There more I studied the tight end class for the 2016 Draft, the more I began to understand why John Schneider went after Jimmy Graham last Spring. The 2015 tight end class was also really poor -- and I am not saying it was a smart trade to get Jimmy Graham -- I am just saying, I can certainly understand the line of thinking.
My favorite player in this year's class -- Western Kentucky's Tyler Higbee -- just seriously put his own future, and the life of another bar patron, in jeopardy. Because of the recent assault charges, I will leave him out of these rankings. However, if Higbee had (1), had clean medicals, (2) performed at the Combine and tested well, and (3) had kept a clean off field record, I think he would be a lock for the 2nd round.
Higbee is an exciting mover with natural hands and ideal size. I don't know how far down the draft, or perhaps out of the draft he will fall, but I am sure 32 NFL teams are digging deep into these police reports on this bar incident. The victim is in stable condition, but unresponsive at the time of this writing. Just a sad situation all around.
Outside of Higbee, here is how I see the TE class shaping up, in order. I apologize for the lack of in-depth scouting reports, but I have watched all these players and have placed some good consideration on these rankings and defending why I would put a player where he is in the stack. My method is a blend of trusting my eyes on the tape, combine testing, college production, buzz, and looking at the numbers of similar players that have gone in previous drafts.
Hunter Henry- Arkansas: Didn't test great but with a 34% SPARQ percentile, he's not a bad tester (34th percentile of NFL athletes). He's productive in terms of the college game (there is not a lot of college production from the tight end position anymore) with average athleticism and good hands. I think he goes in Round 2, but is not someone I get super excited about.
Austin Hooper- Stanford: Hooper's athleticism numbers gave him a 56% SPARQ percentile, putting him as the 4th highest tester. He's a little shorter than Henry, but has longer wingspan, with big hands. I could see him go Round 2 because of lack of depth at the position, and the possibility that Higbee falls out of the Draft. He's Solid all around, and NFL teams won't let him fall out of Round 3.
Stephen Anderson- California: Anderson is an undersized tight end who didn't put up a full compliment of testing numbers. He's only 6021 and 230 pounds, but has an almost 78 inch wingspan, with a 38 inch vertical jump. I think this is an exciting player that the NFL will covet; you won't line him up In-line most of the time, but you are getting this guy to threaten vertically, not block.
Thomas Duarte- UCLA: undersized TE in the mold of Anderson size-wise, but I like Anderson better. He's a 45th percentile SPARQ tester. Again, I think the NFL will value this type of WR skill-set.
Nick Vannett- Ohio State: Very little production from this guy, but his proponents could cite the abundance of weapons at Ohio State (Elliott, Thomas, Miller, Marshall, Jones etc...). I'm not a huge fan of Vannett, but I think the NFL will perhaps take him (maybe even Round 3) because they think he can offer a bit of blocking and receiving in a class where most guys are either one or the other. His testing looked pretty average -- a 30.5 vert -- but has good size at 6056 and 257 pounds.
Ben Braunecker- Harvard: He's the top tester this year -- 78th percentile in SPARQ -- and also probably the best weapon for this team. The competition looked pretty poor, but he looked head and shoulders better than his opponents. Offers a threat downfield, and a willing blocker. I like him better than Vannett, but not sure he goes ahead of Vannett.
Jerell Adams- South Carolina: I am only putting him here because he is trading on his own name. He's a 53% SPARQ tester and ran a 4.64, but is not a player I would bang the table for. Bottom of Round 4 seems right.
Beau Sandland- Montana State: This guy looks like an exciting player, but has only one year of production out of a small school. He transferred from Miami. Is a 70th percentile SPARQ tester (#2 in the class) with 35 inch vert and massive 82.75 wingspan. I would take a flyer on him Round 5.
The rest: I will go rapid fire here:
Henry Kreiger Coble- Iowa: 5th-6th round, and offers you a blocking tight end with enough pass-catching to keep teams honest as a TE2 option.
Ryan Malleck- Virginia Teach: 6th round. Blocking type tight end who was able to get 289 yards receiving on 21 catches (13.8 ypc). Had a 34.5 inch vert.
Ben Madon- Eastern Kentucky: 6th round. Jack of all trades type tight end who is undersized at 233 pounds, but was a 60th percentile SPARQ tester (3rdin the class). He's not explosive, but is a solid athlete.
Jake McGee- Florida: 6th Round. Overaged tight end who can give you a little bit of both in blocking and receiving.
Steven Sheu- Vanderbilt: 6th Round. 44th percentile SPARQ tester. Tape never really jumped out at me.
Temarrick Hemingway- South Carolina State: 6th Round. Pretty raw, but could be worth a flyer as an NFL team's TE3 super late in the Draft.
David Morgan- Texas San Antonio. Undrafted. This guy just does not have enough speed on tape to really threaten an NFL defense. Ran a 5.02 and looks that slow on tape.
QB and WR rankings coming out soon!...