Rookie Tight Ends to Target in 2019

There are plenty of great tight end options available in the 2019 NFL Draft. Last season’s draft saw only one tight end going in the first round (Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst at 25 overall). In 2017’s draft, three players at the tight end position were taken in round one (O.J. Howard at 19 overall, Evan Engram at 23 overall, and David Njoku at 29 overall). Could this be another year that multiple tight ends are taken in the first round? It looks to be a class that is comparable to what we saw when 2017 rolled around.

Not all of the tight end options are going to be viable starters in fantasy football right off the bat. Some of them will need to back up a veteran in order to gain knowledge of playing the position at the pro level. Others are more likely to be on the field a lot but used as mainly blocking tight ends (meaning the opportunities to get those fantasy points may be limited). It’s time to take a look at five of the guys who have declared for this season’s NFL draft that could be incredible fantasy football options, depending on the landing spot.

T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
2018 Statistics: 49 receptions, 760 yards, 6 touchdowns
Measurements: 6-foot-4 ¾, 251 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.70 seconds
Vertical: 37.5 inches
Broad jump: 123 inches
3-cone drill: 7.02 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.18 seconds

T.J. Hockenson seems to be the ultimate tight end in this year’s draft. Many analysts and experts have him going as the number one tight end off the board. If any tight end is going to go in the first round, Hockenson has the talent to be that guy. Go watch tape on this player, and your jaw will hit the floor. He has the athleticism you need in a tight end to go along with good blocking skills. Hockenson has great hands and is a strong receiver. To round it all out, he knows how to run routes at an elite level. My only knock on him is he does look slower than some of these tight ends coming out in this draft. He will be able to transition to the NFL quickly and could potentially be a starter on a tight end needy team.

Noah Fant, Iowa
2018 Statistics: 39 receptions, 519 yards, 7 touchdowns
Measurements: 6-foot-4, 250 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
Vertical: 39.5 inches
Broad jump: 127 inches
3-cone drill: 6.81 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.22 seconds

Another Iowa standout comes in the form of Noah Fant. If you have not heard by now, this player is a beast. His combine seems to have helped him even more if that is possible. He’s an extremely strong tight end, having only four reps less in the bench press than the top performer at the combine. Fant has been known to take charge on the field and use his strength to its fullest. He is not the greatest blocker, so that will limit the time he is on the field. Still, he is going to get plenty of playing time at the pro level, especially since he is such a fine-tuned receiver. A team will not go wrong drafting this player, and he is another one that could go in the first round. If he goes later than that, whoever drafts him will get a steal.

Irv Smith, Jr., Alabama
2018 Statistics: 44 receptions, 710 yards, 7 touchdowns
Measurements: 6-foot-2, 242 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
Vertical: 32.5 inches
Broad jump: 110 inches
3-cone drill: 7.32 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.33 seconds

If you haven’t heard of Irv Smith, Jr., you really need to take the time to go watch his tape. Tight end blood flows through his veins (his father is Notre Dame star and NFL draft first-rounder Irv Smith). Could this be the second Irv Smith taken in the first round of the draft? There is a possibility, but whereever he goes and whatever team takes him will get a good blocker who stays out on the field. He has some of the best hands in the draft, and Smith knows how to make things look smooth. At 6’2”, he is going to need to prove to the haters that he can make it as a smaller tight end in the NFL. His combine wasn’t the greatest, but his film doesn’t lie. Smith will make one team very happy. He’s another tight end I see having a nice career in the NFL.

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
2018 Statistics: 48 receptions, 832 yards, 10 touchdowns
Measurements: 6-foot-4, 251 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.75 seconds
Vertical: 31.5 inches
Broad jump: 113 inches
3-cone drill: 7.19 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.31 seconds

Jace Sternberger redshirted his first year at Kansas, and his Junior year with Texas A&M had him as an All-American. He was also his team’s MVP that season as well. Sternberger is another tight end with nice hands. He has the typical tight end body, athletic and strong. This is a big reason I like this draft class. The tight ends look extremely physical for the most part. Sternberger is a nice blocker that also has the speed needed to be a receiving tight end. He was a touchdown beast in the 2018 season, and hopefully that will roll over into his NFL playing days. I could see Sternberger going as the first Texas A&M player in this draft. His downfall was that he didn’t test as well as expected at the combine. A team looking for a tight end who can run good routes and knows how to take a hit can look no further than Sternberger.

Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
2018 Statistics: 15 receptions, 284 yards, 0 touchdowns
Measurements: 6-foot-4, 254 pounds
40-yard dash: n/a
Vertical: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: n/a
3-cone drill: 7.12 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.27 seconds

This Ole Miss tight end started playing high school ball as a quarterback but converted to tight end when he walked-on in college. In 2015, he redshirted, but he had a productive college career after that, mainly due to his explosive nature. He is also a good blocker which means he can catch and block. Since he converted to tight end, he is still developing, but he seems to be catching on fairly well. One concern would be his pass-catching skills as he never caught a touchdown while at Ole Miss. He would do well learning behind a veteran tight end, coming in to block more in his first season. Tight ends are on the field more when they are a blocker, but that limits their targets in the passing game. He could become a feasible tight end for fantasy purposes in time. Very much worth stashing on a dynasty league. And depending on where he gets drafted, he could be a team’s number one tight end.

These are just five of the numerous tight ends that will be available in this NFL draft. There are so many guys who will make an impact on a team right away, and plenty of these tight ends are athletic enough to have long careers in the NFL. It feels like any of these players could be intriguing fantasy assets. All of them have crucial tight end traits needed to make it in the NFL.

As always, please give me a follow on Twitter @thekaceykasem.

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