Name: Bucky Hodges
School: Virginia Tech
Position fit: Joker (move) tight end
Stat to know: Despite converting from QB to TE coming out of high school, scored college football’s second-best overall TE grade (81.2) and top receiving grade (85.0) as a redshirt freshman in 2014.
What he does best:
- Offers impressive size-to-speed-to-hands combination.
- Big-game playmaker, caught the go-ahead TD pass in 2015 upset win over Ohio State, and collected 20 touchdown passes combined during his three seasons with the Hokies.
- Receiving experience is second-to-none in the draft class — most snaps in route (1,112), targets (238), receptions (133), and yards (1,755) since 2014.
- Playbook scheme versatility — shifted from Frank Beamer’s pro style to Justin Fuente’s spread offense in 2016 — also adjusting to a role split wide — while still generating career highs in receiving totals.
- Ability to work downfield creates consistent mismatches facing smaller defenders — 25 receptions of 20 or more yards at Virginia Tech.
- Snaps run from the slot decreased from 527 combined from 2014-15 to 65 in 2016, but posted the ninth-best average yardage per route run from the slot (1.68) in the TE draft class since 2014.
- Utilizes wingspan well to create separation at the catch point.
- Limited run-blocker. May not be able to contribute much as an in-line blocker and opposing defenses will not be put in as much of a bind when he’s in the game.
- Utilized in pass protection at the lowest rate (three percent of 733 passing snaps) in the TE draft class.
- Hesitates when setting up second-level blocks.
- Will likely need additional upper body bulk to prevent being outmuscled by NFL defenders.
Player comparison: Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Hodges will obviously need to produce at an elite level to justify a Graham comparison. However, the pair share extremely similar size, athleticism, and Hodges has displayed exemplary versatility with Graham’s big-play potential. Graham spent his first year in the NFL improving his blocking technique and, with that same level of organizational development, Hodges possesses the tools to become one of the better tight ends in the NFL.
Bottom line: Drafting Hodges may require a second-day pick, and there’s a certain level of projection, but he offers the size and tools to create mismatches at the next level. He’ll require significant work to refine his blocking technique and will need to lower his drop rate — career 8.28 percent. But the factors supporting Hodges’ ceiling offer more than enough to balance the risk.