The tight end position wasn’t nearly as heralded in the 2020 draft as it was in 2019. While that was the case, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t a couple diamonds in the wasteland. Landing spot dependence for the tight end position might be one of the most important of all the positions. Some teams just don’t utilize the position well at all, and on other teams, tight ends flourish in their systems. These are the 2020 NFL draft’s biggest winners and losers from the tight end position.
This is part 4 in my post-draft winners and losers series. Check out my other 2020 NFL Draft Winners and Losers:
These tight ends are already in the league and have benefitted from their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.
Chris Herndon (NYJ)
In 2018, as a rookie, Herndon finished strong and looked as if he was destined to be the breakout tight end of 2019. That didn’t happen. He started the season on a four-game suspension and when he came back he was relegated to the sidelines without explanation. In week 10, he eventually got on the field and caught one pass for seven yards. After the game, he was placed on season ending IR with a fractured rib. Nobody knows what to expect from Herndon in 2020, but the Jets opted not to add a tight end in the draft. So, with the 30 years old Ryan Griffin as the only real competition, it looks like Herndon will get another chance to make good on his belated breakout status.
Mike Gesecki (MIA)
Gesecki vaulted himself into being drafted in the second round in 2018, after posting some great combine numbers. Unfortunately for owners that drafted him, he looked like a complete bust during his rookie campaign. He started off slow last season, but really started to come on towards the end of the year. The Dolphins used eleven of their fourteen picks in the draft and not one of them on a tight end. Gesecki must have shown enough last year to go into the season as the unquestioned starter at the position.
Ian Thomas (CAR)
Thomas owners have been waiting for him to takeover for Greg Olsen for a few years now. When Olsen left the new look Panthers for Seattle, the draft was the last hurdle for a clear path to him becoming the full-time tight end. Not only did the Panthers not draft a tight end, they didn’t draft a single offensive player. Thomas has been a tease for dynasty owners for a while now, but his stock is up as there is no legitimate competition standing in his way.
Blake Jarwin (DAL)
Jarwin became a sleeper candidate once Jason Witten signed with the Raiders. Dallas didn’t bring in any serious competition for Jarwin in the off-season and they didn’t draft a tight end. One of the biggest surprises in the draft was when wide Receiver Ceedee Lamb fell to the Cowboys with the seventeenth overall pick. With Lamb, Cooper, and Gallup on the field there should be some great opportunities for Jarwin to find plenty of green in 2020.
C.J. Uzomah (CIN), D.Sample (CIN), Darren Fells (HOU), Kahale Warring (HOU), Dan Arnold (ARZ)
These rookie tight ends have landed in some really great spots and in doing so, their dynasty draft stock has risen.
Cole Kmet (CHI)
On the surface this might not seem like a great landing spot. Tight ends have not been very productive in Chicago for years now and the depth chart is loaded at the position. The real problem with the Bears offense though is the quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky may not even be the starter this year and that would most likely help all of the skill position players on the team. 33 years old Jimmy Graham is the presumed starter, but he has struggled of late and some wonder if there is anything even left in the tank. Kmet was a star at Notre Dame, and was the first tight end selected in the draft. He has a chance to be the starter day one, and if Nick Foles wins the starting quarterback job, it could turn out to be a great pick by the Bears and dynasty team owners alike.
Devin Asiasi / Dalton Keene (NEP)
The Patriots were in desperate need of tight end help. They passed up on higher rated tight ends Adam Trautman and Harrison Bryant to take Devin Asiasi out of UCLA and Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech in the third round. Asiasi is projected to be used more as the traditional pass catching tight end out of the two. Keene is seen to be more of a Swiss army knife type player in the Patriots offense. He will most likely be an “in-line” tight end, meaning in a three-point stance at the end of the offensive line, but could also find himself playing fullback at times. For fantasy football purposes, Asiasi seems to be the Patriots tight end to roster.
Adam Trautman (NOS)
Trautman played at small school Dayton, and was on every scouts radar, but really brought his stock up at the senior bowl when he was able to hang with the bigger conference boys. Trautman was a quarterback in high school, but switched his position to tight end in college, and in his final two years, he was the best receiver on the team. Jared Cook is the Saint’s starter, but he is 33 years old, and has shown signs of slowing down. The Saints will utilize Trautman this season, with the plan for him to be the tight end of the future in coach Sean Payton’s offense.
These are the tight ends already in the league that took the biggest hit by their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.
David Njoku (CLE)
Njoku was a super athletic tight end at Miami and a first-round pick in 2017. In his short NFL career, he has shown flashes of greatness, but his talent has yet to materialize into him becoming a consistent weapon for the Browns. The team brought in the top tight end free agent Austin Hooper this offseason to be the starter and then they drafted one of the top tight end prospects Harrison Bryant out of FAU. Njoku is signed through the 2021 season, so the hope is that he either puts it together or gets traded. Either way, his value has dropped significantly.
Gerald Everett (LAR)
The Rams drafted Tyler Higbee in 2016 and Everett in 2017. Both tight ends have had seesaw careers, keeping everyone guessing which one is going to become the number one guy. Higbee signed a four year extension in September and finished 2019 on an absolute tear. Everett has had some really nice games and has looked like a breakout candidate many times, but has never consistently put up big numbers. The Rams drafted tight end Brycen Hopkins out of Purdue and with only one year left on Everett’s contract, it looks like the end is in sight. Everett might resurface at some point, but I think his chance of ever becoming a top ten dynasty tight end is over.
Jared Cook (NOS) / Jimmy Graham (CHI)
Both Cook and Graham are 33 years old. That would be fine for 2020 if you are in win now mode, but their respective teams also happened to draft the top two rated pass catching tight end in the draft. While the veterans will still be at the top of the depth charts to start the season, it will only be a matter of time until their coaches want to see Cole Kmet and Adam Trautman on the field.
These rookie tight ends didn’t get drafted into ideal situations. If their talent is for real, then you might have to stash them for a little while before you are able to start them.
Harrison Bryant (CLE)
The Browns took Bryant out of Florida Atlantic in the fourth round. He will start his career behind the top free agent tight end, Austin Hooper, and former first round pick David Njoku. Tight ends usually take a few years to become relevant, so if Bryant is able to get some playing time and shows some flashes for the Browns, then that will be a good sign for the future. Bryant has upside, but his situation makes him a stash.
Brycen Hopkins (LAR)
Former Purdue Boilermaker, Brycen Hopkin’s draft situation has a lot of similarities to Harrison Bryant’s. Both were taken in the fourth round and both will start their careers behind two established tight ends. Hopkins will sit behind Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett in Los Angeles. Higbee has most likely solidified himself as the number one and Everett has only one year left on his contract. If Hopkins plays well, he may be able to leap frog Everett quickly and be part of a two-tight end system with Higbee.
Albert Okwuegbunam (DEN)
The Broncos went all out when it came to adding to their offense in the draft. They drafted three wide receivers overall and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth. Albert O was Bronco’s quarterback Drew Lock’s tight end at Missouri, so in that respect it is not that bad of a landing spot. The issue for the athletically freakish tight end is the offensive talent already in Denver. The Broncos drafted tight end Noah Fant in the first round last year and he will already be sharing touches with wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler. Not to mention running back Melvin Gordon’s receptions. Albert O certainly has a chance to carve out a role for himself, but it might take a little longer with all of those mouths to feed.