Former New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill made the team as an undrafted rookie from Idaho State in 2013. Hill forged an unlikely eight-year career before retiring shortly after signing a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions this offseason.
Never known as a great receiver, Hill caught 15 touchdowns and averaged just 14 receptions and 134 yards per season. The highest production of his career was in 2019, when he caught 25 passes for 226 yards. Hill earned snaps because of his outstanding blocking ability. Possibly the best blocker in the league at his position, he was an extension of the offensive line and an underrated reason for the success of the New Orleans offense.
Adam Trautman, a 3rd round draft choice in 2020, is set to take over the starting tight end role in the wake of the departures of Hill and Jared Cook. The team also added veteran TE Nick Vannett in free agency. However, Hill did the dirty work. Jobs that were overlooked by the average fan but earned high respect from both teammates and coaches.
A member of the Saints 2021 undrafted rookie class shows the potential to assume those duties, taking some of the pressure off Trautman and Vannett.
DYLAN SOEHNER, TIGHT END (IOWA STATE)
Soehner came to Iowa State after being an all-state selection in both football and basketball at Prairie Grove High School in Arkansas. He would redshirt his first year, then played special teams and saw light duty as a reserve tight end in 2017 and 2018.
Earning more offensive playing time in 2019, Soehner started six games and appeared in six others. He caught just 7 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, but earned honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades for his blocking skills. He started all but one contest in 2020, again receiving honorable mention all-conference recognition despite just 18 receptions for 205 yards.
Soehner won't add much as a receiver. He caught just 26 balls for 313 yards and only one score in college. His athleticism doesn't threaten defenses from the slot and doesn't have the speed to pull away from defenders down the field. Inexperienced as a route runner, he was only asked to run basic short patterns at Iowa State.
As a blocker, Soehner needs to improve his leverage and lower his pad level against defensive ends and stronger linebackers. He must be quicker on his feet to handle quicker edge rushers and elusive blitzers. Improved hand placement as a run blocker will also be necessary to avoid potential penalties.
Soehner has a mammoth build and is a devastating blocker. He has outstanding technique and leg drive in the running game to push his man off the point of attack. More than just an in-line blocker, he is just as effective on the move in motion, delivering punishment to any defender in his path. Soehner can also handle defensive ends and edge rushers as a pass blocker, both one-on-one and in double-team assignments.
Soehner shows the potential to develop as a capable receiver off the line of scrimmage. He provides a big catch radius and has soft hands to bring in the catch. Not bothered by traffic around him, Soehner works smoothly through zones to find the open area. Once he makes the catch, he delivers punishment to defenders in the open field for extra yardage.
Dylan Soehner, like Josh Hill, will make or break his NFL career with his blocking skills and special teams contributions. Also like Hill, Soehner has the ability to grow as a receiver. Even with Trautman and Vannett on the roster, Soehner could make this team by being a contributor in short yardage and goal-line packages.