Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State) – 88

Statistics can be deceiving.  Looking at Goedert’s gaudy numbers (92 catches for 1293yds and 11tds as a junior), I expected him to be essentially an oversized WR who played mainly in the slot.  What I found, when I examined his tape, was one of the most talented all-round TE prospects in the 2018 draft class.  His ability as a receiver, of course, stands out.  He isn’t huge but, at 6-4, 250 he is big enough to be a match-up problem for NFL defences.  He is a very smooth, fluid athlete with good speed, who is extremely physical after the catch – he has no interest in going down on first contact.  He also has the body control to make absolute circus catches – see Q1 5:06 of the 2016 Villanova game for a superb example.  It was, however, as a blocker that Goedert surprised me.  He shows desire, good technique and the ability to sustain blocks – indeed, there were times when he was positively dominant.  I haven’t seen a better TE block this year than the one he made in the 2016 North Dakota State game (Q3, 6:08), where he gives a clinic in how to open up a hole in the run game.  He can occasionally over-extend as a blocker but this is a minor quibble; in essence, his blocking is really very good.  Goedert will, of course, have to overcome questions about the level of competition he faced and I think he is a very good athlete without being an outstanding one.  Overall, though, I think he has the skill-set and attitude to be a very good starting TE in the NFL and I would not be at all surprised to find him in the discussion for a 1st round pick, come next year.

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Cam Serigne (TE, Wake Forest) – 52

Serigne seems to have been at Wake Forest for about ten years; he has been a consistently productive player in the ACC, particularly as a pass receiver.  He is particularly adept against zone coverage; he finds the soft spots consistently and is a reassuring target for his QB.  He has strong hands, a decent catch radius and flashes the ability to make the contested catch – evident in the 2016 Delaware game (Q3, 5:46).  He can get open in the red zone and his touchdown numbers are good – at the present time (6th September, 2017), he has scored 14 career TDs.  He is not much of a downfield threat, however, and his potential for yards after the catch is pretty limited.  As a pass catcher, Serigne could have a future in the NFL.  As a blocker, however, he is very limited.  He is a bit better on the perimeter but, as an in-line blocker, he tends to lunge and reach and is strikingly lacking in the stability needed to anchor as a TE.  In the run game, his angles are positively bizarre; there are times when you will see him just turn his body round to try and shield players off with his back.  It seldom works.  As a pass blocker, he is shaky – the bowl game v Temple was a good example of his limitations in this area (see for instance Q2, 4:57).  Given his marginal size (6-3, 245) and his frailties as a blocker, I don’t see Serigne as having a high ceiling in the NFL and, accordingly, I have a late round/UDFA grade on him at this stage.

Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State) – 53

Having heard a lot of hype about Gesicki as one of the top TEs in the class, I was looking forward to delving gnomishly into his tape.  I must confess, I was disappointed.  We should start with the positives; he has really good hands , an outstanding catch radius and the ability to make the contested catch on a regular basis.  He gives enough effort as a blocker to make him just about serviceable in the Big Ten; in the NFL, however, he will get destroyed.  The thing that stood out most to me about Gesicki, though, is his lack of athleticism.  There is so little explosion off the line and so little speed that it is very difficult to envisage him winning on a regular basis in the NFL.  In the 2016 Michigan game, when he was up against a host of NFL calibre defenders, he looked utterly lost and outmatched.  I could perhaps see Gesicki making a team as a third TE who could be considered a red-zone threat but even that is a reach – I like my number 3 TE to be a factor on special teams and I don’t see Gesicki having the speed or physicality to be an effective special teams player at the next level.  I can, I fear,  see him as one of the big names in the draft who ends up not hearing his name called.

Kendall Blanton (TE, Missouri) – 64

Blanton has shown considerable versatility at Missouri – he has lined up as a conventional TE, a slot receiver, an H-Back and a FB.  He has an imposing frame (6-6, 265lb) and is a fluid, powerful athlete.  So far in his career, he has been part of a 3 or 4 man platoon of TEs, which has limited his opportunities to shine; he did, however, show enough in the 2016 season to suggest that he could be a major sleeper in what is a markedly less impressive 2018 TE draft class than the 2017 equivalent.  Blanton has very good hands and will make the contested catch; his TD catch in the South Carolina game is a good example.  He uses his frame well and will bully smaller DBs.  His route running, however, can be a bit sloppy and he needs to become more precise in his breaks.  At the moment, he is more polished as a pass blocker than in the running game.  In pass protection, he anchors well and shows a strong punch, whereas he lacks a bit of explosiveness as a run blocker; I’d like to see a bit more aggression in the running game.  With Sean Culkin, last year’s starting TE for Mizzou, in camp with the LA Chargers, Blanton should get more opportunities this season and I have a funny feeling that this current 5th/6th round borderline grade might improve dramatically over the course of the 2017 season.

Adam Breneman (TE, Massachusetts) – 70

This is a TE class with some fascinating tales to tell.  Breneman was a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school, who went on to flash enormous potential as a freshman at Penn State.  After a couple of serious knee injuries, he had virtually retired from football and was preparing for life as a political campaign manager, when he received a text from his best friend at high school, who was about to start spring practice at U-Mass.  The rest is history – Breneman, in his comeback season, caught 70 passes for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns, catapulting him back into the mix for an NFL future that he had given up as lost.  On tape, you can see why he was so highly rated coming out of high school; he has extremely soft hands for a 6-4, 250lb TE and can make highlight reel catches.  He has a natural feel for the soft spot in a zone and is a real threat in the red zone.  He doesn’t get much separation, however, and, in 2016, looked like a good athlete but not a great one.  His blocking in 2016 also left something to be desired; he played too high and found himself being propelled backwards with tedious regularity in the running game.  He looks like a skinny 250, however, and it will be interesting to see if, with a whole off-season behind him, he can a) demonstrate a bit more explosion as a route runner and b) build enough muscle and hone his technique sufficiently to demonstrate the sort of  functional strength he will need to be an effective blocker at the next level.  If he can do so, he could conceivably vault himself into the Day 2 discussion, as he has some very desirable traits as a pass catcher.

Haydon Hurst (TE, South Carolina) – 83

Hurst’s is an interesting story.  Having been drafted as a pitcher by the Pittsburgh Pirates coming out of high school, he spent a couple of years trying to make it in the major leagues before deciding to walk on at South Carolina.  The Gamecocks fans will be delighted he did; Hurst looks to me to be a bona fide NFL TE.  He is a big, physical receiver, with an excellent catch radius and the ability to adjust well to the ball in the air.  When he catches the ball, he runs angry; I love how he really seeks to punish would-be tacklers.  As a blocker, he gives really good effort and is physical and committed.  He’s not George Kittle (in my view, the best blocking TE in the 2016 draft) but, compared to most college TEs, he grades out pretty favourably in this part of his game.  He still needs to work on the crispness of his route running, which looks a bit sloppy at times and I’m not sure how great an athlete he is – the combine will be crucial for him, should he decide to come out this year.  Overall, though, I’m very high on Hurst.  He is clearly a high-character guy – he was voted one of four permanent team captains for the Gamecocks in 2016 as a walk-on sophomore – and I don’t think an NFL team will regret drafting him in the least.  I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses in 2017.

DeAndre Goolsby (TE, Florida) – 61

I suspect the NFL may have Goolsby ranked higher than I do, due to his potential in the passing game.  He is very athletic, possesses good, though not great, hands, and, for a tight end, he is surprisingly elusive as a ball carrier in space.  He has an instinctive feel for the soft spot in a defence and a nose for the first down marker.    All of these are valuable skills in today’s NFL.  As a blocker, however, Goolsby is – let’s be kind here – a work still in progress.  He finds it very difficult to maintain blocks and appears to be lacking the functional strength to be effective as an in-line blocker.  Against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, you saw the good and the bad of Goolsby in abundance.  He worked to get open, was productive in the passing game and ended up with 7 catches for 91 yards and a TD.  When he was asked to run block, however, some of the Alabama could have been charged with assault and battery, given the way they treated him.  He is listed at 6-4, 244 but he looks a very slim 244 to me.  This lack of strength and blocking ability means I can only see him as a developmental prospect – I would only consider him late on Day 3.