Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Recent NFL drafts lack standouts at tight end (w/video)

TAMPA — It wasn't long ago that you would expect to hear a tight end's name called in the first round of the NFL draft.

From 2000-10, at least one was taken every year, and two or three in some drafts, producing eventual Pro Bowl players such as Heath Miller, Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey.

But come Thursday night, chances are you won't see a tight end picked in the first round, and that would be the fourth time in the past six drafts, a clear sign that the position has lost much of its value in the NFL, with less and less talent coming from colleges.

"You look at the offenses and the spread looks. A lot of these teams have really eliminated the tight end," said former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, a first-round pick of the Jets in 2000 now entering his fourth season with ESPN. "There aren't too many kids coming through high school wanting to play that position."

Consider the top 25 receivers in the NFL last year. Eleven hadn't turned 25 when the season started. Ten of the top 25 running backs hadn't turned 25. But tight end? Just three of the top 25 tight ends in total yards were younger than 25, and none of them close to being stars: the Lions' Eric Ebron, the Packers' Richard Rodgers and the Giants' Will Tye.

The most productive tight ends are more likely to have arrived a decade earlier, with big numbers coming from the Chargers' Antonio Gates (age 35), the Saints' Ben Watson (35), the Cowboys' Jason Witten (33) and the Steelers' Miller (33), who announced his retirement this offseason.

The current generation? There were 19 tight ends drafted in 2015, and just two of them mustered even 200 receiving yards last year. The year before, just four drafted tight ends had 200 yards as rookies, the Bucs' Austin Seferian-Jenkins among them with 221 in an injury-plagued season.

"There just hasn't been a lot of talent, to boil it down," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "The last two (draft) classes have not been great. Maybe it has to do with more teams in the spread, more focus on wide receivers and guys who are tweeners deciding to stay at wide receiver.

"We have been without that elite, true first-round, top-20 pick the last few years. It's not like we're surprised by the lack of production."

In this draft there isn't much expectation of a tight end being worthy of a first-round pick. Arkansas' Hunter Henry (6 feet 5, 250 pounds) is likely to be the first off the board but not until Friday's second round, perhaps joined by South Carolina's Jerell Adams (6-5, 247).

With more passing in college offenses and tight ends being cultivated as mismatch big receivers, it's harder to find young tight ends who enter the league with adequate blocking technique. Many are "move" tight ends more likely to flex as a receiver than to bury a defensive end in run-blocking.

"I have not seen a tight end come into the league in the last 10 years that could quite get the blocking down as far as what it takes in the league," Becht said. "It took me a long time, too, maybe 31/2 years to figure out how to compete and win against a defensive end."

That's not to say teams don't look for all-around tight ends. When the Bucs drafted Seferian-Jenkins two years ago, it was the highest the franchise had selected a tight end. Seferian-Jenkins has missed exactly half his games in two seasons, but if healthy, he could develop into the complete tight end the Bucs — and largely, the NFL — haven't been able to develop.

If the size is right, a team will overlook a lack of college receiving production. The Bucs' local predraft workout two weeks ago included USF's Marlon Pope (6-4, 260), who totaled three catches in his two years with the Bulls.

"It's unbelievable," Becht said of the falloff of talent at his old position. "When I was coming out, the offenses were a little different, a lot more traditional, pro-style offense. There's been a complete overhaul in the college game, and teams in the NFL still want a complete tight end, that guy that can do both. (The Patriots' Rob) Gronkowski is the closest that comes to it, but everybody else has a hindrance."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

. Fast facts

NFL draft

Thursday-Saturday, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Chicago

Times: Round 1, Thursday, 8 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network); Rounds 2-3, Friday, 7 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN2, NFL); Rounds 4-7, Saturday, noon (ESPN, NFL)

Draft order: 1. Rams (from Titans); 2. Eagles (from Browns); 3. Chargers; 4. Cowboys; 5. Jaguars; 6. Ravens; 7. 49ers; 8. Browns (from Dolphins via Eagles); 9. Bucs; 10. Giants; 11. Bears; 12. Saints; 13. Dolphins (from Eagles); 14. Raiders; 15. Titans (from Rams); 16. Lions; 17. Falcons; 18. Colts; 19. Bills; 20. Jets; 21. Redskins; 22. Texans; 23. Vikings; 24. Bengals; 25. Steelers; 26. Seahawks; 27. Packers; 28. Chiefs; 29. Cardinals; 30. Panthers; 31. Broncos

Bucs draft picks: First round, ninth overall; second round, 39th overall; third round, 74th overall; fourth round, 108th overall; fifth round, 148th overall; sixth round, 183rd overall; sixth round, 197th overall, from Redskins

Recent NFL drafts lack standouts at tight end (w/video) 04/25/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2016 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week

    Bucs

    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.