Georgia's Brock Bowers is set to be one of the best tight end prospects in the PFF College era

2NJ8K23 ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 24: Georgia Bulldogs tight end Brock Bowers (19) on his way to a touchdown during the NCAA football game between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Georgia Bulldogs on September 24,2022, at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Bowers has earned two straight 90.0-plus PFF grades: His 92.1 mark as a true freshman was the top mark among Power Five tight ends.

• The Georgia tight end is already a top-10 draft prospect: Bowers comes in at No. 5 on PFF's early 2024 draft board.

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The tight end position was once a first-round staple in the NFL draft. From 2000 to 2010, teams selected a whopping 16 tight ends on Day 1, to varying degrees of success. Since then, however, NFL teams have been more hesitant to invest significant draft capital in the position. In the 13 drafts since 2011, only 10 first-round selections have been used on tight ends.

Many of the position’s best players from the last 12 years — Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham, Mark Andrews and George Kittle, to name a few — were all chosen after the first 32 picks on draft day. Seemingly, NFL teams' willingness to spend a valuable draft pick on the position has waned over the years, potentially due to the later-round value picks of recent memory and the fact that many of the previous first-round tight ends have been busts relative to their draft position.

The 2024 draft features a prospect talented enough to buck that recent trend: Georgia's Brock Bowers. The rising junior begins the 2023-24 season as the fifth overall prospect on the PFF Big Board and could end up as the best tight end prospect since PFF began grading college football in 2014.

Bowers took the college football world by storm as a true freshman in 2021. The former four-star recruit led the national champion Georgia Bulldogs in all receiving categories with 71 targets, 56 receptions, 882 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, shattering the record for overall PFF grade by a freshman tight end in the process. He earned a 92.1 mark, whereas no other freshman tight end in the PFF College era has surpassed 88.1. In fact, only five other FBS freshman tight ends (minimum 100 snaps) since 2014 have even topped an 80.0 overall grade.

Season Overall Grade (Rk*) Receiving Grade (Rk*) Run-Blocking Grade (Rk*)
2022 90.0 (3rd) 90.0 (2nd) 73.8 (7th)
2021 92.1 (1st) 91.6 (1st) 74.1 (13th)

*Ranks among all qualifying Power Five tight ends

Despite being slightly undersized for the position at 230 pounds, Bowers has thoroughly dominated collegiate competition in his first two seasons as a Bulldog. The reigning John Mackey Award winner ranks first in receiving grade (93.1), receptions (121), yards (1,829), yards after the catch (1,004), yards after contact (443), first-down receptions (80), missed tackles forced (26), explosive plays (44) and contested catches (21) among all FBS tight ends through their first two seasons in the PFF College era.

On top of his elite receiving skills, Bowers is capable of holding his own as a blocker. He has allowed just one quarterback pressure on 52 pass-blocking snaps in his first two seasons, and his 73.8 run-blocking grade in 2022 ranked seventh among all Power Five tight ends. The two-time All-American is one of only eight Power Five tight ends to earn a 70.0-plus grade in both pass protection and run blocking over the past two campaigns.

According to PFF’s Wins Above Average metric, Bowers was the most valuable tight end in the entire country as both a freshman and sophomore. And he is poised to retain that crown this season as a focal point of Georgia’s offense.

It remains to be seen how Bowers’ dominance will translate to the NFL level, but it’s safe to say we have not seen this level of production from a college tight end in the PFF era. While the NFL has clearly soured on investing in the position with first-round draft picks in recent years, another elite season from Bowers in 2023 should have teams salivating over the chance to draft one of the best tight end prospects in recent memory.

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