We are a mere stone’s throw away from the 2021 NFL draft, so it’s a perfect time to look at some sleeper TE spots. Now, if you’re not excited by that then you need a good, hard look in the mirror. For anyone that follows the draft intently, then it really is like Christmas coming early. If you’ve missed any of the series:
Kylen Granson, SMU Mustangs
Archetype: H-Back ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 6th/7th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Arizona Cardinals ⚇ Rookie ADP: Undrafted
It goes without saying that tight ends usually need a bedding in season to learn the pro-version of the position. That’s why rookie tight ends are usually a ‘steer clear’ for fantasy managers. However, in dynasty formats particularly, you’re going to be stashing players with bags of potential on your bench or hopefully via a taxi squad. This is precisely where you need to draft Kylen Granson to.
Granson is an excellent all round tight end who is a converted wide receiver. He played in SMU’s air raid offense, and was highly utilized as a pass-catcher. Whether it was out of the slot, inline, as a fullback, and most commonly as a h-back. Not only does he possess excellent versatility as a pass-catcher, he was also useful when giving blocking duties. The blocking will need refining for the NFL. But Granson has the measurables at 6’3, 235lbs to translate his abilities and become an effective, and productive tight end in the NFL.
Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid scheme draws similarities to that of which is used by SMU. Despite the Cardinals never really having a productive tight end, particularly in fantasy terms, a player like Granson could easily buck that trend. Granson finished his college career with SMU having etched 1,257 yards receiving over the last 2 seasons (57 yards per game), with 14 touchdowns in that time. Grab an excellent tight end prospect with your 3rd round pick and watch him flourish in a couple of years time.
Hunter Long, Boston College Eagles
Archetype: Balcanced ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 3rd/4th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Indianapolis Colts ⚇ Rookie ADP: TE4/43rd Overall
Hunter Long is an exciting prospect. In my opinion, he is the best all round tight end in this draft. Though he might not be on the same level as Pitts, Freiermuth and possibly Brevin Jordan when you compare receiving ability, Long is the best blocking tight end in this class. Now you might be thinking, “that’s all very well and good, but being a good blocker won’t help my fantasy team”. Well, yes, you’re right… but consider this; If Long is an excellent blocker already, he’s already got a leg up on other rookies that need to learn this role. Meaning, he’s going to be on the field a lot more than what some other mid-late round tight ends may be.
Despite him not being on the other three’s receiving ability level, Long is no slouch as a receiver. The junior redshirted his freshman season after 4 games. But then went on to play in 22 games as a sophomore and junior. During this time he had 1,193 receiving yards (54 yards per game), notching 7 TDs in the process with an impressive 14.6 yards per reception average throughout his college career.
Indianapolis would be a great landing spot for Long. Indy needs an upgrade at the position with Jack Doyle entering his 30’s and seemingly on the decline. Trey Burton was not re-signed and Mo Alie-Cox has only ever been a flash-in-the-pan type of player. There’s definitely an opening for an all-round tight end in Frank Reich’s offense. Combine that with the production of Wentz to Ertz was in this exact system for the Eagles in 2017.
Tony Poljan, Virginia Cavaliers
Archetype: Move Verticle Threat ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 5th/6th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Tennessee Titans ⚇ Rookie ADP: Undrafted
Poljan is a big guy. At 6’7 and 265lbs, it won’t surprise you that he a big red zone threat. The player comp for Poljan coming out of college is Logan Thomas from the WFT as his route to the NFL was similar. Even though the latter transitioned rom QB to TE after being drafted to the Arizona Cardinals, both played under centre at college. Poljan changed position after 2 years of being a backup QB at Cental Michigan before finishing his college career as a tight end in 2019 for the Chippewas and then for Virginia last season.
Poljan uses his QB background to his advantage as a receiver as he can see plays develop and as a result finds a way to get open over the middle of the field. His huge size means he can tower over linebackers where he then puts to use his good hands. The knock on Poljan is the blocking side of the position. It requires a lot of work for the next level so it’s hard to see him get regular playing time for whichever team he gets drafted by in year 1.
That said, if he lands on a team like Tennessee who are currently void of receivers and especially in the redzone, Poljan can be a sneaky play in deep fantasy leagues. I expect he will end up being a Cameron Brate type of player – will have decent seasons, boom games, but may be frustrating to own at times.
Tre’ McKitty, Georgia Bulldogs
Archetype: Balanced ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 6th/7th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Los Angeles Chargers ⚇ Rookie ADP: Undrafted
Mckitty had a disappointing end to a solid, albeit stat lacking college career. After spending the first 3 years of his scholarship in a sub-par Florida State team, he found himself playing for Georgia in his senior year. Unfortunately though, he missed the start of 2020 with a knee injury and only played in 4 games as a result. A positive thing Mckitty has going for him in this draft process though, is the fact his tape shows a good quality, all-round tight end.
He has excellent mobility, athleticism and causes matchup problems thanks to his versatility. He’s also an accomplished route runner who wins tough 50/50 catches on a regular basis. The reliability is a big red flag though, only having played 24 games in those 4 years. Despite this, when he’s on the field, he’s a solid weapon and also offers good blocking skills in the run game which should see him see the field regularly.
Although the Chargers replaced Hunter Henry with Jared Cook this off-season, I think this would be a great landing spot for Mckitty. Here, he’ll be able to learn off a seasoned veteran in Cook and will be able to build on his natural ability at the position. I don’t think he’ll offer much as a rookie, but as with most rookie tight ends, it’s worth using a spare bench/taxi squad spot on a player with plenty of future upside.
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Image Credit: Nell Redmond – USA TODAY Sports