2018 Draft: Tight End Watch List

It’s “hard” to dive into this year’s tight end class when we’re coming off a historic one in 2017, filled with the most ridiculous collection of athletes that we’ve seen at the position to this point. At least in my lifetime. Probably in yours, too. Nevertheless, here we are taking a look at the 2018 offering. There are a handful of names to pencil down, albeit not nearly as young or athletic.

But before we start circling those names, the same disclaimer applies, you savages:

  • This is a watch list. Despite the “tiers” noted on the left, these are not rankings. The tiers are something that I like to do for myself entering each season as a way to “map things out”, so-to-speak.
  • Again, as these are not rankings, obviously none of this is set in stone. Players will move up and down the board throughout the season.
  • We will have players (underclassmen), of course, that’ll return to school. This list will be updated again once we hit the offseason, alluded to above.
  • Lastly, all the height-weight-speed numbers are provided by NFL Draft Scout. I rely on the corresponding school’s website for accurate date of birth information. If the school doesn’t list it, I don’t have it posted below. I’ll fill in those blanks when I receive legitimate confirmation otherwise.

And now, 25 names to know heading into the 2017-2018 season:

Top Five

Fun fact: Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli only has nine fingers. Yes, nine fingers. He’s out here cooking with nine better than most can with ten. Respect.

Fumagalli isn’t the best athlete (not many in this class are going to be able to touch the top tier that 2017 rolled out, as we alluded to above). But despite the average athleticism, what intrigues is obviously Troy’s skill set. First and foremost, he’s a big-bodied target at 6’5″, 250. Check. He’s got a really good set of hands. Check, check. As an added bonus, his blocking stands out in this group; just a really well-rounded player, in that regard. Check, check, check. The production is there, plus plays like this:

I’ve seen some Evan Engram comparisons thrown around, albeit early on, when discussing Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews. I know it’s taboo, and he was a bit smaller than Andrews, but I see some Aaron Hernandez to Mark’s game.

Anyways, much like Engram, Andrews’ may not “look” like the prototypical tight end (we’ll hear some “big wide receiver” talk, I’m sure). I’ve gone back and forth with Fumagalli and Andrews for the TE1 honors heading into the season. I suppose Fumagalli just “feels safer” at the moment, whereas Andrews presents a similar frame and strong hands, but isn’t the same level blocker at the moment. I wouldn’t argue with anyone that had Andrews at the top because again, it’s certainly close. The Sooner appears to be the better athlete (when compared to Fumagalli), as well. Look for him to easily build on his 2016, seven touchdown effort.

Mike Gesicki was a four-start recruit, and another big body weapon at 6’5″, 230-something. A natural pass-catcher, the former three-sport star’s basketball background is so evident on the football field. He’s got bunnies. The body control is definitely there as well, making the difficult catches look routine.

While he’s obviously a play-maker, I do have some concerns. I think this may be a case where Gesicki could make a better pro than college player? I worry about all the mouths that the Pennsylvania State offense has to feed. We know it all runs through a certain running back, at least. Additionally, and more notably, what separates Mike Gesicki from a similarly-built player in Troy Fumagalli is the blocking. We know what Troy can do in that department and with Mike, at the moment, it’s almost nonexistent. He’ll need to improve in that regard in order to push his name to the top of this list.

Speaking of Pennsylvania State tight ends, that’s where Adam Brenneman‘s story started.

Brenneman, the Pennsylvania native and former five-star prospect, stands at 6’4”, 252. The talent was obvious during his time at Happy Valley (or rather, a glimpse of what could be). What stands out even more so – unfortunately – is the injury history (knees), eventually forcing him to walk away from the sport all together.

In 2016, Brenneman announced his return, and transferred to Massachusetts. He more or less picked up where he left off, and proceeded to catch 70 balls for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns. The “only concern” with Adam is a big one, obviously, but there’s so much to like if he’s able to stay healthy. Brenneman easily has TE1-upside. With decent speed for his size (if he runs in the low-mid 4.7’s, then we’re really cooking), and an excellent set of hands, Adam Brenneman’s journey back is one of the more noteworthy storylines.

Cam Serigne sneaks into the top five off his production alone, which has been notable. Entering his senior season, Serigne has 130 grabs to his name for over 1,500 yards and a dozen scores. For comparison’s sake, my current TE1 Troy Fumgalli has 89 catches for 1080 yards and only 3 touchdowns. Cam Serigne (pronounced “SAIR-in-yay”) is listed at a bit over 6’2″ per NFL Draft Scout, so the height isn’t necessarily doing him any favors. NFL Draft Scout also has Cam in the 4.7’s, which is where I think he’ll have to test (or better?) if he wants to have a shot at going in the early-mid rounds. Another “knock” on Cam, keeping him from moving higher up this list entering the season, is his age.

Although his speed should (hopefully) be a factor, much like Troy Fumagalli, I think we’re looking at an average athlete in general. Despite those couple shortcomings, we can circle back around on the production, where he’s clearly been a consistent factor for the Demon Deacons. He has a solid set of hands while being a fluid route runner; a player that has flashed enough to outweigh a majority of the concerns.

Other Notables

FCS-baller Dallas Goedert already has a fair amount of buzz surrounding his name entering the season. At close-to-6’4″ and 250-plus, Goedert has had a productive collegiate career to the tune of 126 catches, 1,877 yards, and 14 trips to the end zone. What stands out most about the South Dakota State product are his paws; he may have the best of the group. Haven’t necessarily seen him do much (consistently) after the catch, but he certainly is an option in the red area. He’s able to mix it up blocking, as well. I think he’ll test better than expected and be a “riser” for many.

Alizé Mack (formerly Alizé Jones, for those of you that have been sleeping) might be my favorite tight end in this year’s class. Problem is, he hasn’t seen as much of the field as I would like due to academic/eligibility issues. What he brings to the field, however, is near-elite, athletic ability and mismatch potential. With the off-field issues (hopefully) behind him, and a Notre Dame offense ready to hang a ton of points on anyone, the stars might finally be aligning for the Bishop Gorman product. I’ve seen 40 times in the 4.6’s for Mack, to go along with a reported 37″ vertical.

Indiana’s Ian Thomas should check boxes from an aesthetic standpoint. At 6’5″, 220, it’s a good start at least. With a multi-sport background throughout high school, Thomas went the junior college route before catching on at Indiana. He’s clearly athletic, with plus-ball skills. After IU’s spring game, Thomas was named the program’s most improved player on offense. The breakout could be coming, my pals.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive