It’s time to ramp up the preview for the 2022 college football season, as Week 0 is just over a month away.
The 2022 PFF College Football Preview Guide has just dropped, and in conjunction with that is an expansion of PFF’s preseason positional rankings that will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks.
Below are PFF’s picks for the top 25 tight ends entering the 2022 college football season, along with some superlatives, including the biggest projections and sleepers.
Note: This ranking does not consider pro potential
The Top Dog
1. BROCK BOWERS, GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Bowers was in the conversation for the best tight end in college football last year despite being a true freshman. This year, as a true sophomore, he’s quite easily the best returning tight end in college football, as he earned a 91.7 PFF receiving grade in 2021 while generating 3.14 yards per route run. That's a never-before-seen level of production at PFF from a true freshman — and a level rarely obtained by any player at the position. His speed, explosiveness and ball skills are all in elite territory.
Bowers is already a college football star and has the chance to piece together a historic career if he can sustain his current pace.
8. AUSTIN STOGER, SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Stogner was in the midst of a breakout sophomore 2020 season before suffering an injury in Week 10 that led to a staph infection. He lost 35 pounds during the brutal recovery process, and he struggled to regain that breakout level of play when he returned in 2021. Before the major injury and infection, Stogner owned an 87.3 receiving grade while putting up 2.72 yards per route run and a 15-plus yard gain on 32% of his targets. All three of those metrics ranked inside the top five among FBS tight ends. He will try to reclaim that old form as he reunites with quarterback Spencer Rattler and head coach Shane Beamer at South Carolina.
11. MICHAEL TRIGG, OLE MISS REBELS
Trigg was one of Lane Kiffin’s star signings out of the transfer portal. The 2021 four-star recruit began his career at USC, where he hoped to play for the football and basketball teams (he fielded multiple hoops offers from notable Division I programs). But after a disappointing true freshman season that ended in injury and a regime change, Trigg lands in Oxford. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end earned a 54.2 receiving grade across 75 routes last season, and while there were some missteps on his part, he still showed flashes of what he can be. He averaged 7.4 yards after the catch on seven receptions and caught three of his five contested opportunities. Oh, and don’t forget about his willingness to block — an underrated aspect of his game.
14. DARNELL WASHINGTON, GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Washington’s receiving production is nothing to write home about, but he has made the most of his opportunities and been an exceptional run blocker. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end is only scratching the surface of what he can become. Washington has converted 10 of his 27 career targets into a gain of 15 or more yards while averaging 18.8 yards per reception overall. He has also broken nine tackles after the catch on 17 career receptions.
In addition, Washington ranks 12th among Power Five tight ends in run-blocking grade since coming to Athens as a five-star recruit in 2020.
15. JAHLEEL BILLINGSLEY, TEXAS LONGHORNS
Billingsley was reportedly in Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s dog house in 2021 and will now play under his old Crimson Tide offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, at Texas. Prior to a nightmarish 50.6 receiving grade in 2021, Billingsley showed a lot of potential in 2020. He earned a 73.5 receiving grade that year, catching 18 of 19 targets for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
The 2019 four-star recruit has the tools to become a top-tier receiver in college football, but he'll need to build on his early-career success. What his role ends up being for the Longhorns is something to monitor, especially with him dropping from 230 pounds to 216.
25. BRYSON NESBIT, NORTH CAROLINA
The son of longtime NFL offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit, Bryson Nesbit was a late bloomer in the football recruiting process due to his proclivity for basketball. In fact, he didn’t pick up padded football until his junior year of high school. Nonetheless, Nesbit quickly turned himself into a four-star recruit and is now a prime candidate to break out in 2022 after his true freshman campaign.
He posted a 75.0 PFF grade in 2021, 4.28 yards per route run and 8.3 yards after the catch per reception while hauling in both of his contested opportunities. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end has a big, long frame and is an after-the-catch threat. Expect North Carolina to give him plenty of opportunities at receiver to create even more mismatches.
3. ARIK GILBERT, GEORGIA BULLDOGS
The past few years have been a roller coaster for Gilbert. After dazzling in his 2020 true freshman campaign with LSU, the former five-star opted to transfer. He initially committed to Florida but backed out to join Georgia. Though the 6-foot-5, 248-pound tight end didn’t play a snap in their 2021 national title run due to personal reasons. Gilbert is expected to suit up for the ‘Dawgs in 2022 and already turned heads this past spring. He is poised to build on his first collegiate season, for which he earned a 73.0 receiving grade that ranked third among SEC tight ends.
6. ERICK ALL, MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
After an underwhelming first two years on campus, All is starting to finally develop into the player Michigan was expecting. The 2019 four-star recruit earned a 75.4 receiving grade last year, more than 30 grading points higher than his 2020 mark.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end looks to impose his will in the running game, recording five big-time run-blocks en route to a 76.4 run-block grade this past season. The latter ranked eighth among Power Five tight ends with at least 200 such snaps.