Finding Gold - The Tight End

Rookie 2020

Analyzing top tight ends dating back to 2000 -- only 13 tight ends were able to surpass 1,000 yards receiving and if a tight end did not surpass 1,000 yards, only eight tight ends had 80 receptions. My previous article on Finding Gold (Tight Ends) talked about two distinctive variables those 21 tight ends shared.

Introduction

Before getting into those variables, an important reminder is there was no correlation between where those (21) tight ends were drafted When looking at the 2020 tight end rookie class and their draft capital should not matter. I will keep the 2018-2019 draft class off the list for their development at the position. Notable players that did not make the lists and their overall draft pick:

  • 2009 - Jared Cook (89)
  • 2013 - Tyler Eifert (21)
  • 2014 - Eric Ebron (10)
  • 2016 - Hunter Henry (35)
  • 2017 - O.J. Howard (19)
  • 2017 - Evan Engram (23)
  • 2017 - David Njoku (29)
You can argue that injuries hindered some of these player's abilities, but it is still important to note the early draft capital spent -- when tight ends surpassed 1,000 yards or had minimum 80 receptions but were drafted later:
  • 2001 - Eric Johnson (224)
  • 2004 - Chris Cooley (81)
  • 2006 - Delanie Walker (175)
  • 2010 - Dennis Pitta (114)
  • 2017 - George Kittle (146)
2020 Rookie Tight Ends
The incoming rookie class is not as polarizing as previous classes but there are some notable selections and free agent signings:
  • The New England Patriots selected two tight ends (Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene) in the third round, the last time they selected two tight ends in a draft was when they picked Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski
  • The New Orleans Saints selected Adam Trautman
  • The Chicago Bears selcted Cole Kmet
  • The Washington Redskins signed Thadd Moss
  • The Baltimore Ravens signed Jacob Breeland
The complete list of drafted tight ends:

Three notable undrafted free agent signings:

There were several other free agent signings -- there has been no undrafted free agent to surpass 1,000 yards receiving and only one (Jack Doyle) to have caught a minimum of 80 receptions. Here is why I picked these three:

  • Jacob Breeland - ACL injury after six games in 2019, had 26 receptions, 405 yards, and 6 touchdowns
  • Thadd Moss - 2019 season: 47 receptions, 570 yards and has Randy Moss Genetics
  • Chase Harrell - A wide receiver turned tight end in 2019, Harrell is new to the position but has tremendous speed for Shanahan to utilize 
History tells us to ignore these signings, but it seems that these three players could bring value if they are given the opportunity. Jacob Breeland looks to replace Hayden Hurst in Baltimore, Thadd Moss looks to take over as the starter in Washington, and Chase Harrell, a long shot, could be utilized all over the field given he has experience as a receiver, and a change to 12 personnel could benefit Harrell.

My last article on Finding Gold -- The Tight End found two distinct variables, of them being the tight end's 40-time. A refresher on the 13 tight ends who surpassed 1,000 yards and the eight tight ends who caught 80 receptions and their 40-times:

The other variable will be addressed. For now, let us look at the 2020 tight ends and their 40-time (order from fastest to slowest):


The 1,000 yard tight ends had an average 40-time of 4.61 and the average for the minimum of 80 receptions had an average 40-time of 4.81. Only 1/13 tight ends who surpassed 1,000 yards had a 40-time over 4.80 and that is Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. As I stated in the first edition, the 40-time is not the only determining factor -- the other is quarterback play. It is difficult to determine quarterback play in the future, as tight ends typically take two years to develop. Some glaring concerns for quarterback play for the rookies:

  • Cole Kmet
    • Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles - or neither?
  • Devin Asiasi/Dalton Keene
    • Jarret Stidham or the replacement?
  • Josiah Deguara
    • Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love?
  • Adam Trautman
    • Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, or the replacement?
    • Taysom Hill...maybe?
While someone like Albert Okweugbunam will likely have Drew Lock and Tyler Davis will likely have Gardner Minshew as their quarterbacks for the upcoming years; it will be important to pay attention to the team's quarterback situations over the next few years. Below are the quarterbacks and their potential time to hit free agency -- based on current contract's unrestricted free agent year:

Discussion

There is no absolute when determining if a player will hit or miss, you can only use what evidence (data) is available. Identifying the next hit at tight end for the 2020 rookie class will be tricky -- but looking at the history of the elite tight end performances can guide you to determine which tight end to target. It is important to note the limitations: 1) rookie tight ends could be competing (Jacksonville: Tyler Eifert, Tyler Davis, and Josh Oliver), 2) we cannot determine quarterback play in the future, 3) if any injuries happen to these rookies, and most importantly 4) scheme. This does not hinder the ability to identify the athletic and versatile tight ends that fit the criteria to find the needle in the haystack.