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2022 NFL Draft: Taking a look at the TEs this year and in past 10 drafts

Mike Huguenin04/22/22
Article written by:On3 imageMike Huguenin

MikeHuguenin

TreyMcBrideTEdraft
Colorado State's Trey McBride is likely to be the first tight end drafted in 2022. (Courtesy of Colorado State Athletics)

A tight end has gone in the first round of the NFL draft in four of the past five years, but there won’t be a first-rounder this year. The big question is whether this will be the first draft since 1987 where a tight end doesn’t go in the first two rounds.

The first tight end in ’87 was Robert Awalt, who went to the San Diego Chargers with the sixth pick of the third round. Colorado State’s Trey McBride is expected to be the first tight end drafted this year, and he may not come off the board until round three.

We have produced a consensus top five at the position in this draft using the rankings of draft analysts Dane Brugler of The Athletic and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com as well as the ESPN consensus (from among analysts Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Matt Miller and Jason Reid). We also take a look at the position in the past 10 drafts.

This is part 3 (well, part of part 3, anyway, along with a look at wide receivers) of an eight-part draft series leading into the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, which is Thursday, April 28 in Las Vegas. We looked at quarterbacks on Wednesday and running backs Thursday, with offensive tackles coming Saturday, interior offensive linemen Sunday, defensive linemen Monday, linebackers Tuesday and defensive backs next Wednesday.

As a refresher, here are the underclassmen who are available in the draft. And if you want to look into the recruiting rankings of those taken in the past few drafts, you can have fun with the On3 NFL Draft by Stars database.

Consensus top 5 in this draft

1. Trey McBride, Colorado State

The skinny: On3 Consensus three-star prospect, from Fort Morgan (Colo.) High, in the 2018 recruiting class. McBride led all tight ends in 2021 with 90 receptions, 17 more than anybody else at the position. He finished sixth in school history with 157 receptions and ninth with 2,011 receiving yards. McBride will be the 10th Colorado State player drafted since 2009; five of the previous nine were selected in the second or third rounds.

2. Greg Dulcich, UCLA

The skinny: On3 Consensus unranked prospect, from La Cañada Flintridge (Calif.) St. Francis, in the 2018 recruiting class. Dulcich walked-on as a wide receiver in 2018 and received a scholarship in 2020, when he moved to tight end. He would be the third Bruins tight end selected in the past four drafts, joining Caleb Wilson in 2019 and Devin Asiasi in 2020.

3. Jelani Woods, Virginia

The skinny: On3 Consensus three-star prospect, from Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove, in the 2017 recruiting class. Woods signed with Oklahoma State out of high school; he redshirted in 2017, then caught 31 passes for 361 yards and three TDs over the next three seasons. Woods transferred to UVa for his final season and emerged as a legit prospect, with 44 receptions for 598 yards and eight TDs. He will be the first Cavaliers tight end drafted since John Phillips in 2009. UVa didn’t have anybody selected in two of the past five drafts (2017 and 2021).

4. Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State

The skinny: On3 Consensus four-star prospect, from Lindenwood (N.J.) High, in the 2018 recruiting class. Ruckert had just 28 receptions in his first three seasons at Ohio State, then had 26 for 309 yards and three TDs in 2021. Then again, given the big-play threats on the outside, does anyone blame the Buckeyes for not throwing to the tight end? TE Luke Farrell was drafted in the fifth round last season, but he was just the third Ohio State player at the position to be drafted since 2004.

5. Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

The skinny: On3 Consensus three-star prospect, from Everett (Mass.) High, in the 2018 recruiting class as a wide receiver. Likely had at least five touchdown catches in each of his four seasons and is third in school history with 27 scoring receptions. Coastal has had just eight players drafted in its history (it started football in 2003), and Likely would be the first Chanticleers’ tight end to be selected.

First-round TEs in past 10 drafts

+ There have been nine tight ends selected in the first round in the past 10 drafts.

+ One of those was an On3 Consensus five-star recruit: O.J. Howard, from the 2013 class.

+ The other eight were ranked thusly: Eric Ebron and Kyle Pitts were On3 Consensus four-star prospects, while Tyler Eifert, Evan Engram, Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and David Njoku were three-star recruits. Hayden Hurst was an unranked prospect who walked-on at South Carolina in 2015 after three seasons of minor-league baseball.

+ The conference breakdown of the nine: Four were from the SEC; two from the Big Ten; two from the ACC; and one from the independent ranks.

+ Three tight ends have been selected in the top 10.

+ Only twice in the past 10 drafts have at least two tight ends gone in the first round: In 2019, with Iowa teammates T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, and in 2017, with Howard, Engram and Njoku.

+ There were no first-round tight ends in 2012, ’15, ’16 or ’20.

+ More than half of those who went in the first round (five of the nine) were selected 20th or later in the round.

+ Iowa is the only school with more than one first-round tight end in the past 10 drafts, and they went in the same draft.

Total TEs taken in past 10 drafts

+ There have been 137 tight ends selected in the past 10 drafts, with a high of 19 in 2015 and a low of 10 in 2014.

+ There have been almost as many selected in the fourth round (24) as in the first and second rounds combined (26) in the past 10 drafts.

+ Notre Dame and Stanford have had seven tight ends selected in the past 10 drafts, tied for the most of any school. Georgia has had five, and is the only other school with more than four.

+ Somewhat surprising: Arkansas and South Carolina have had as many tight ends drafted (four) as Alabama and one more than Ohio State.

+ Surprisingly low numbers: Pitt with zero; Michigan State, Texas, Texas A&M, USC and Wisconsin with one each; and Clemson and Michigan with two each.

The 5-star tight ends

There were just five five-star tight ends in the 2009-19 recruiting classes (those in the ’09 class were eligible for the first time in the 2012 draft and those in the ’19 class are eligible for this draft).

+ There was Xavier Grimble in the 2010 class, Howard in 2013, Isaac Nauta in the 2016 class, Colby Parkinson in the 2017 class and Brevin Jordan in 2018.

+ We discussed Howard earlier. Grimble wasn’t drafted, Nauta was selected in the seventh round, Parkinson was drafted in the fourth round and Jordan in the fifth.