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Dalton Schultz is the most underrated tight end prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft

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Stanford v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There seems to be a common sentiment when discussing the Seattle Seahawks’ tight end position moving forward, and that’s the desire to return to a skill set like former Seahawk Zach Miller’s. After two seasons of misusing Jimmy Graham, Seattle figured him out in 2017 as the former All-Pro regained his status as one of the game’s best touchdown makers. But even as Graham was putting the ball in the paint regularly, there were frustrations around his game outside of the red zone.

Assuming the Seahawks have a similar line of thinking for what direction they want to go at the position - the signing of Ed Dickson would indicate they do - then they should look no further than Stanford’s Dalton Schultz. A capable pass-catcher and an outstanding blocker, Schultz is a starting-caliber tight end hiding in plain sight.

Athletic Ability

Testing in the 37th percentile, Schultz won’t wow with his athleticism like fellow 2018 draftee Mike Gesicki. However Schultz isn’t clunky, with a long, lean frame he moves fluidly in the open field. He looks comfortable in space after the catch and has the ability to make defenders miss. The Cardinal even gave him the ball out of the backfield on a shovel pass:

Route Running

With just 55 career catches to his name in college, Schultz was never a large part of Stanford’s passing game. But lining up both in the slot and in-line, Schultz released with good speed and gave linebackers issues working up the seam. The majority of his routes were short and intermediate: hitches, whips, ins, outs and vertically up the seam. Although he won’t separate with fluid breaks, he has a good understanding of subtle contact and is physical at the top of his routes.

As a plus to Seattle, Schultz (in a limited sample size) displayed a good understanding of the scramble drill, working back to the quarterback’s side of the field and making himself available.

Hands

Schultz proved to be a capable pass catcher in college and I expect him to exceed his production as a starting tight end in the NFL. He’s a natural catcher of the football, with strong hands at the catch point. Schultz is able to catch the ball high and away from his body, displaying a solid catch radius. After the catch he’s tough to bring down and churns his legs upon contact.

Blocking

Schultz could very well be the most polished blocker among tight ends in the 2018 NFL Draft. Against defensive ends, linebackers or safeties on the edge, he’s tough and competitive — with the strength and tenacity to finish.

Schultz has the strength and balance to seal off defenders along the line.

A testament to his ability as a blocker, Schultz was used consistently at the point of attack in a prolific rushing offense. He can control defenders and steer them out of the play.

Overall, Dalton Schultz is a refined blocker who will see the field immediately as a rookie on the back of his ability in the running game. Underutilized in the passing game in college, he displayed every trait necessary to believe in his ability to outperform his production at the next level, given the chance to be a team’s lead tight end. While prospects such as Gesicki, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert get the headlines, it could easily be Schultz pacing rookie tight ends in snaps and production in 2018.