The tight end position is a position group that has seen a lot of changes in the modern NFL. A number of teams have moved from the more traditional tight end like Jason Witten, to more of a receiving threat like Travis Kelce. As we have experienced this change in the position we have been spoiled with some top tier talent in the NFL draft. We have seen the likes of O.J. Howard and Evan Engram make their marks on the NFL, and this past year we just saw two tight end’s from the same school go in the first round.
At this time last year, Noah Fant was a household name for draft fanatics, but by the end of the year, it was his teammate T.J. Hockenson that had stolen the show. Both were widely considered top tier talents for tight ends…will we see that this year?
After doing my preseason dive into draft-eligible tight ends, I don’t think there is an elite talent in this class, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that there are potentially some very good contributes in this class. With all that said, here are my top 5 tight ends heading into the 2019 college football season.
1. Grant Calcaterra, Oklahoma
Residing in Texas it is impossible not to hear about Oklahoma, especially as they have produced a slew of talent into the NFL. The last tight end to catch people’s attention was Mark Andrews who was drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft….this year it will be Calcaterra.
Calcaterra is the definition of a receiving tight end in fact, by the end of the draft cycle I might have him graded as a wide receiver and not a tight end. Calcaterra surprisingly doesn’t have a lot of production, but when you look at who Oklahoma has at receivers, it is easy to understand why. He doesn’t offer anything in terms of blocking, so he spends almost all of his time split out as a receiver. Calcaterra is a great route runner and has very good hands, and despite weighing in at only 221 pounds he can fight through contact to make tough catches.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 12, 2017
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) December 1, 2018
The weight is concerning to me if he does play tight end at the next level, but if he is used as a receiver he could be a real weapon.
2. Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt
Pinkney, like Calcaterra is another tight end that can be a receiving threat at the next level. He is used all over in the Vanderbilt offense, you will see him split out, in line and as an h-back. The Vanderbilt has good speed and is able to make tough contested catches. Blocking is an area he can improve, but it is something he is capable of learning. Pinkney weighs in at 6’4 255 pounds, he is a big tight end who has very good body control and can make catches with his arms extended away from his frame.
Good morning, Jared Pinkney. pic.twitter.com/BmLMhKE6z1
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) June 17, 2019
VANDY!!!! 40 yard TD from Kyle Shurmur to Jared Pinkney! pic.twitter.com/bRCCbsSARJ
— #FlashSZN (@ftbeard_17) October 27, 2018
Pinkney has all the tools to be successful at the next level if he refines his blocking he could finish as my tight end 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft.
3. Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
Brycen Hopkins is a name I wasn’t familiar with before this summer and now he is one of my favorite players heading into the season. Hopkins lines up all over the field, he has good hands, and he is a good route runner. Hopkins is very explosive coming off the line and looks like a receiver when he is running.
One of the big things that stood out to me in his film was his ability to disguise his routes. On many occasions he would come off the line and act like he was blocking, in his route he would give just enough hesitation in his route to sell the block and draw the defenders in, then he would release and be wide open.
Love this rep from Brycen Hopkins, be on the lookout to see where he ranks in my preseason TE rankings! pic.twitter.com/TNcr0DNi3a
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) July 20, 2019
Hopkins has all the potential in the world and I can’t wait to see what his senior year brings before he enters the NFL Draft.
4. Colby Parkinson, Stanford
If you’re up late on a Saturday this next college football season and watching a Stanford game, you’re definitely not going to miss Colby Parkinson. Parkinson comes in at 6’7 240 pounds, he is a huge target. Like all of the other tight ends, Parkinson is a big receiving threat. He spends most of his time split out, has great hands but he’s not going to offer a lot of blocking ability. I have questions about how strong he is, but with how big his frame is he can be a match-up nightmare at the next level.
Can't. Teach. Height.
Colby Parkinson used all of his 6'7" frame on the game-winning TD ? pic.twitter.com/HrRnpuVi9g
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 23, 2018
Colby Parkinson (6’7/240) #Stanford is a stud. Obviously a red zone threat, but he also averaged 14.3 YPT on passes thrown 20 yards downfield. My bet to lead college TEs in touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/zj1UeaYepN
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) June 17, 2019
5. Hunter Bryant, Washington
The big surprise here…another receiving tight end. Hunter Bryant is also on the smaller side weighing in at 6’2 241 pounds. He has good speed, good hands, and can make tough contested catches. With his small frame, Bryant might be looked at as a full-time receiver rather than a tight end and health has been a concern for him. But I expect Bryant to have a break out year, especially now that Washington has a capable QB throwing him the ball.
— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) January 2, 2019
Hunter Bryant showing off the "my ball" mentality in the redzone. pic.twitter.com/TjoF8kcgsO
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) October 15, 2017
Regardless of where he lines up next year, Bryant has the potential to make some big plays to shoot up his draft stock.