Rookie TE Pre-draft Preview

I am only going 5 deep on the ECR rankings for this one, because the TE’s are in the kiddie pool of draft positions for depth. Somebody below this might do well, but predicting it is like tossing darts at your neighbor’s bedroom wall from outside.

  1. Trey McBride: Everyone’s #1 TE, but nowhere near a Kyle Pitts, or even a Pat Freiermuth. That said, McBride is a prototypical flex TE: Not especially great at blocking, but good catching passes. If he ends up with a team that passes a lot, watch out! McBride has great hands, and can contest catches excellently. He’s on the smallish side for a TE (about 6’3" and 246 pounds), but he uses what he has to his maximum benefit, although he doesn’t have breakaway speed and only gets past people by running over them. I wouldn’t touch him in a rookie draft until the 2nd round, even if he gets taken by a pass-heavy team, and only then if you are desperate for a TE. Otherwise, wait until the 3rd round (or even 4th round in smaller leagues) and try to steal him.

  2. Greg Dulcich: About the same size as McBride, at 6’4" and 245 pounds, he is also a good hands TE who can run over people and make things happen in the passing game. Also like McBride, he’s more of a flex TE rather than a traditional blocker. Honestly, there isn’t a world of difference between the two of them on film. Dulcich might be underrated behind McBride, especially if Dulcich ends up with a “pass first” team.

  3. Isaiah Likely: The first one of the flex TE’s who can actually block too. He is also at 6’4" and 240-245 pounds (depending on your source), although he looks thinner than Dulcich. The first problem with Likely is his school: Coastal Carolina. The mismatches are obvious, which makes estimating his pro potential difficult. Then again, Shannon Sharpe was from Savannah State (and smaller than Likely), so it isn’t impossible for a small schooler to do well.

  4. Jeremy Ruckert: He is the first big body we’ve seen in this list, at 6’5" and 252 pounds. Playing at Ohio State, he was more of a run-blocking first TE, with WR’s like Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson hoarding the pass targets. He will likely go to a team that wants him to run-block, and he will do fine at that. Though it isn’t exciting, that might keep him on the field in the red zone and give him TD opportunities. “Serviceable” is the word I would use, but there could be some potential upside if draftniks are underestimating him.

  5. Jalen Wydermyer: Big body (6’5" and 255 pounds) and slow, but he is a load. There was one catch he made against Colorado where he was being tackled by 4 guys but still made an extra yard. Then again, there was another catch he made against LSU where 4 guys held him where he was. Picture a slower version of Ricky Seals-Jones.

It is an ugly landscape for TE’s this year. It almost makes me wonder if we are seeing the devolution of the TE position in the NFL. But that’s a discussion for another day.

1 Like

I don’t think so. For quite a few years now, few teams have utilized TEs in a pass catching role that made them dynasty relevant. Add a typically long shelf life, and you have an exciting TE prospect entering the league only every other year.

Plus, good TEs don’t necessarily get drafted early. In 2017, a certain George Kittle was drafted in round 5, being the 9th TE to get off the board. Even the undisputed fantasy TE GOAT, Travis Kelce, saw 4 other TEs getting drafted ahead of him in 2013 (one of them being Zach Ertz).

Mark Andrews, his likely successor as a serial fantasy TE1 was #4 off the board in 2018. And that was still a lot earlier than Dalton Schultz, who saw another 5 TEs getting drafted before his number was called in the 4th round, making him the 10th TE to get drafted that year.

This year’s TE class does not look overly exciting, indeed. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see some of the later-round picks rising to stardom.

An interesting detail: while any other position sees the occasional undrafted star player, TE hardly ever does. Even after quite a bit of research, the only undrafted TE I found was Antonio Gates, who started playing for the Chargers in 2003. And he went undrafted because he had played basketball in college.

1 Like

But I wonder if some of these good TE’s benefitted from situation more than their own unique skills? Naturally talented TE’s like Kyle Pitts are the exception.

Even Dalton Schultz wouldn’t have gotten a chance if not for Blake Jarwin’s injury.

Maybe with “average” TE’s, we need to look at their situation more than their ability. Or maybe it is better to not draft a TE and wait to see how they do on the field? Then trade for them.

1 Like

Situation is definitely a hugely important factor for TE fantasy production. And talent and skills are largely defined by their blocking abilities.

A TE with great hands who struggles at blocking will see less snaps. Less snaps means less opportunities.

OTOH, a great blocker who did little in terms of receiving in college can turn into a valuable fantasy asset in an offense that relies on short passes. Especially if he develops a great chemistry with his QB and gets plenty of red zone targets. Robert Tonyan is a good example here (who, for some reason, did not come to my mind when I searched for undrafted TEs yesterday :clown_face: ).

1 Like

You make some good points, ones that likely benefit the last 3 guys on my list more than the first 2.