Updated: Apr 3, 2022
Disclaimer - tight ends are split into multiple roles (traditional "in-line" TE1s, H-backs, blocking TE2s, receiving TE2s, as well as a newer breed of tweener type TE/slot WRs) & fall into 2 categories (blocking oriented or receiving oriented). I put ( * ) next to players that are likely Saints targets & scheme fits. I put (+) next to players that are scheme fits, but not necessarily players I'd target.
*Trey McBride Colorado State
6'4 260 Fan favorite type player. Game screams attitude, reminiscent of prospects like Kyle Juczvyk out of Harvard or George Kittle out of Iowa (tough, productive, versatile - blocker and receiver). More strength and agility than pure speed. Pretty smooth. Could be utilized in hybrid role FB/TE/WR. More complete than most. Fun to watch. Blocks with a lot of effort. Physical. Trust him to bring in tough catches. Navigates traffic well, good balance, gets YAC. Can not try to tackle him in a half hearted manner because he will leave you on the turf. There are some running back type athletic traits here (build, balance, frame, vision). He's likely a 2nd round pick; I see no problem picking him early 2nd. Enough toughness, IQ, agility, and overall ability as receiver and blocker to make plays despite lack of top tier speed. His game in one word: toughness. Very strong hands. No "double catches." When the ball hits his mitts (or even mitt) it sticks. YAC plays are fun. Had my favorite play in the class (3rd Q vs Toledo, tied 3 to 3): he shed a DE, stiff armed a LB in a juke, broke it 20 yards outside, & hurdled a S to avoid being hit out of bounds. What stuck out most was a beautiful hesitation move right before hitting the 2nd level and wasting the LB. That one play shows his potential. As far as production, McBride leads the class; as a SR he had 90 CTH for 1121 YD. Improbably, only 1 TD. How concerned will teams be with the low TD numbers? As far as team fits, McBride is pretty scheme diverse. Colts & Saints make sense in the mid 2nd round. Can't see him falling past the Jags and Jets at beginning of round 3. In fact they'd probably like him in the early 2nd.
Scout Grade - 2nd Round
Scout Comp - Dawson Knox type body/traits but blocking effort like George Kittle
*Jalen Wydermyer Texas A&M
Productive 3 year starter and early entrant JR. Traditionally sized TE with rare breed of both speed & power. Top tier speed, agility, & burst. Aggies lined him up all over including the slot. Explodes off the LOS, runs routes with WR type fluidity. As a blocker, he's surprisingly physical and converts speed to power. The TV announcers indicated that blocking is a newer part of his game that he didn't always display, but in the games I watched from this year, his blocking was awesome (high effort & high IQ). He opened a lot of big holes for Isaiah Spiller, and took good angles on nearly every rep I watched. People may view him as a receiver only type TE, but I think he's dual threat. Despite big soft hands, he had some concentration drops. That's the main thing to improve. There were some timing passes in the short game where he almost seemed surprised by the ball. So his reaction time/tracking isn't elite, has room to improve. Those kind of "processing" issues could cause him to fall to the 3rd round. Even so there's value. Physical. Runs low enough to be a YAC threat. Good balance. Doesn't go down from contact easily. Fights for yards. Solid receiving and blocking. Could be fantastic in red zone and a 3 down TE. He could easily be ahead of McBride for the #1 TE in this class, depending on the team, it's close. Wydermyer has more athletic upside and traits. McBride is more proven as a blocker and had more production (he also had a larger role in his offense). Wydermyer's production was solid. Averaged about 500 YD & 5 TD all 3 seasons vs good SEC defenses. Pretty durable, consistent. He and McBride are both the top tier of this class and look like 2nd round picks. Wydermyer might go as high as early 2nd because I expect him to measure really well. As far as team fits, there are many teams that could work; I could picture him going to the Jets or Colts. (following section was added on 3/25/2022) It turns Wydermyer didn't participate in the combine than ran an awful 5.03 forty yard dash. He did not look that slow on film, so I still like him as a prospect but that means his grade will fall dramatically on draft day. It's possible he goes undrafted. I'd love to target him if so, and would still take him as early as round 5. Some guys don't time well on a track but still play fast. He has a chance to be that type of athlete/player.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
*Isaiah Likely Coastal Carolina
6'4 240 More like a slot WR than traditional TE. Almost RB type proportions. Very agile, the best lateral athlete among the TEs in this class. Doesn't appear to have much length. Looks like a TE2 receiving threat who's best in space. You might rather hit him open in the flat and aim for YAC than you would push it vertical and let him fight for contested throws. He has some vertical plays where he made highlight reel type highpoint catches above the rim, but projecting him as a pro you have to consider level of competition. Not sure how he'll translate or fit into the pro game. Might be a single dimensional player (receiver only). Needs to improve as a blocker. Has some high effort moments where he converted speed to power, but you'd like to see way more examples of him getting his hands on guys. As a receiver, he works the sidelines well. Boxes out, knows how to position himself to get the angle on the ball. Has enough juice and ball skills to make plays deep down the seams, but I wonder if he has the length. Really looks best working the sidelines. Has red zone value. Despite level of competition, Likely was productive and improved year after year. As a FR he had 12 CTH for 106 YD & 5 TD. As a SO he had 32 CTH for 431 YD & 5 TD. As a JR he had 30 CTH for 601 YD & 5 TD. As a SR he had 59 CTH for 912 YD & 12 TD. Finished his career with over 2,000 YD & averaging 15.4 YPC. He's the type of player, who may get slightly overdrafted (like as high as round 3), but fans will like him because of his highlight reel. Personally, if I'm drafting a TE that high, I'd really want to have a more complete player. Without prototypical size/length and blocking ability, it seems slightly expensive for a potential gadget player. Than again, you pick a player like Likely for his receiving upside; he is one of 3 guys in this class that has potential to be an 800 YD type receiver. Will the lack of blocking limit his usage and opportunities? Will he be able to see the field on early downs? I'd be more comfortable taking him around round 5.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Scout Comp - Tre McKitty
*Jake Ferguson Wisconsin
Bigger traditionally sized TE & 4 year starter. Ferguson made some nice contested catches in the red zone and showed he is more than willing to take a lick in order to make the catch. Definitely a step below athletically than others in the class but tries to make up for it with toughness. Might have the biggest hands in this class. It's always hard to tell hand size from film alone, but the way the ball absorbs into his palms, he makes some tough catches look effortless. Kind of a fearless player. He does not get rattled by traffic or heaps of attacking bodies over the middle. There are multiple catches where he's operating right in the teeth of the defense between 4 and 5 defenders. Had plays against good teams like Notre Dame where it took 5 tacklers to bring him down too. Generally just a very tough player. You just wish he had more burst and long speed. Even so, possible TE2. Long speed may be serviceable enough too. Likely high 4.7s or low 4.8 type forty. Knows how to utilize his length. Very wide catch radius. Averaged about 400 YD all four years including his FR season which was his best statistically. YPC decreased year after year from 12.7 to 9.8. Out of all the TEs, Ferguson blocks with the best leverage. He's kind of a monster as a blocker. Just a ferocious mindset and once he latches on to a guy, they're normally locked up. Not a top tier athlete, but possibly the most competitive blocker in this class. Should see the field early and often because of his ability as a blocker. You could line him up at Fullback and he'd be effective. Nasty competitive disposition. As far as pro comps, he reminds me of Jake Butt. Butt was the best TE in college football when he came out of Michigan but injuries never allowed him a chance as a pro. Ferguson is similar in traits.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Scout Comp - Jake Butt
*Jeremy Ruckert Ohio State
6'5 252 Above average long speed and good athlete for his size. Has some burst and plays tough brand of football. Lacks explosion for me to think he'll be a dominant receiver as a pro. He could be a good all around player and serviceable receiver though. Ruckert clearly takes care of his body and is well proportioned. His lean muscle build is similar to players like the Bosa brothers; albeit he's a smaller version of that build but similar proportionally. In that sense, athletically, what you see is what you get. Maybe it's system, but many routes look "rounded off" instead of clean in and out of his breaks. May be limited to vertical route running instead of horizontal, at least early in his career. Ruckert is an active, competitive player. He fights very hard for yardage and had plays where it took 3 and 4 defenders to get him down. The best part of his game I thought was his pass blocking where he surprised me with his anchor and ability. As a run blocker, he offers good effort but needs work. For every great block, he'll have a block where he completely misses his target. It's always high effort though. Ruckert is built like a starting TE1 so I could see him getting drafted higher than he probably should. He's the type of player who flashes the traits you look for, but at no point did he put it all together or look dominant so that worries me a little bit. In 4 years he finished with 54 CTH for 615 YD & 12 TD. Considering most outlets project him to be the 3rd TE in this class, I worry that the risk might outweigh the reward. I think he's a TE2...with upside. With his tools, I'd have expected more dominant production; he only surpassed 50 yards once versus Penn State with 57 YD. With his tools you'd expect that kind of performance every week. Earliest I'd be comfortable taking him would be 4th round, but I'd really aim more towards round 5. It's possible he goes as high as 3rd round though. As far as pro comps, athletically he's similar to Pat Freiermuth from Penn St in last year's class. As an overall prospect he reminds me of Cole Kmet when he came out of ND; people loved the tools, but at no point did I think he'd be as dominant as his traits. A little too much "tools over tape" here.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Scout Comp - Cole Kmet
*Charlie Kolar Iowa State
6'6 260 Long strider with decent long speed. Has enough burst for his size to develop into potential TE2. Kolar was a 4 year player for Iowa State, who was very production in his last 3 seasons. As a SO had 51 CTH for 697 YD & 7 TD. As a JR had 44 CTH for 591 YD & 7 TD. As a JR had 62 CTH for 756 YD & 6 TD. Even though he doesn't have top tier speed to separate, Kolar uses his length well to bring in tough catches. He's best in the intermediate and red zone. He's a tough player that doesn't get distracted by noise. He maintains focus on the ball despite tight coverage. Iowa State was a run heavy team with Breece Hall, and Kolar run blocked with pride. He's more technique than he is mauler. As far as pass blocking, his anchor looks average. For a late round TE2, he's not a bad option. He's got size and game to contribute as a run blocker and occasional receiver. There's possible upside as a starter, but he likely lacks athletic tools to be a TE1. As far as pro comps, he reminds me of Josh Hill.
Scout Grade - 5th/6th Round
Scout Comp - Josh Hill
*Derrick Deese Jr.
San Jose State
Father (Sr.) played OL for 49ers. Deese Jr. started at community college as a WR, transferred to San Jose, redshirted his 1st year, than improved over his next 3 seasons. As a JR had 19 CTH for 179 YD & 2 TD. As a SR had 20 CTH for 240 YD & 5 TD. As a 5th yr rsSR exploded for 47 CTH, 730 YD, & 4 TD which is 15.5 YPC. Looks bigger than his listed weight of 235. He's not the type of speed athlete who will separate consistently on the pro level, but he is a fluid enough athlete to offer some YAC potential. May be more TE2 at pro level but there's some TE1 upside as a receiving threat. At San Jose he lined up more in the slot as a WR than he did as an inline TE. He's a nimble player with good agility. Not many examples of him run blocking because his role was mainly a receiver, however on the few plays where he blocked, he flashed some potential. Small sample size (only 2 or 3 blocks per quarter in the games I watched) but there were a couple good flashes. Deese will mainly be a receiving TE that poses the most value in the red zone. On most of his catches you see him using his length well to extend and catch away from his body. Most of his catches look like someone rebounding a basketball. Athletically, he reminds me of guys like Ian Thomas and Jordan Akins.
Scout Grade - 5th/6th Round
Scout Comp - Jordan Akins
*Cole Turner Nevada
6'6 240 Long, lean, and lanky slot WR. Takes time to get to full speed. Can get down the seem but not overly explosively. Length might allow long strider advantage and imply more athletic capability than you'd expect. Best attribute is tracking where he's natural like a receiver. Might have best pure ball tracking skills in class. I'm just not sure he has the explosive traits but he has good hands and outstanding body control for his height. Had some plays where he had to adjust mid air, where he just made really tough catches look easy. If you're looking for a red zone threat as your TE2 with some developmental upside, Cole Turner is your guy. He's definitely worth a late round flier for a team that needs length in the red zone. He'll need to get more refined in and out of breaks which is hard for his tall frame, but may be needed to start as a pro. He is very tough. I just think he might be a notch below what's required athletically to be a dominant receiving threat or TE1, but he has a massive catch radius. Watching Turner makes me realize one thing: Carson Strong is much better than I initially thought (Nevada's QB). His touch and anticipation on some of these passes are uniquely beautiful. Turner at least did a good job bringing those in when it counted. As far as pro comps, he reminds me a little bit of Dan Arnold but without the agility. Turner is similar in that they're both thin build receivers that aren't asked to block much. Turner may need to become more well rounded as a blocker if he wants to see the field. Production in last 2 seasons was superb. As a JR had 605 YD & 9 TD. As a SR had 62 CTH for 677 YD & 10 TD. His best stuff is impressive. Best of his highlight reel has some of my favorite plays in this TE class. Very strong hands and acrobatic ability. He probably goes late in the draft because he's so one dimensional, but for a day 3 guy, there is some red zone upside here.
Scout Grade - 6th/7th Round
Scout Comp - less agile Dan Arnold
*Josh Whyle Cincinnati
6'6 235 Early entrant as a JR. Thin lanky basketball player type build. Looks like a potential 4.5 type runner with some explosive acceleration/leaping traits. Even though he's more of a glorified slot WR than TE, he should probably be ranked as top 2 or 3 in this class on just receiving potential. Arm length is a plus. Wouldn't surprise me if he had a 6'8 standing reach. He knows how to utilize his length to provide a large catch radius. Best plays were highpoint catches in the red zone where he could play 'jump ball.' Main issue with Whyle is thin build. He's thinner than past prospects who were deemed too thin (like when Darren Waller came out of GA Tech he was deemed too thin, but compared to Whyle even he's dense). Especially in his lower half, he looks like he might benefit from not taking off on "leg day." Maybe it's just how he's built, but he looks like he should be carrying a bit more muscle and density. That's something that can develop; strength can be added. Ability to catch in tight windows. There are some 20 yard fade routes in the red zone where he makes plays on the outside despite the DB being draped on him. I don't think he's Darren Waller, but stylistically and in build, he's a poor man's version. He really should be in the WR group because he's more of a slot WR than a TE. In today's NFL, that could mean being a 500 yard receiver. He's a fast straightline runner, but needs to improve agility. I really want to see better attention to detail in routes. Raw player, but receiving potential is apparent. Watch his TD catch vs. USF if you want to catch a glimpse of the upside. As far as production, he contributed but wasn't a focal point. As a SO Whyle had 28 CTH for 353 YD & 6 TD. As a JR had 26 CTH for 332 YD & 6 TD. Whyle has some athletic tools that may get him drafted as early as round 5. He's a tweener though and won't contribute much as a blocker. Because of that I could see him falling as late as round 7, possibly even a surprise undrafted free agent. As far as pro comps, there aren't any TEs in the league this thin. He's similar to Juwan Johnson who entered as a WR but converted to TE and I could see him having Foster Moreau type impact as a TE2 receiving threat. There is upside here; Whyle is simply unconventional. He doesn't fit into a box, or position even.
Scout Grade - 6th/7th Round
Scout Comp - Juwan Johnson
As a SO for Oklahoma had 26 CTH for 396 YD & 6 TD. Missed time as a JR where he was temporarily retired due to concussions. Transferred to SMU for a comeback as a SR where he had 38 CTH for 465 YD & 4 TD. On 1st appearance, Calcaterra is the type of player where you can see some pro level athleticism. He has a 2nd gear and flashed ability to separate on the college level. He's a vertical athlete who can go airborne to bring in tough red zone catches. Injuries are a concern since it's head. Because of that he may fall, but there are some pro athletic traits here to develop into a TE2.
Scout Grade - 7th Round
*James Mitchell Virginia Tech
6'3 255 This is the 1st late round guy who has some real intrigue. His size, agility, and overall style flash a little bit of Charles Clay when he came out of Tulsa. Clay was an undrafted player who ended up being a really solid pro. Mitchell has a little bit of that to his game. It's not great long speed, but coordinated smooth athlete who has high angle IQ and just enough agility and fluidity to make it work. Definitely worth a late round flier to develop. Very little film available. Will need to revisit once more tape is available. Initial instinct is 6th or 7th round player with upside. Doesn't scream sleeper, but there are intriguing traits. He missed last year with an injury. But in his 1st two seasons performed pretty well. Had 361 YD & 2 TD as a SO. Had 435 YD & 4 TD as a JR. I think he'll measure well and has coordinated speed as a TE2 to be a potential mismatch. Need more film to assess his blocking ability.
Scout Grade - 7th Round
Greg Dulcich (+) UCLA
Tough TE2 who provides some toughness and deep threat capability to stretch the field. He's an above average athlete. Doesn't have one particular wowing trait, but nice enough blend to work his way into pro targets. Very natural hand eye coordination and natural hands. There's some upside here as a receiver. He's more straightline speed than lateral, but you like his burst off the snap. Improving agility would help a lot because he is limited laterally. You love the production in college. As a rsSO had 517 YD & 5 TD at 19.9 YPC. As a rsJR had 42 CTH for 725 YD & 5 TD. Looks like a 5th-7th round type prospect worth a look late because of the receiving production. As a blocker, he looked okay against smaller DBs in space, but I don't see much potential as an inline blocker. As far as pro comps, he reminds me of Cethan Carter when he came out of Nebraska. Carter wasn't overly big or fast, and went undrafted, but he's stuck around the NFL since coming into the league. Dulcich isn't as smooth, but in traits he's similar to Carter. I do worry that he may lack the athletic upside to continue production on the pro level.
Scout Grade - 7th Round
Scout Comp - Cethan Carter
Cade Otton (+) Washington
6'5 250 Natural ability to extend and pluck away from his body. Nice catch radius, hands, tracking. Decent long speed for a late round traditionally built TE, but lacks explosion/burst. Not top tier athlete, but above average enough to warrant a day 3 pick and develop. Doesn't panic in traffic. Was used in the flats and deep down the seams in college; as a pro will be best utilized in the short to intermediate. Average athlete, looks like 4.7 to 4.8 type speed. As far as traits, he seems like someone who'll be fighting to become a TE2. I don't know if he's exceptional enough at either blocking or receiving for 'starting tight end' to be the expectation. As a run blocker, he gives good effort and actually looked more explosive as a blocker than he did as a receiver. Needs to improve leverage, but I appreciate his effort to contribute in all phases. The higher the stakes, like in red zone & 3rd 'n short situations, I thought the better he blocked. Doesn't latch on to defenders as well as you'd like but he gives solid effort and really tries to drive with his legs. The main thing that hurts Otton is the lack of burst. He's a one speed player. As far as production, he contributed throughout all 4 years but didn't have the top tier athleticism to be a gamebreaker. In 4 years finished with 91 CTH for 1026 YD & 9 TD at 11.3 YPC. Otton has traits similar to guys who've gone as high as 3rd round (Hunter Long in last year's class for example), but he likely goes later (between 5th and 7th rounds) because he wasn't very productive at the college level. Still, he's long, big, well rounded and could probably be a TE2 pretty early in his career.
Scout Grade - 7th Round
Scout Comp - Tommy Sweeney
DIDN'T DECLARE EARLY (Next Year's Class)
*Brant Kuithe Utah
If you're grading just on toughness, Kuithe would be high on this list. Love his competitiveness. He'll fight to come back to the ball on scramble drills. He'll fight for the ball in the air. He'll fight for YAC. Has a natural ability to use his shoulders to break tackles. Flashes good footwork, quick feet, and above average agility. Not a long strider or long speed type guy, but there's some upside here. He has some routes from the slot that look more like a WR than a TE. Although his acceleration isn't consistently jumping off the screen, there are a few moments when after securing a catch where he does hit a 2nd gear you don't necessarily expect him to have. He's kind of a bad ass. There's similarities to Trey McBride from Colorodo State. If I had to sum his game in one word: surprising. Whether it's getting an extra 3 yards of YAC, whether it's bringing in a tough catch you didn't expect, or whether it's seeing him explode out of a break, there are a lot of plays he makes where you're surprised. High effort shouldn't be overlooked. Definitely worth a late round look. Upside to develop into TE2, maybe even TE1. Easy player to like. I could see him climbing by draft time especially if he runs under a 4.8 forty. He's more on the smooth side with his long speed so he's hard to pulse on speed. I wouldn't be surprised by a 4.6 nor 4.9. May go anywhere from round 4 to udfa though depending on those measurables. I lean towards betting on him and somewhere around round 5 because there's enough quality plays and production to warrant a pick regardless of measurables. Once you get past round 5 this is the exact type of target you'd look for late in the draft at the position. He's just athletic enough to surprise you, and certainly tough enough to positively impact your team.
*Jahleel Billingsley Alabama
Looks like the most athletic "TE" in class when it comes to speed/burst traits. It's so smooth that it can be deceptive. Billingsley is built more like a WR than a TE and will be a receiving threat. What makes him different than some of the others in this class is most of his production is on the boundaries instead of down the middle like you're accustomed to seeing from TEs. Because he has the best feet in this class as well as good hands, it would not be crazy if teams had him ranked 1st in this class. This TE class is hard to rank because so many of these receiving threats are equally adept, yet there are just slight stylistic differences in their games. I rank Billingsley 1st because of his agility in and out of his breaks. Not only does he have the speed to burn, but he's the only TE in the class who really can run routes like a WR. Granted, he's more built like a WR so it really depends how you define these positions as the game changes. He has attributes of a 1,000 yard receiver though with receiving upside. He's long, can high point, and looks like a fast 40 type player for the position.
Sam LaPorta Iowa
6'4 249 LaPorta plays like a big traditionally built TE despite being listed at 249 pounds. What jumps out immediately is he is deceptively athletic. He can kick it into 2nd gear, he can reach his top speed quickly, and he is athletic laterally as well as in short space. He fights hard to get open and is a load to bring down. Some of his catches really surprised me like 30 yards downfield snagging high away from the defense while in stride, than refusing to go down and creating YAC. The reason it's surprising is at 1st glance you don't expect him to have that in his bag. LaPorta also exhibits some of the best body control in this class. This TE class is going to be very hard for teams to rank. A player like this who might go 8th at his position group has just as good of a shot to lead production as the guy getting picked 3rd. I don't think I can say that about many position groups, especially not TE in recent classes. This is a tough prospect who pays attention to detail. His routes look like the work of someone who's overachieving and really look like someone who's worked their tale off to run routes better than they should be able to. He might only be a 4.7 speed athlete, but there's enough attention to detail, toughness, and surprising agility that he should warrant a selection as high as round 4 or 5. At worst he's a valuable TE2. At his very best, he may just have enough "sum of all parts" talent to develop into a middle of the pack TE1. He's not George Kittle, but he might be Dave Thomas. I get the feeling this is the kind of player with a David Tyree moment waiting to happen. Even against good teams like Michigan, LaPorta does not back down. There were plays where he was tasked with 1 on 1 against Aiden Hutchinson (the likely 1st overall pick in this class) and LaPorta not only fought hard, but he arguably won the rep. Iowa mainly liked to line him in the backfield and let him cross the formation while targeting him in the flats. But on opportunities over the middle in traffic, he made some of the toughest catches in this class. It's just hard to bet against toughness and will. If I had to summarize his game in one word: Chippy. I liked his effort in all phases. I think he's more athletic than people give him credit for too. If there's a sleeper in this class at TE, it's likely Sam LaPorta. As far as pro comps he reminds me of Austin Hooper and Brent Celek, although not as refined of a route runner.
Scout Grade - 4th/5th Round
Scout Comp - Austin Hooper
Trae Barry Boston College An extremely big and strong target, looks like a PF. Slow feet hurt his upside. Potential TE2/TE3 red zone threat based on build and length. Haven't looked up measurables yet but he looks about 6'7 245. He's in really great shape. However, that likely means he's already athletically at his peak. Not enough tape available to fully assess. Will have to follow up closer to draft time to assess blocking ability. As an athlete not ideal.