The Tight End is one of the best weapons in football, just ask the New England Patriots or the New Orleans Saints. They are being used less and less in today’s spread offenses for some reason. There are fewer top Tight Ends around than one would expect. But, this is how I would rank 2014 Tight Ends right now.
1. Nick O’Leary- Florida State. O’Leary is old school tough and a very dependable player for the Seminoles. He is not huge by Tight End standards, but is more than a capable blocker for the Florida State offense and a very good receiver for Jameis Winston. FSU lost goal line play maker and giant WR Kelvin Benjamin to the NFL, and will need another go to guy inside the red zone and O’Leary should be that guy. He caught 33 passes a year ago which was good for 7 TDs and expect him to have an even bigger impact in 2014 before he uses up his eligibility at Florida State. Nobody can write anything about O’Leary without mentioning that he is the grand son of golfing great, Jack Nicklaus. O’Leary has that same winning heart as his grandfather.
2. O.J. Howard – Alabama. If Alabama throws Howard the ball in 2014, look for him to emerge as a future super star. Howard is huge at 6-6,240 and has excellent home run speed. He’s a real deep threat at the Tight End position and probably could even play Wide Receiver for the Tide. Howard played in all 13 games for the Crimson Tide in 2013 but only caught 14 passes. He did average 19.21 yards per catch which is great for a Tight End and he had 1 80 yard reception which demonstrated his great speed. Howard was a true freshman in 2013 and should have a huge year in 2014.
3. Ben Koyack- Notre Dame. The Irish always have a good to great Tight End and after Troy Niklas left early for the NFL, Koyack is the next in line. Koyack has the size at 6-5,260 and he appears to have the hands and athletic ability to make a great Tight End. He played a little last season as the Irish’ second Tight End, catching 10 passes good for 3 TDs. Expect Koyack to have a big senior season as the Irish love to throw to their Tight Ends, and look for him to be a fairly high draft pick in the 2015 NFL draft. As all Notre Dame Fighting Irish Tight Ends, Koyack is more than a capable blocker in the run game.
Notre Dame would have to be considered Tight End U if any team must be designated that.
4. Hunter Henry- Arkansas. Henry might give OJ Howard or even Jake Butt competition as the best sophomore Tight End in the land. Henry is an excellent receiver from the Tight End spot and is big like the others at 6-6, 245. He had 28 catches for 409 yards and 4 TDs as a true freshman. Henry was playing with the 2nd team in the Spring Game behind former QB AJ Derby, but should be the starter again next season for the Razorbacks. Doesn’t have the pure speed of Howard, but he has a great pair of hands and is a capable blocker.
5. Jake Butt- Michigan. Butt tore his ACL last season and may miss at least half of the 2014 season. But, he should be back and he should be really good. He was a true freshman last season and had 20 catches and looked very good doing it. Standing 6-6 and weighing in at 250 pounds, he is almost perfect Tight End size. Personally, as a fan of Tight Ends, I would not mind at all seeing Butt redshirt in 2014 and come back strong in 2015 as one of the top TEs in the nation. He is a great combination of size, speed and athleticism. He has great hands and can make the acrobatic catch. Jake Butt finished strongly last season hauling in 13 catches in the last 4 games including a huge game against Ohio State in which he hauled in 5 passes for 85 yards and a TD.
Butt would be rated higher if he were healthy and ready to go in game 1.
6. Jake McGee- Florida. McGee apparently wanted out of Virginia to finish his college career and had graduated, so he moved on to Florida. He was a really good and productive Tight End for the Virginia Cavaliers hauling in 43 passes a year ago for 395 yards and 2 TDs. A nice tall target at 6-6, 250 and he should have a really good season for the Gators and returning QB Jeff Driskel. After
2013, Driskel and the Gator offense could use a break. McGee could make a huge difference in the Florida offense in 2014 along with incoming freshman from Kansas, DeAndre Goolsby.
7. Jeff Heuerman – Ohio State. Heuerman is a big play guy averaging 17.92 yards per catch on 26 catches. The big play guy is also a big blocker and at 6-6, 255 he is pretty ideal for both, size wise. The Tight End has to be a good blocker in the Ohio State offense. There is a good chance that Heuerman moves up this season with a good year. Braxton Miller has worked really hard to improve on his passing game and Heuerman may be a benefactor of that. Nobody will confuse Heuerman with OJ Howard and that speed, but he does move better than people think and could be a big target in the Buckeye offense in 2014.
8. Braxton Deaver- Duke. One of the more productive receiving Tight Ends in the nation in 2013. Deaver had 46 catches for 600 yards and 4 TDs. He was part of the surprising Duke team that won the Coastal Division of the ACC and earned the right to be demolished by Florida State. Great season for Deaver and for Duke. The Blue Devils also return their top WR and their QB, so expect more of the same out of Deaver. Duke did lose their excellent Offensive Coordinator from a year ago to Florida but they moved up WR coach Scottie Montgomery and all should be normal with the Duke offense. Deaver is 6-5, 240.
9. Brian Vogler – Alabama. Mostly just a blocker in the Alabama run offense, but he is a tremendous blocker and can be a receiver if needed. Vogler is just a huge guy at 6-7,260 and that is his ticket to a possible NFL career. Vogler is seldom used in the passing game and he caught only 8 passes for 71 yards and a single TD. Vogler thinks he can be more effective as a receiver and I am sure that he could.
10. C. J. Uzomah- Auburn. Uzomah is obviously an outstanding blocker since he played for Auburn and was productive in their run game. He didn’t see much in the passing game but he did haul in 11 passes for 154 yards and 3 TDs. Uzomah has great size at 6-4, 260 and in spite of lack of passes coming from Nick Marshall, he can run. Auburn may toss the ball around a bit more in 2014, but look for Uzomah to just continue on as a great blocker and catch about 15 passes.
11. Durham Smythe- Notre Dame. Smythe is a redshirt freshman and a member of my preseason All Freshman team. Smythe is from Belton, Texas where he was used very well in their offensive scheme and he is a gifted receiver out of the Tight End position. He obviously has not played a down at Notre Dame, but either Smythe or fellow redshirt freshman Mike Hueurman from Naples, Florida will be the next big thing at Notre Dame. Heuerman’s older brother is the starting TE at Ohio State so the talent is there as well. Both Smythe and Heuerman looked good in the Irish Spring Game and both should play this season and in the future. Smythe is a little bit bigger than Heuerman which is why I am going with him. Both of them should be outstanding for the Fighting Irish.
12. Taylor McNamara-Oklahoma. McNamara is a redshirt sophomore from San Diego, California that is big enough at 6-5,245 and he runs well. In the Oklahoma Spring Game, McNamara was one of the star players and the Sooners love to use their Tight End and especially in goal line situations. Look for McNamara to have a great season as a freshman surprising the country with his great hands and athletic ability. Was a highly sought after recruit out of California that has not played much as of yet, but should have a breakout season in 2014. That, and 14 good Tight Ends are hard to come by these days in the new spread offenses that don’t feature the Tight End.
Look for either QB transfer Blake Bell or Taylor McNamara to have an outstanding year for the Sooners
13. Jake Duzey- Iowa. The Iowa Hawkeyes are sort of like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Stanford in that they usually have a good Tight End and he is a large part of their offense. Big fan of the Tight End being a part of the offense. Tight End creates so many mismatches with the defense and it’s baffling why some Offensive Coordinators don’t implement them in their offense. Duzey was a back up last season but still managed 19 catches for 270 yards and 2 TDs. Duzey is average size for a TE at 6-4,245 but is a good blocker and receiver.
14. Kalvin Cline- Va Tech I’ll bet this guy caught it growing up with a name like this, so he must be tough. Another top guy out of Florida. Cline stands 6-4, 240 and had a really good freshman season in 2013 hauling in 26 passes for 321 yards and 2 TDs from long time Hokie QB Logan Thomas. Thomas is now gone and we don’t know yet who will replace him at QB so it’s hard to tell what kind of season Cline will have.
Evan Engram- Ole Miss
Josiah Price- Michigan State
Maxx Williams- Minnesota
Cethan Carter- Nebraska
Blake Bell- Oklahoma
Matt LaCosse- Illinois
Beau Sandland- Miami