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2022 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Tight Ends

View photos of potential tight ends the Vikings can select in the 2022 NFL Draft.

In the leadup to the 2022 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings by those national outlets, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.

Vikings status at tight end

The Vikings experienced the departure of one tight end, but the team is expecting the return of another.

Irv Smith, Jr., missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery, should be ready to go for the 2022 campaign. During his second season in 2020, Smith played 13 games (seven starts) and totaled 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns.

Smith would have been Minnesota's No. 1 tight end in 2021 after Kyle Rudolph signed with the Giants in free agency. After he was sidelined, Tyler Conklin put up career-high numbers. Conklin recently joined the Jets in free agency.

That means all eyes are on Smith, who seemed poised for a career year prior to his injury.

New Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was asked about Smith during the Annual League Meeting in Florida last month.

"We're gonna be smart with, you know, there's no reason why he can't hit the ground running from a mental perspective," O'Connell said. "I know [Vikings tight ends coach/passing game coordinator Brian] Angelichio and myself, and [Offensive Coordinator] Wes Phillips, we've all been in contact with Irv. He's so excited to get going. I think he feels really good; he's been getting some great work in down in New Orleans.

"He's been up for some medical checks, and everything looks great," O'Connell continued. "I know he feels good, and now it's just a matter of him understanding that April 11 doesn't necessarily mean we've gotta be full-go. We'll have a couple good weeks in the classroom with these guys before we get out on the field, we'll see where he's at, and then we'll be smart about it."

View the best tight end photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

O'Connell is quite familiar with new Vikings tight end Johnny Mundt, whom Minnesota signed as a free agent. Mundt previously played for the Rams, where O'Connell was offensive coordinator, but appeared in only six games in 2021 due to injury.

The Vikings also are returning Minnesota native Ben Ellefson, whom they signed off waivers last September, and Zach Davidson. The 2021 fifth-round draft pick spent his rookie campaign on Minnesota's practice squad.

Ask the analyst

NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) played in 143 regular-season games and totaled 47 starts from 1982-93 for Dallas, Indianapolis and Philadelphia.

Known on Twitter as well for his "#BaldysBreakdowns," Baldinger offered his view of the Vikings current tight end situation and his assessment of the 2022 tight ends class.

Tyler Conklin signed with the Jets in free agency; how do you go about replacing his versatility?

Baldinger: "I work with the Jets a lot, and they were really excited about getting him. … I think with Tyler Conklin, they're going to be a big two-tight end team, and he's going to be a big part of it. He was really good for [the Vikings] last year. Johnny Mundt, [whom the Vikings signed this spring], was basically a blocking type of guy, an H-back player [in L.A.] He knows Kevin O'Connell and the system with the Rams, but I think this tight end class has a little bit of everything right now."

There's not really a big, flashy name like Kyle Pitts, T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant in this year's tight end class – how do you assess the group?

Baldinger: "[Greg] Dulcich runs pretty good, but I wouldn't say he's T.J. T.J. is a true Y, a really good blocker, and then he's an elite receiver. I don't see guys that can do both of those equally as well the way T.J. can. We'll see what Fant does in Seattle. I didn't think he got used very well in Denver, but I don't see a guy like that or even a guy like Irv [Smith, Jr.] I think Irv stayed at Alabama an extra year to work on his blocking. That showed up in his first year. It will be good to get him back on the field and give him a part of the offense. [The Rams] were a big 11-personnel team. It will be interesting to see if they ask — I know [Adam] Thielen can block, and I'm not saying Justin Jefferson can't, but it will be interesting to see if they run those types of formations with Justin with as good as he is in everything he does. He's obviously an elite, elite player."

Expert rankings

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah did not include a single tight end in his overall Top 50, illustrating a less-flashy group this year. ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., also didn't include any tight ends in his overall Top 25.

Rankings for each player within the tight end position group by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Prospects

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on NFL.com (linked for each player's name).

TE Trey McBride
TE Trey McBride

School: Colorado State | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 249 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/ATE1TE1TE1TE1

2021 stats: 12 games; 90 catches for 1,121 yards (12.5 average) and 1 touchdown

Multisport athlete: McBride attended Fort Morgan High School (Colorado) and excelled in not only football but also basketball and baseball. As a senior, McBride earned a second straight 3A All-Colorado honor after rushing for 226 yards, racking up 450 receiving yards on 30 catches and scoring four touchdowns. He also recorded 40 tackles and a sack on defense. McBride holds the Fort Morgan career records for points scored in basketball, as well as home runs and RBIs in baseball.

According to Baldy: "Trey McBride out of Colorado State is a guy that you probably hear a lot about. He started 32 games at Colorado State and there's a lot to be said. He's from a really athletic family. Some people have him as the No. 1 tight end. That's fine. He's a prospect for sure. There's a lot to like there."

TE Greg Dulcich
TE Greg Dulcich

School: UCLA | Year: Redshirt Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 250 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/ATE2TE2TE2TE2

2021 stats: 11 games; 42 catches for 725 yards (17.3 average) and 5 touchdowns

Solid day at the combine: Dulcich participated in the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, where he reportedly met with several teams the first night. In on-field testing and timing drills, he ranked fifth among tight ends with a time of 4.70 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Dulcich's second attempt in the gauntlet was praised by Jeremiah as "the best he had seen all day."

According to Baldy: "I like Greg Dulcich from UCLA. He runs really well. He averages over 17 yards a catch. You watch him against LSU and, 'Man, Chip Kelly's got a star right there now.' He ran away from a lot of LSU players, had a big game. It wasn't like that every week, but I like Greg. I liked him at the Senior Bowl and what he did in the postseason."

TE Jeremy Ruckert
TE Jeremy Ruckert

School: Ohio State | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 250 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/ATE4TE6TE5TE3

2021 stats: 11 games; 26 catches for 309 yards (11.9 average) and 3 touchdowns

"Brain training": Ruckert's trainer, Jason Fulco, implements unique drills that challenge an athlete mentally more than physically. Ruckert trains with "instruments ranging from familiar tools of the trade — agility ladders and orange cones, for instance — to more unorthodox methods that incorporate tennis balls, ping pong balls, playing cards and color-coordinated LED lights."

According to Baldy: "Jeremy Ruckert at Ohio State is a good prospect. They don't throw to the tight ends there a lot because their receivers are so good, but you've got to pay attention to him. He's a guy that's got really good size. Tight ends at Ohio State get drafted and go on and make a name for themselves in the league. He didn't run at the combine for whatever reason. I don't know all the details there."

TE Isaiah Likely
TE Isaiah Likely

School: Coastal Carolina | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 240 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/AUnrankedTE4TE3TE4

2021 stats: 13 games; 59 catches for 912 yards (15.5 average) and 12 touchdowns

Starred as a senior: In his final year for the Chanticleers, Likely was named a second-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF), the Pro Football Network (PFN), and the College Football All-SIS (Sports Info Solutions), while also picking up 2021 Phil Steele All-American honorable mention honors.

TE Jelani Woods
TE Jelani Woods

School: Virginia (after Oklahoma State) | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-7 | Wt: 275 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/ATE5TE3TE8TE9

2021 stats: 11 games; 44 catches for 598 yards (13.6 average) and 8 touchdowns

Making the switch: After playing receiver for three seasons at Oklahoma State, Woods changed schools and positions. He played tight end at Virginia his senior season and garnered plenty of attention with more catches and scores than in his first three seasons combined.

According to Baldy: "He looks like a basketball player. He's a tall drink of water. He tries really hard in the run-blocking game. He has a hard time bending and getting underneath guys, but he tries hard. He runs really well. He ran a 4.6 at the combine, but there's a lot to like. He sort of was a one-year guy at Virginia after being just a guy at Oklahoma State, and he kind of broke out. … Maybe he needs a year. I don't think he's going to last until the third round."

TE Jalen Wydermyer
TE Jalen Wydermyer

School: Texas A&M | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 255 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/ATE3TE5TE7TE6

2021 stats: 12 games; 40 catches for 515 yards (12.9 average) and 4 touchdowns

Hand is healed: Wydermyer missed Texas A&M's spring practices in 2021 after suffering what Head Coach Jimbo Fisher called "a freak injury" on his hand and finger that required surgery. The tight end recovered fully, however, and delivered similar production to his 2020 season when he caught 46 passes for 506 yards and six scores.

According to Baldy: "Jalen Wydermyer at Texas A&M is a guy that has a lot of experience. … I think he's probably a late-round draft pick that can be developed and could probably stick on somebody's roster."

TE Cade Otton
TE Cade Otton

School: Washington | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 247 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/AUnrankedTE9TE6TE5

2021 stats: 8 games; 28 catches for 250 yards (8.9 average) and 1 touchdown

Like grandpa, like grandson: Otton attended Tumwater High School, where he played football for his grandfather, Sid Otton, the winningest coach in Washington state high school history.

TE Daniel Bellinger
TE Daniel Bellinger

School: San Diego State | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 255 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/AUnrankedTE8TE12TE10

2021 stats: 11 games; 31 catches for 357 yards (11.5 average) and 2 touchdowns

Star sprinter: In addition to success on the football field, Bellinger shined in basketball and track and field at Palo Verde High School (Las Vegas). He earned Second-Team All-League honors in basketball, and in track he made the regional finals in the 400-meter dash and 1,600-meter relay. As a senior, Bellinger's 400-meter relay team placed third at the Nevada State Championships.

TE Charlie Kolar
TE Charlie Kolar

School: Iowa State | Year: Redshirt Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 260 pounds

Table inside Article
Daniel JeremiahBucky BrooksMel Kiper, Jr.Pro Football FocusDane Brugler
N/AUnrankedTE7TE14TE7

2021 stats: 12 games; 62 catches for 756 yards (12.2 average) and 6 touchdowns

Family of athletes: Two of Kolar's three brothers also play football; his older brother, John, played quarterback at Oklahoma State and graduate transferred to Iowa State for the 2019 campaign. His younger brother, Ben, plays football and basketball in Norman, Oklahoma. Kolar also has a younger sister, Katie, who is committed to West Virginia University to play volleyball.

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2022 Miller Lite Vikings Draft Party

Vikings Draft Party is making its return to in-person festivities at U.S. Bank Stadium! The party will kick off at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday, April 28.

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