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NFL combine tight end rankings: If Patriots go this route, several stand out

Pete Davidson
March 03, 2018 - 1:25 pm

So as much as I want to complain about losing my internet during the Nor’easter, I know that plenty of folks had it worse than I did. Hopefully most of you have your power back and are ok. Today the tight ends work out so I’m getting these rankings in just under the wire.

For those of you who have been following my stuff over the years, you know how much I loved last year’s tight end class. And, in the end, it was all it was cracked up to be and more. In fact, in the coming years we are going to see more and more of the 2017 class break out. Last season Evan Engram was the big name for fantasy purposes. In 2018, expect to see breakout performances from David Njoku, O.J. Howard and George Kittle. And, as their playing time increases, we could see great things from guys like Jonnu Smith, Adam Shaheen and Gerald Everett. Lastly, Jake Butt will return from his ACL injury to give the Broncos a boost. 2017 was the best tight end class I have ever seen and it’s not particularly close.

This year’s crop of tight end prospects, predictably, does not hold a candle to what we saw 12 months ago. That being said, there are a few guys who can make an impact as offensive weapons, and a few who could definitely fit into the Patriots’ offense. Here are my four favorites.

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin

This is a somewhat unusual foursome. Goedert leads the way and will probably require the Patriots to use their first pick if they want him. I doubt they will do that, so he’s probably only an option if he slips a bit. What I love about him is his length and his outstanding ball skills. He’s not a bad blocker, but he’s not going to hang his hat there either. Goedert is a potential chess piece as a receiver. If he can take his game up another notch or two, he could be a devastating weapon, especially near the goal line. This guy can make some circus catches.

Hurst is my personal favorite in terms of a guy who could help the Patriots from day one. He’s fundamentally sound and he can run all the routes you want from a joker tight end. If you are looking for a guy who can do Aaron Hernandez things (on the field), but also play in Gronk’s place in a pinch, I think Hurst is your man. His downside is his age. Hurst is an older prospect because he spent two years playing minor league baseball. The thing is, to me, if I am the Patriots, his advanced age is outweighed by his game-readiness. What’s great is that many teams could let him pass due to the age thing, and this could allow the Patriots to snatch him up with one of their second rounders. This would be a great move in my opinion.

Samuels is a guy you might remember from my running back rankings. He’s actually more of a runner by trade, but his versatility has him listed as a tight end in Indianapolis. Truthfully, I don’t get it. He’s a guy who will max out at about 230 pounds, so he’s a tiny tight end. What I think Samuels could be is a cross between Rex Burkhead and Aaron Hernandez, and that’s a player I’d love to watch with Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady. What Samuels is not going to do is create any redundancy for the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski. There’s just no way he can play effectively as an inline option. No way. He’s an offensive chess piece who can play RB, slot or H-back. The really good news is that he can probably be had in round four or later. He’s also a player who can contribute right away, because he has a natural feel for the game.

Fumagalli is a pure tight end but his strengths lie in his receiving ability. As a blocker he is a work in progress. What I really love about him is his hands. He snatches the ball away from smaller defenders. He also gets out of his breaks very effectively. Fumagalli could catch a lot of touchdowns in the right offense and could be a nice complimentary weapon for Tom Brady. He’s not the kind of player I would consider as a long term replacement for Gronkowski.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing more comprehensive breakdowns of the tight ends who have legit NFL chops. Right now, I like the top seven in these rankings as guys who will be able to make the jump, but I may broaden that group a bit as I get into more film. Then again, I may decide to shorten it a tad. I’m still in the middle of my process. Follow me on Twitter @rotobahn to keep up with all of my offseason content which will include a lot of podcasts with my guy Jim Hackett.  Football never stops, folks.

Here’s how I rank the tight ends who were invited to the Combine.

1. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St.
2. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
3. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
4. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
5. Jaylen Samuels, NC State
6. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
7. Dalton Schultz, Stanford
8. Chris Herndon, Miami
9. Ian Thomas, Indiana
10. Ryan Izzo, Florida State
11. Tyler Conklin, C. Michigan
12. Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
13. Will Dissly, Washington
14. David Wells, San Diego State
15. Jordan Thomas, Mississippi St.
16. Jordan Akins, Central Florida
17. Marcus Baugh, Ohio State