Top-10 Tight Ends, Pre-Combine

There’s no time to waste. The NFL Scouting Combine is around the corner and it’s critical that we plant our flags and allow these takes, hot or otherwise, to fly. For reference, my initial top-32 big board can be found here. More importantly, here were all my early positional rankings and thoughts. Let’s see what has changed between now and then, and where my head is at walking into Indianapolis.

TE1 T.J. Hockenson, Iowa — Ultra-effective blocker who is also an above-average pass-catcher. Productive while at school, on a roster carrying another first-round talent at the same position. I don’t think the George Kittle comparisons are that far off, but I do also believe the hype has gotten a little out of control.

TE2 Noah Fant, Iowa — I don’t think the gap between Hockenson and Fant is all that wide; the latter is a supreme athlete with a reported 42-inch vertical

TE3 Irv Smith Jr., Alabama — I’d group Smith in with the two Iowa players in this year’s “top tier” for the tight end class. Smith is notably effective in the open field and after the catch. He won’t test as well as Fant, but he’s more than athletic enough, and can get it done in-line, as well.

TE4 Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M — A former Kansas recruit, he has only one year of solid production to his name. But that one campaign was an All-American season, logging over 800 yards and 10 scores in the legendary SEC. He’s obviously built for the flex tight end role in the NFL, a la Evan Engram, and should do enough damage at the Combine.

TE5 Kaden Smith, Stanford — Personal favorite in this year’s group filled with favorites. I can’t quit Stanford Smith. You know they ask everyone on offense to block at the program, so he’s good there. Where Smith really stands out is at the catch-point. Obviously his own coach will talk him up, but this is some super-high praise.

TE6 Dawson Knox, Mississippi — Underutilized, the former quarterback should go in the mid-rounds if the Combine performance goes as expected. Legit-upside athlete.

TE7 Isaac Nauta, GeorgiaFormer five-star and the country’s number one tight end recruit was largely forgotten about at school. Doesn’t have the prerequisite production nor the eye-popping athleticism, but his floor is still relatively high which speaks to his ability as a blocker and consistent mittens.

TE8 Alizé Mack, Notre Dame — Athleticism and talent were never in question, but his time at Notre Dame did not go as planned, especially off-field. Still, there are much worse prospects to roll the dice on in the middle-to-late rounds.

TE9 Dax Raymond, Utah State — 24-year old rookie which lowers his ceiling, but his athleticism should keep him in the conversation regardless. Route’s could use some work; your prototypical move tight end at the next level.

TE10 Josh Oliver, San Jose State — Coming off a productive senior season, Oliver’s a big target with solid athleticism for his size.

Who do you want the Raiders to come away with and why? If someone missed the cut, tell me who and also don’t forget to tell me how wrong I am.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive