clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Could the Falcons go tight end early in the draft?

If their prospect meetings are any indication, it's something Atlanta is seriously considering.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Jacob Tamme was serviceable for the Atlanta Falcons last season, but at 31, he's not the long-term answer at a position that's integral to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense. Levine Toilolo has improved, both in terms of blocking and receiving, but he's never going to be a dynamic pass-catcher. It's not surprising that the Falcons have met with and individually worked out three of the top tight ends in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Hunter Henry, Arkansas

The Falcons met with Henry, Mike Mayock's top tight end prospect in 2016, during the NFL CombineHenry compares well to Travis KelceHe won the 2015 John Mackay Award, which is given to the top college tight end each year. He's a prototypical NFL tight end who was an incredibly reliable receiver in college. According to Pro Football Focus, Henry had just two dropped balls on 90 catchable passes over the past two seasons.

Henry's speed is impressive, relative to his size, of course. Henry, at 6'5 and 250 pounds, ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the Arkansas pro day. He needs some development as an inline blocker, but the effort is there and he blocks through the whistle. He's the clear-cut top tight end prospect in this draft, and if the Falcons want to make a move on Henry, he's projected to go in the second round, but it's possible he'll go in the late first.

Austin Hooper, Stanford

ESPN's Vaughn McClure reported Monday that the Falcons took a look at Stanford tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper is generally regarded as the second-best tight end prospect in this draft, and according to McClure, he compares well to Heath Miller.

Hooper, 6'4 and 254 pounds, is a good blocker and has the long arms to make it easier to keep defenders at bay. He's also a solid receiver, though he was never a primary target at Stanford. His functional strength is probably not quite where it needs to be in order to succeed at the pro level, but his frame can withstand some more bulk without compromising any aspect of his game.

One thing that stands out about Hooper is his tenacity, both as a blocker and after the catch. That's an element of Hooper's game that Dan Quinn is definitely going to appreciate. Hooper is projected as a late second to early third-rounder.

Nick Vannett, Ohio State

Ohio State's Vannett, who is ranked by CBS Sports as the third-best tight end prospect in this draft, has also met with the Falcons individually at Ohio State's pro day, according to Walter Football's Tony Pauline.

Vannett is underrated as a prospect, primarily because he wasn't needed much as a receiver in Ohio State's offense. He quietly does everything -- both blocking and receiving -- well. He has natural leverage as a blocker that's difficult to teach, and he's very versatile on offense. He has great size at 6'6 and 257 pounds. He's a particularly adept run blocker, which was important on an offense featuring Ezekiel Elliott.

Vannett is a projected third-rounder, and he's a very solid and attainable tight end target for the Falcons.

Your thoughts on the Falcons' options at tight end?