1. OJ Howard – Alabama: Howard proved what he could do as a true freshman when he took a pass and outran a secondary. But, he was largely ignored by the Alabama offense up until the national championship game when he scorched Clemson. Howard is 6-6, 245 and he runs like a Wide Receiver. He caught 38 passes last year as a junior with 2 Touchdowns both of which came in the national title game. Howard is a decent blocker, not incredible but he is adequate. But, anything
lacking there is more than made up for with his incredible size and speed. It was more than surprising when Howard announced he was returning to Alabama for his senior season.
2. Jake Butt – Michigan: Butt is a big time Tight End. He’s the total package only lacking the great speed and athletic ability of Howard. But, make no mistake, Butt is an athlete with great hands. He catches everything thrown his way and is a fighter. He is 6-6, 250 and a great blocker. Another advantage that Butt has is Jim Harbaugh and the offense that he runs which uses the Tight Ends. Michigan Tight Ends 6-7, 245 Ian Bunting, 6-2, 270 Khalid Hill and the recruits coming in will be the best Tight End group in the country, probably.
Last season, Butt caught 51 passes for 654 yards and 3 Touchdowns.
3. Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech: Hodges came to Virginia Tech as a Dual Threat Quarterback that was ranked 15th in the country at his position when he signed. The Hokies promptly moved him to Tight End where he can use his 6-7, 245 frame more effectively. Hodges is very athletic with a great vertical which gives him the ability to make the acrobatic catch. He was my number 1 Tight End last season, but he rarely blocks. It will be interesting to see how much Hokie coach Justin Fuente will use him. Last season, Hodges caught 40 passes for 530 yards and 6 Touchdowns. As a redshirt
freshman, Hodges hauled in 45 passes for 526 yards and 7 Touchdowns.
4. Jeremy Sprinkle – Arkansas: Razorback head coach Bret Bielema may have a big mouth, but he knows Tight Ends. Hunter Henry was the top Tight End last year, and his back up Sprinkle is also one of the top Tight Ends. Henry was big, but Sprinkle is slightly bigger at 6-6, 255. Sprinkle is back for his senior season following up on a 27 reception for 389 yards and 6 Touchdown performance as a junior. Sprinkle can block like a Tackle, but he has the athletic ability to create mismatches in the defensive backfield.
5. Dalton Schultz – Stanford: Schultz is raw, but he is 6-6, 235 and Stanford always plays good Tight Ends. Last year’s starter, Austin Hooper, declared for the NFL leaving the job to Schultz who is more than a capable replacement. Hooper caught 34 passes last year and Schultz caught 10. If a Tight End is going to play for Stanford, he is going to be a good blocker even though the Cardinal often have the Tight End split out wide.
6. Durham Smythe – Notre Dame: Last season was supposed to be Smythe’s year, but like so many Notre Dame starters he was injured. Who is Tight End University? Notre Dame? Stanford? Miami? Virginia Tech? All of those schools have had some big time talent at the position, and Notre Dame has definitely produced some top players at the position. Smythe only caught 3 passes a season ago because of the injury, but he did show flashes of the ability to be the next big thing for the Irish at
Tight End. He is 6-4, 245 and from Belton, Texas. He is good as a blocker and he has the hands and enough quickness to be an effective pass catcher. Unless he is injured again, look for Smythe to have a huge season in 2016 and probably declare for the NFL.
7. Jordan Leggett – Clemson: The 6-5, 255 Leggett is a reliable receiver and a good blocker out of the Tight End position. He was one of the top Tight Ends in the country in 2015 with 40 catches for 525 yards and 8 Touchdowns. He was a dependable target for Clemson All American Quarterback Deshaun Watson to hit in short yardage or on the goal line situations. Leggett went to high school fairly close to Florida State in Navarre, Florida but he passed on the Seminoles to attend Clemson which was a fruitful move for him. Last season was a break out year for Leggett and we should expect for more of the same in 2016.
8. Josiah Price – Michigan State: Price was Connor Cook’s reliable target the past 3 seasons and especially in short yardage situations or near the goal line. Cook has 66 receptions with 16 of those going for Touchdowns during that time. Price did not have the season, as a junior, that many thought he would. But, he still caught 23 passes with 6 of those being for Touchdowns. Not only a dependable receiver, Price is a good blocker which one would have to be in the Spartan’s conservative offense.
9. Ethan Wolf – Tennessee: The Wolf man could be rated higher because he is so good that other Tight Ends transferred out of the program when he arrived. The 6-6, 245 Minster, Ohio product has 46 catches in 2 seasons and he probably should get more balls thrown his way. Wolf runs really well for a big guy and seems to have good hands.
10. Jeb Blazevich – Georgia: Georgia had Quarterback problems all of last season and Blazevich was actually better as a true freshman in 2014. He is 6-5, 245 and a good blocker as well as a good receiver. But, his game suffered slightly in 2015 with the lack of consistency from the Quarterback position at Georgia. Blazevich will need to hold off last year’s freshman sensation, Jackson Harris, and then Georgia signed the top Tight End in the country last season in Isaac Nauta.
11. Evan Engram – Ole Miss: Engram is more of a Fullback/H-back type of player at 6-3, 225. But, he is considered a Tight End and he is an outstanding receiver. Engram creates a physical mismatch with his size in spite of it being smaller for a Tight End. Again, with the lack of ideal size, Engram
makes up for it with good speed. He’s been one of the more consistent Tight Ends in the SEC with 38 receptions in each of the last two seasons.
12. Sean Culkin – Missouri: The Tigers have been another school that has produced some Tight Ends in recent times. Culkin is 6-6, 245 with good hands, decent speed and he is a good blocker. Missouri had it’s shares of offensive problems last season and players like Culkin probably suffered because of it. Culkin started off with a bang early last season with 11 receptions in his first 3 games. Then, he missed some games because of injury and he only caught 5 passes the rest of the season. Still, the talent and potential is there for an All Conference type of performer.
13. Evan Baylis – Oregon: The Ducks had a great Tight in 2014 with Pharaoh Brown, but he was severely injured that season leaving an opening for Evan Baylis. Being 6-6, 250 is an advantage for Baylis. He is a good blocker and a good receiver with decent speed and hands. He only caught 13 passes a year ago, but the Ducks just didn’t throw it to the Tight Ends much.
14. Mike Gesicki – Penn State: Hands like stone last year. He made his Quarterback look bad at times a year ago with quite a few drops. However, looking at the big picture, Gesicki is an incredible athlete. Watch his high school basketball video on Youtube. Anybody that’s 6-6, 255 and can play basketball like that is somebody to keep an eye on. If he can hang on to the football in 2016, he could move up in the rankings because few are better athletes than Gesicki.
15. Brandon Lingen – Minnesota: Lingen is 6-5, 250 and looks like a middle school Tight End
compared to teammate Nate Wozniak who stands 6-10, 270. Wozniak may be the blocking Tight End and Lingen the receiver. He caught 33 passes a year ago and was one of hte better Tight Ends in the Big 10.
16. Colin Jeter – LSU: Standing 6-7, 245 Jeter is almost the ideal size for a Tight End. He began his college playing days at the Air Force Academy, but a family illness drove him home to Longview, Texas. He played a season at Kilgore Junior College and then transferred to LSU where he earned a starting role. LSU doesn’t throw the ball a lot, but Jeter caught 12 passes last season and he is an established starter this season.
Ryan Izzo – Florida State: 6-6, 240, caught 14 passes. Up and comer.
Mavin Saunders – Florida State: 6-5, 250 split time with Izzo.
David Njoku – Miami: 6-4, 245 young guy from New Jersey.
Brandon Fitts – North Carolina: 6-4, 245 young guy with potential.
Scott Orndorff – Pittsburgh: 6-5, 265 could be on list.
Evan Butts – Virginia: 6-4, 240 good potential.
Alec Bloom – UConn: 6-6, 260 Great sized Tight End.
Mark Andrews – Oklahoma: 6-5, 245 good young player.
Jordan Fuchs – Indiana: 6-6, 235 good young Tight End
Ian Bunting – Michigan: 6-7, 245 ideal sized back up to Jake Butt.
Nate Wozniak – Minnesota: 6-10, 270 monster sized prospect.
Marcus Baugh – Ohio State: 6-5, 255 hasn’t played much yet.
Matt Flanagan – Rutgers: 6-6, 240 Still time to bloom
Troy Fumagalli – Wisconsin: 6-6, 250 Could be a really good one.
Taylor McNamara – USC: 6-5, 245 Oklahoma transfer has some ability.
DeAndre Goolsby – Florida: 6-4, 245 He backed up Jake McGee last year.
Jackson Harris – Georgia: 6-6, 245 back up to Blazevich but a talent.
CJ Conrad – Kentucky: 6-5, 245 a young guy with potential.
Jacob August – South Carolina: 6-6, 260 great potential if they will use him.