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2019 NFL Draft/Dynasty Rookie Draft Preview -- THEIR Top Five TEs
Looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft/Dynasty Rookie Draft, etc., prospects. We’re going position by position (except OL) and looking at the top 3-5 expert consensus prospects (not my top 5). I’m doing an abbreviated study of a couple game tapes and review the performance numbers through 2017 and giving my initial impressions on these prospects.
Scouting with just eyes is dangerous. I’d like to have my computer scouting models helping me, but we cannot use that tool until the pre-draft measurables, etc., are recorded. I’m a pretty decent talent evaluator of just tape after all the years, but not without flaw.
So, with that – here’s my first impressions of spending a little time with each prospect. I’m going to rank them from worst-to-best of the group and assign a school letter scouting grade as well.
TE Tyler Petite, USC (Early Prospect Grade: D)
Nothing stood out here. Seems like an NFL athlete in movement but needs a lot of weight room work, which is fixable/doable. He’s about 6’4”/235-240 without a lot of definition. He looks serviceable, but again, nothing stood out.
TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston College (Early Prospect Grade: C-/D+)
For a while watching his tape, I was unimpressed. Kinda felt like I was watching a Tyler Petite-type (see above) ‘boring’ TE prospect. But the more I watched Sweeney the more I started to see a jolt, a little burst in his feet; some playmaking ability. He has decent hands. He has decent feet. He has size at 6’4”/250, although I feel like he needs work in weight room as well – frame doesn’t look NFL-ready.
There’s some raw material to work with here, but he’s more of a middle/late draft pick backup NFL TE kinda prospect than a for sure starter to get excited about. We’ll see how he develops in 2018.
TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA (Early Prospect Grade: C+)
The universal top TE for the echo chamber and it’s lazy scouting and utterly embarrassing that he’s the consensus #1. Noah Fant is so much better than Wilson, I cannot put it into proper words (but I’ll try when you get to the Fant section).
Wilson is a slightly undersized TE (6’3”/235 estimate), more like a WR…tall, no definition in his arms and not much power in his upper body. Perhaps because he is more like a WR playing TE, he does have above-average movement for a TE. He has very good hands. There are definitely skills to work with here. Potentially a slower version of Evan Engram with more work on his body.
The reason Wilson is so universally loved is because he averaged huge numbers in an injury-shortened 2017 season -- 7.6 rec., 98.0 yards, and 0.2 TDs per game in his five games. The big numbers were driven by two huge games with a lot of targets and namely his 15 catches for 208 yards 2017 opener vs. Texas A&M.
The Texas A&M game was a bit of a head fake effort – UCLA got down 3-4 TDs very early andspent most of the game in an all-passing comeback mode…and did get back into the game (through the aerial raid). Josh Rosen put on a show with 59 passing attempts and obviously he hit Wilson a bunch… much of the time with the defense playing soft with a huge lead and just trying to run the game out. Wilson wasn’t bad or great because he had 15-208-0, but it wasn’t like ‘wow’ when I watched it. A lot of throws against a soft zone and a lot of solid catches. Wilson was OK/good not great…but the numbers are straight fire.
When I saw his output numbers before watching the tape, I was ready to see a star…but Wilson really fell flat for me. There is an upside here but there’s more head fake than star power here right now for me.
TE Kaden Smith, Stanford (Early Prospect Grade: C+/B-)
Smith is the kind of WR the NFL loves…prototypical size, good blocker, slow with good hands. He’s a 1970s WR.
Good hands is underselling it – he has terrific hands and concentration making catches in tough spots. He makes several circus catches over the top of defenders. He’s not Dallas Goedert ‘great hands’ but Smith is still pretty sweet catching passes. However, he’s so slow afoot that he rarely ever separates and is forced to make catches over the top of defenders glued to him. He’s like a better receiving version, but less strong/worse blocking version of Kyle Rudolph.
His upside may be a touch limited by his lack of athleticism.
TE Noah Fant, Iowa (Early Prospect Grade: A+)
Wow! One of the best TE prospects I’ve ever seen on a tape study alone. This is what O.J. Howard would probably be like if any team he ever played for had made an effort to get him the ball more. I’d argue Fant is better than Howard as a receiver-athlete combo.
Evan Engram is maybe the most athletic TE prospect I’ve seen – once he hit the pros. I thought he was a little physically lacking for the pros in college, but I was wrong -- he bulked up perfectly for the NFL. Well, Fant may be even better than Engram because he’s a better receiver. Fant is like Engram and O.J. Howard gave birth to a TE prospect.
Fant moves like a high-end WR and is probably 6’4”/230 right now with room to get to 240 and still be wildly athletic. Fant looks like he has springs in his feet…one of the most graceful TE prospects I’ve ever watched. He has sweet burst. He leaps with ease. Everything he does is very natural and fluid.
He’s a high-end athlete. He has good+ hands. He’s a willing blocker. He scored 11 TDs last season with a team that is not designed for a passing attack. Most TE prospects do not score 11 TDs in a college career. Fant scored 8 TDs over his last 6 games in 2017, at least one TD in each of those games. He’s a star TE stuck in a depressed passing offense…and he’s still great despite it.
You want to talk ‘wow’ prospects – this is ‘wow’.