News & Analysis

Devy Spotlight: The 2019 tight end draft class

Sep 23, 2017; Stanford, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Caleb Wilson (81) during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is growing ever-thirsty for more pseudo tight ends to fill “big slot” roles and a number of offenses are using 12 personnel with growing frequency to take advantage of the matchup problems it creates.

The 2019 tight end class is headlined by a trio of impressive Power-5 talents who should be potential top-100 selections in next spring’s draft. While many devy dynasty fantasy football players opt to ignore the tight end position on their taxi squads, the top tier of this group is strong enough to at least warrant consideration at the end of your devy draft this spring, especially in 2TE or TE premium leagues.

(Player profile information includes bowl game stats.)

Tier 1

Caleb Wilson, UCLA

(Height: 6-4, Weight: 235)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2016 UCLA FR TE 8 16 220 13.8 0
2017 UCLA SO TE 5 38 490 12.9 1
Career UCLA 54 710 13.1 1

Wilson was on an 80-reception, 1,000-yard pace before his early-season injury robbed us of what could have ended up being been the top statistical receiving line of any tight end in the country in 2017. The dynamo scorched Texas A&M for an astonishing 208 yards on 15 receptions in the season opener and followed it up with an 11-catch performance against Stanford just three weeks later. A former high school quarterback, Wilson is still learning the position, but his size and athleticism are already proving to be a tough matchup for opposing defenses. He will have to deal with the loss of Josh Rosen this season, but if he stays healthy he will be on the short list of tight ends in consideration in the top 50 of next spring’s draft.

Noah Fant, Iowa

(Height: 6-5, Weight: 235)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2016 Iowa FR TE 6 9 70 7.8 1
2017 Iowa SO TE 12 30 494 16.5 11
Career Iowa 39 564 14.5 12

Fant ranked 11th in the nation in 2017 with 11 receiving touchdowns and was tied for fourth in the category among Power-5 players. Like Wilson, Fant is a conversion project, as he was originally recruited as a weak-side defensive end. He ended the 2017 season with a six-game touchdown streak (including a bowl game), scoring eight times in the process. The Hawkeye should become even more of an offensive focal point in 2018 as he demonstrated some downfield big play ability in 2017. He’s listed by many outlets as the top tight end for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Isaac Nauta, Georgia

(Height: 6-4, Weight: 246)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2016 Georgia FR TE 11 29 361 12.4 3
2017 Georgia SO TE 8 9 114 12.7 2
Career Georgia 38 475 12.5 5

Nauta was the consensus top tight end recruit in the country in 2016. After a promising freshman season, the blue-chip prospect was an afterthought in the 2017 version of the Bulldogs offense. The hope for 2018 is that offensive coordinator (and former NFL tight ends coach) Jim Chaney is now also serving as the position coach, which could lead to a little more dedication to involving the group in the offense. Quarterback Jake Fromm should also continue to develop as a sophomore and perhaps the team will throw the ball more.

Tier 2

Alize Mack, Notre Dame

(Height: 6-5, Weight: 245)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2015 Notre Dame FR TE 6 13 190 14.6 0
2017 Notre Dame JR TE 6 19 166 8.7 1
Career Notre Dame 32 356 11.1 1

Like Nauta, Mack was the top overall recruit at tight end out of high school (2015). Suspended for the 2016 season after being ruled academically ineligible, he returned in 2017 and posted similar numbers to his freshman campaign. Notre Dame struggled mightily in the passing game in 2017 so none of their receivers were really able to display their full abilities. Hopefully this will change in 2018, or Mack could face some of the same difficulties as former teammate Equanimeous St. Brown when it comes to providing good tape.

C.J. Conrad, Kentucky

(Height: 6-4, Weight: 245)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2015 Kentucky FR TE 6 15 149 9.9 1
2016 Kentucky SO TE 10 19 262 13.8 4
2017 Kentucky JR TE 7 16 286 17.9 4
Career Kentucky 50 697 13.9 9

Conrad was in the midst of his best season in 2017, but it was unfortunately cut short by a foot injury. Though he was already running, he sat out of spring ball this offseason to allow the injury to fully heal. The former 4-star recruit is capable of chewing up yards in chunks and should be a top option in the Wildcats offense in 2018 after leading the team in receiving touchdowns last season.

Tyler Petite, USC

(Height: 6-4, Weight: 250)

Receiving
Year School Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2015 USC FR TE 9 15 145 9.7 1
2016 USC SO TE 7 10 156 15.6 2
2017 USC JR TE 11 23 307 13.3 3
Career USC 48 608 12.7 6

Petite will return for his senior season in 2018 but will have to cope with the loss of Sam Darnold. His 2017 season should have been more impressive statistically, as he was effectively phased out of the offense over the last month of the season. Petite reportedly runs a sub-4.6 40. If he can show better production in his senior season, he’s a player who could rise sharply during 2019 NFL Combine week.

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