The evolution of the tight end position has seen several shifting dynamics over the past several seasons. Having a burly, rugged tight end whose only motive was to engage in blocking defenders is no longer a requirement. Hybrid tight ends are the new trend. Soon enough, it will no longer be classified as a “trend” at all.
The Atlanta Falcons added a hybrid tight end prospect in Austin Hooper in last year’s draft. Hooper contributed 19 catches and three touchdowns in the regular season, and will look to be the main guy at the position in 2017. The team re-signed free agent Levine Toilolo, but in reality, Toilolo is limited in ability. The Falcons offense will implement a quality rotation at the position and will look to add another talent to the position.
That talent may come in the form of Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges. Here is an outlook on the gifted Hodges and what he has to offer.
Bucky Hodges Scouting Report
Weight: 257 lbs
Strengths: In Hodges, the Falcons get a skilled tight end that at times looks like a wide receiver. He totaled 133 receptions in his three seasons with the Hokies. He reached career highs this past season in receptions (48), yards (691), and yards per catch (14.4), while tying a career high in touchdown receptions with seven.
During his freshman season in 2014, Hodges earned Freshman All-American honors. He eventually took home second team All-ACC in 2015 and third team in 2016. The size/speed combo by Hodges is enough to have defensive coordinators on alert. Hodges clocked a 4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL combine but his athleticism was truly showed on a 39 inch vertical leap and an 11’ broad jump.
Here, Hodges runs a fly pattern against man coverage with no safety over the top. Hodges makes the proper adjustment on the ball, maintains concentration (despite jostling with the cornerback simultaneously) and hauls in the reception for a big gain.
There is a considerable catch radius within Hodges’s skill set, with the towering height and the 32 1⁄2 inch arm length placing Hodges at an advantage in just about every matchup he has. Hodges also displays good body control and balance to make the difficult catches. At various times, he has shown the capability to be effective in the slot, the boundary, in-line, and and even has been thrown a bone or two on bubble screens.
His blocking is okay. He has the room to improve but for an athlete who has played the position for only three seasons, at his size, his blocking ability is better than he is given credit for.
Weaknesses: As I mentioned earlier, Hodges only has three seasons of experience at the position. So of course, parts of his game needs considerable refining. Route-running first and foremost requires some work. Some of his routes are rounded and not run aggressively enough.
Every now and then, Hodges tends to catch passes with his body instead of his hands. While he does have a good catch radius, he needs to be more consistent by using his hands naturally. Hodges must improve his overall strength as well at the next level. Especially for the Falcons offensive scheme, where he will be utilized as a pass catcher and run blocker.
Conclusion: There is a growing probability that the Atlanta Falcons will add another tight end to the rotation, as I mentioned. The growth of Hooper is expected in the upcoming season, but with the team not in favor of having veteran Jacob Tamme return, there’s still real room to improve at the position.
The Falcons may target a tight end anywhere between the second and the fifth round. So it should not be a great surprise if the Falcons snag an exciting, dynamic prospect such as Hodges in the second round.
Hodges needs some work, but even as a raw prospect at this point, he has enough of a skill set right now to be a contributor to the Falcons offense in 2017. The potential is obvious for Hodges. When the dust settles, Hodges has Pro Bowl potential. His addition will give the Falcons another athletic weapon that teams will have to be wary of, and they could always use another.