannett has been a reliable complementary option throughout his career. However, the Saints have no proven depth behind Trautman or Vannett.
Josh Hill joined the Saints as an undrafted rookie from Idaho in 2013. He forged a seven-year career because of his outstanding blocking ability and contribution as a short-yardage receiver.
Ethan Wolfe, Dylan Soehner, or Garrett Griffin must show that they can handle blocking duties for a physical New Orleans offense to earn a spot on the roster.
If any of them could also establish themselves as a receiving threat, that would add another valuable dimension to the Saints offensive attack in 2021.
You can follow Bob Rose on Facebook or on Twitter @bobbyr2613
Subscribe to the New Orleans Saints YT Channel: https://news.snts.us/saintsnewsyoutube
Subscribe to our Saints News Newsletter: https://news.snts.us/saintsnewletter
▶ Like us on Facebook: https://news.snts.us/saintsnews-fb
▶ Follow us on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/saintsnews