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2018 NFL Draft TE Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Ranking the draftable tight end prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These rankings are comprised of what are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, from the pre-combine rankings, plus new round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes an updated mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S

​TIGHT ENDS

1. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina: 6’5, 250

Strengths: Might be the most well-rounded tight end in the draft. Competes on every snap. Plus speed for the position. Sure handed, reliable pass catcher. Prototypical size, athleticism.

Weaknesses: Is probably fully developed, physically. Will be a 25-year old rookie. Routes need some polish.

Player Comparison: Eric Ebron

IMO: There’s no real consensus as to who projects as the best tight end in this class, long term, but there should be no question as to whom will be the most NFL ready from day one -- Hayden Hurst. Sure, he’ll be 25 years old as a rookie, but, by that same token, as high as his floor is, the team that drafts him will have anywhere from a solid starting tight end to one of the better ones in the league on a rookie contract well into his athletic prime. He’s extremely reliable, not dropping a single pass in 2017, and does some serious damage after the catch. His run blocking has some serious work to do, but he’s shown flashes of dominance. With the variety at the position this year, the first tight end to go should be largely scheme/need dependent, but Hurst has as good a case as any.

Round Grade: Late 1st

2. Jaylen Samuels, NC State: 6’0, 225

Strengths: Doesn’t fit cleanly into any one position, but there is something to be said for just being good at football -- he is. Dominating pass catcher out of the slot. Gaining comfortability as a ball carrier. Makes plays on screens.

Weaknesses: No real position. Not a great blocker. More drops than would be ideal.

Player Comparison: Kevin Durant, but football

IMO: A more forward thinking NFL team will realize that there are but a handful of prospects as well-rounded and talented with the ball in their hands as Samuels is. In other words, just get him the rock and let someone else figure out what to call him. If properly utilized, Jaylen Samuels can not only be one of the most useful offensive weapons in this draft class, but one of the biggest headaches for defensive coordinators in the NFL. It will take a play caller that’s willing to think outside the box, but the one that does will be rewarded handsomely.

Round Grade: Mid 3rd

3. Christopher Herndon IV, Miami: 6’4, 252

Strengths: Plus athleticism, can make plays after the catch. Maybe slightly above average hands. Capable blocker. Good release into his routes.

Weaknesses: Speed covers up some of his technical shortcomings. Lack of crispness in routes. Had season ending MCL surgery in 2017.

Player Comparison: Garrett Celek

IMO: Herndon may be at his best lined up in the slot. He is an absolute weapon after the catch, but does need to clean up some of his drops if he wants to maximize his potential. As a run blocker, there are better options in the class but he will be more than capable of holding his own in the NFL. His game needs some polish, but his athletic upside gives a higher ceiling than a lot of guys slated to go ahead of him. In a less deep tight end class he would be a day two talent.

Round Grade: Early 5th

4. Cam Serigne, Wake Forest: 6’3, 245

Strengths: After battling a case of the drops in 2016, Serigne was one of the sport’s most reliable options in 2017. Above average catch radius. Fearlessly works the middle of the field.

Weaknesses: Has neither ideal size nor athleticism. Effort falls short as a blocker.

Player Comparison: Jonnu Smith

IMO: His overall lack of athleticism raises concerns about his pro potential, but the way he runs route may turn out to be his saving grace. He’ll never be an asset in the run game, although he does have a ton of experience as an in-line tight end. As sure handed, polished, and experienced a she is, Serigne could certainly carve out a role for himself in the right situation, but it’s hard to go on the first two days with a probable backup ceiling.

Round Grade: Early 5th

5. Ryan Izzo, Florida State: 6’6, 256

Strengths: Good size for the position. Good run blocking potential. Tough and aggressive by nature. Soft hands.

Weaknesses: Athletically limited. Decent route runner but lack of speed and acceleration sees him struggle to create separation.

Player Comparison: Jeff Heuerman

IMO: Ryan Izzo in a word? Tough. He gets after it in the run game and should continue to be an effective lead blocker, if nothing else because of how hard he gets after it. He does have good hands but will have a hard time creating space in the league no matter how much he improves his route running. Izzo isn’t a sexy pick, but could fill a spot for a team in need of a strong Y-tight end.

Round Grade: Early 7th

6. Blake Mack, Arkansas State: 6’3, 229

Strengths: Very good athlete -- went to A-State as a receiver. Sure handed. Extremely impressive after the catch.

Weaknesses: Undersized for the position. Not much of a blocker. Lack of strength allows him to be rerouted.

Player Comparison: Diet Evan Engram

IMO: Not many tight ends in this draft class were as productive a deep ball receiver as Mack. Especially productive from the slot, Mack has the athleticism to stretch defenses down the middle like a big receiver. He’ll never be much help in the run game, but could provide a significant mismatch as a pass catcher. Whether or not he’ll pan out as a starting caliber tight end is tough to say, but he could offer an extra wrinkle or something for opposing defenses to gameplan for at the very least.

Round Grade: Late 7th

7. Ethan Wolf, Tennessee: 6’6, 258

Strengths: Soft hands -- makes catches in traffic. Plus run blocker when he tries. Adequate athleticism. Consistent.

Weaknesses: Never really stood out at Tennessee. Play style could be described as occasionally lackadaisical.

Player Comparison: Tyler Higbee

IMO: In watching Wolf, it seems like if he just tried a little harder he could be as solid a prospect as Herndon. The thing is, he didn’t. Maybe it’s unfair to question his love for the game and dedication to his craft, but I do. His talent warrants his presence in a training camp, but I would be uncomfortable using a draft pick on him.

Round Grade: PFA

8. Jeb Blazevich, Georgia: 6’5, 245

Strengths: Willing, capable run blocker. Slightly above average athlete. Adapted to his diminished pass catching role at Georgia, over the past two seasons.

Weaknesses: Only average strength for a blocking tight end. Pass catching production is almost nonexistent since 2015, whether it’s his fault or not.

Player Comparison: Chris Manhertz

IMO: The selling point on Blazevich would be his run blocking. Unfortunately, he may not possess the requisite strength to succeed as a blocking tight end in the NFL. There’s some athleticism to work with and maybe the right team could tap into the receiving potential his displayed early in his career at Georgia, but his lack of production keeps him from getting drafted.

Round Grade: PFA

9. Jordan Thomas, Mississippi State: 6’6, 265

Strengths: Physical freak of nature. Rare size-speed combination. Potential-not-production pick.

Weaknesses: Routes are a disaster. Looks unnatural catching the ball. Very raw.

Player Comparison: Dion Sims

IMO: This is risky. The athleticism that may see him get drafted is wildly apparent, but he was basically a non-factor in college. Position coaches may be licking their chops at the prospects of what he could become, but there’s no evidence that he will become anything close to that. A physical freak like him should be in a camp, of course, but may have a hard time sticking.

Round Grade: PFA

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP