Atlanta’s suddenly in the market for a tight end after cutting ties with Levine Toilolo. Many thought tight end was already a need after Austin Hooper had a bit of an up-and-down 2017 campaign, but now they have an actual need at the position, one they seem likely to address via the draft. Thankfully, this class has some interesting players, even if there’s no Baby Gronks in the mix.
I briefly thought about focusing this article on wide receiver, a position the Falcons certainly will have to address, but that will come another day. For now, let’s break down some tight ends of note from Saturday.
Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Let’s start with an obvious statement: Great Combine results don’t necessarily translate to great tight end play. Vernon Davis turned out very well after turning in freakish results, sure, but Dustin Keller was just so-so. That’s why we have to sound a note of caution for Mike Gesicki.
That said, Gesicki blew the doors off the Combine in pretty much every way, testing out as an elite athlete at a position where there’s an awful lot of try-hard guys. That athleticism is going to get him drafted in the second round, more than likely, and some team might even talk themselves into him in the first.
For the Falcons, the question is whether he can play as an inline tight end, or one who stays along the line to block and then fights his way loose for receptions. Considering Gesicki was primarily a receiver in college and is obviously a plus athlete—and has never really even been close to an elite blocking tight end—it seems like he’d be an uneasy fit unless the Falcons are ready to lean heavily on Hooper as a blocker.
Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
The Falcons have met with Hurst already, so there appears to be at least some level of genuine interest. He’s probably the best, most well-rounded tight end in this class at first glance, so that interest makes sense.
Hurst looked very good in the Combine, though he was overshadowed by Gesicki’s big day. He’s a smooth, natural pass catcher who needs to refine his route running, but the Combine further showed us he’s an excellent athlete. Some team is going to get a lump of clay that already looks a lot like a Ming vase.
If he’s there in the second round, the Falcons will likely be awfully tempted to add Hurst to the offense. Once he gets up to speed, having Hooper and Hurst on the field at the same time could be lethal.
Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State
You sort of have to stand out from the pack to get dinged as a tight end, because I don’t think evaluators expect #elite numbers from the position in most years. Samuels, for better and for worse, stood out.
Let’s start out with why he’s here: While Samuels showed out fine in drills, he’s just 5’11” and 225 pounds, which are fullback numbers more than tight end. That’s really the reason he’s on this list, because I can’t imagine he’s going to stick as a full time tight end on any team in the NFL.
The good news is that Samuels seems comfortable playing a number of positions, because some team is going to draft him and move him elsewhere.