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Draft Snapshot: 10 Takes on TEs in 2017 NFL Draft

Posted Apr 20, 2017

The clock is ticking on the 2017 NFL Draft.

One of the league’s most important events kicks off with the first round at 7 p.m. (CT) on April 27 in Philadelphia. The second and third rounds begin at 6 p.m. (CT) on April 28. Rounds 4-7 start at 11 a.m. (CT) on April 29.

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the draft, beginning with the 48th overall pick, which is the No. 16 spot in the second round.

Vikings.com is taking a glance at the top prospects at each position leading up to the draft.

The tight ends are next on our list.

Where the Vikings Stand

Kyle Rudolph headlines Minnesota’s tight end group after a historic season. Rudolph set a single-season franchise record for with 83 receptions while adding 840 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. He also moved atop Minnesota’s all-time list for tight ends with 29 career receiving touchdowns. David Morgan returns for his sophomore season. Kyle Carter is back after spending much of 2016 on the practice squad, and Nick Truesdell was recently signed.

Recent Draft History (over past five years)

Total number of tight ends taken: 68

Round 1: 2

Round 2: 9

Round 3: 12

Round 4: 10

Round 5: 8

Round 6: 13

Round 7: 14

First-round tight ends are a rarity. Instead, teams wait to try and find impact players like Rudolph, who was a second-round pick. The majority of tight ends are usually picked on the third and final day of the draft.

The Prospects (based on rankings by CBS Sports)


1. O.J. Howard

Alabama, Senior, 6-foot-6, 251 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds

Bench press: 22 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 30 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 1 inch

3-cone drill: 6.85 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.46 seconds

2016 stats: caught 45 passes for 595 yards (13.2 yards per catch average) and three touchdowns

Hot take: According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Howard “looks more like a power forward than a traditional NFL tight end. He shows quickness and balance in gaining a clean release off the line of scrimmage, slipping by the jabs from defenders because of his body control and fluid athleticism. Howard accelerates smoothly, quickly pulling away from defenders tasked with covering him and is a reliable "hands" catcher,

Rang also noted that “while undeniably gifted, Howard remains far from a finished product. At this time, he is far too reliant on his size and athleticism as a route-runner, showing limited shoulder fakes and altered gaits to keep defenders guessing.”

2. David Njoku

Miami, Redshirt sophomore, 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.64 seconds

Bench press: 21 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 37.5 inches

Broad jump: 11 feet, 1 inch

3-cone drill: 6.97 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.34 seconds 

2016 stats: caught 43 passes for 698 yards (16.2 yards per catch average) and eight touchdowns

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Njoku has a “rocked up body type with muscular physique. Loose athlete with freakish ease of movement. Explosive release and instantly accelerates to top speed in his routes. Catches the ball in stride with nimble feet and dynamic skills after the catch. Powerful strides to run over defenders, maintain his balance and pull away. Polished route runner with the savvy to set up defenders and the body control to snap out of his breaks.”

Brugler also noted Njoku is “still developing his frame and lower body bulk. Excitable route runner and lacks polish, tipping his path. Strong hands, but inconsistent focus and too many drops on his film. Not always interested in blocking and falls asleep at the wheel.”

3. Evan Engram

Mississippi, Senior, 6-foot-3, 234 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds

Bench press: 19 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 36 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inch

3-cone drill: 6.92 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.23 seconds

2016 stats: caught 65 passes for 926 yards (14.2 yards per catch average) and eight touchdowns

Hot take: According to CBS Sports, “while listed as a tight end on the roster, Engram is better described as a versatile offensive weapon, lining up out wide, in-line and in the [backfield] at Ole Miss. He looks more like a physical wide out than traditional tight end with his size and growth potential, but his athleticism allows him to create mismatches vs. linebackers and safeties.”

4. Adam Shaheen

Ashland, Redshirt junior, 6-foot-6, 278 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.79 seconds

Bench press: 24 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 32.5 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 1 inch

3-cone drill: 7.09 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.38 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 12.38 seconds

2016 stats: caught 57 passes for 867 yards (15.2 yards per catch average) and 16 touchdowns 

Hot take: According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Shaheen has an “enormous frame for a tight end. Powerfully built, well-proportioned frame. Accomplished high school hooper who brings the same footwork to the field. Has good sink into breaks and can make sharp cuts coming out. Has foot quickness for clever stutter-and-go double moves to uncover against linebackers.”

Zierlein also noted Shaheen was “physically overwhelmed a lower level of competition. Upper body is stiff and mechanical in his routes. Hasn't learned how to utilize hands to free himself against press. Gets jammed up in his release and can be knocked off the timing of his patterns.”

5. Gerald Everett

South Alabama, Redshirt senior, 6-foot-3, 239 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.42 seconds

Bench press: 19 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 36 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inches

3-cone drill: 7.01 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.00 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.21 seconds

2016 stats: caught 49 passes for 717 yards (14.6 yards per catch average) and four touchdowns

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Everett has “effortless acceleration off the line with galloping strides to run away from defenders. Slender, but muscular and athletic body type. Subtle lean and hesitation in his routes to burst off his plant foot and square patterns, providing a clean target for the quarterback. Quick, reliable hands to make acrobatic grabs look routine.”

Brugler also noted Everett has “lacks prototypical bulk and growth potential for the position. Has added good weight since arriving at South Alabama, but weight has fluctuated. Tiny hands. Questionable vision as a ball carrier and needs to be more decisive instead of trying to dance and make defenders miss.”

6. Jake Butt

Michigan, Senior, 6-foot-5, 246 pounds

Combine numbers

Did not participate (injured)

2016 stats: caught 46 passes for 546 yards (11.9 yards per catch average) and four touchdowns

Hot take: According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Butt is “solidly built for the position with a workable frame...excellent route runner, using timing, tempo and subtle body fakes off the line and in/out of his breaks...quick, controlled feet at the top of patterns...fluid pass-catcher for the position with natural adjustments on throws away from his body...nice job catching the ball in stride, not losing momentum on crossers or seam routes.”

According to Brugler, Butt has “only average burst in his movements and won't separate in coverage on athleticism alone...doesn't have an explosive top gear to speed away from defenders after the catch...inconsistent anchor in pass protection vs. power...struggles to sustain in space as a blocker and needs to better mirror with his lower body to avoid holding penalties.”

7. Jordan Leggett

Clemson, Senior, 6-foot-5, 258 pounds

Combine numbers

Bench press: 18 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 33 inches

Broad jump: 9 feet, 6 inches

3-cone drill: 7.12 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.33 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 12.06 seconds

2016 stats: caught 46 passes for 736 yards (16.0 yards per catch average) and seven touchdowns

Hot take: According to Jamie Newberg of CBS Sports, Leggett has “adequate height and length for the position. Gliding straight-line athlete. Crafty route runner, setting up defenders and using hesitation to create spacing. Clearly leans on his technique and trusts it. Sticky hands with the natural coordination to pluck the ball. Excellent awareness at the catch point and doesn't need to gear down to assess his surroundings after the catch.” 

Newberg also noted Leggett is a “terrific versatility because he can line up out wide, split or in-line. He can be an H-back or put on the move in motion. Best in space, matched up with a linebacker because of his athleticism. Former high school wide receiver that runs routes better than most tight ends. Gets off the line of scrimmage well and does a nice job of finding openings in coverage.”

8. George Kittle

Iowa, Redshirt senior, 6-foot-4, 247 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds

Bench press: 18 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 35 inches

Broad jump: 11 feet

2016 stats: caught 22 passes for 314 yards (14.3 yards per catch average) and four touchdowns

Hot take: According to Lance Zierlein of ESPN.com, Kittle “has broad shoulders and waist with a durable frame. Plays in pro-style attack and approaches blocking like an offensive lineman. Comes off the ball with good pad level and strikes with leverage and hands inside opponent's frame.”

Zierlein also noted Kittle’s “patterns are inconsistent and he rarely tilts defenders at the top of his routes. Could generate better separation with improved route leverage. Route breaks can be too easy to decipher. Plays fast but seems to be missing separation burst coming out of his breaks.”

9. Jonnu Smith

Florida International, Senior, 6-foot-3, 248 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.62 seconds

Bench press: 22 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 38 inches

Broad jump: 10 feet, 7 inches

20-yard shuttle: 4.18 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 11.57 seconds

2016 stats: caught 42 passes for 506 yards (12.0 yards per catch average) and four touchdowns

Hot take: According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Smith “plays with urgency and looks to squeeze the most out of each play. Flashes an electric burst up the field and into his routes. Seam buster with ability to race over top of the linebacker and into a throwing window quickly. Plays fast. Talented, competitive runner after the catch.”

Zierlein also noted Smith is a “body catcher who doesn't trust his own hands. Has dropped 10 passes over the last two seasons with too many double catches. Needs to do a better job of helping his QB by working to the ball and shielding.”

10. Bucky Hodges

Virginia Tech, Redshirt junior, 6-foot-6, 257 pounds

Combine numbers

40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds

Bench press: 18 reps of 225 pounds

Vertical jump: 39 inches

Broad jump: 11 feet, 2 inches

20-yard shuttle: 4.45 seconds

60-yard shuttle: 12.08 seconds

2016 stats: caught 48 passes for 691 yards (14.4 yards per catch average) and seven touchdowns

Hot take: According to Rob Rang of NFL.com, Hodges “accelerates smoothly off the snap, showing the agility, balance and strength to escape the jam and quickly get into his routes. Hodges possesses rare speed for the position and tracks the ball well over his shoulder, making him an ideal threat down the seam.”

Zierlein also noted Hodges “is essentially an overgrown wide receiver. Though he possesses size and aggression, Hodges rarely was used by the Hokies as a traditional in-line blocker. He shows awareness and competitiveness while blocking for teammates, but is a work in progress in this area, currently proving more of a pest than a punisher to opponents.”