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NFL Combine Prospect Preview: Tight End

The Falcons face a lot of questions at the TE position heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, especially with Austin Hooper’s status uncertain. We take a closer look at some of Atlanta’s options at the upcoming NFL Combine.

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL Combine officially kicks off on February 24, and all eyes will be on Indianapolis to see which draft prospects are able help or hurt their stock with their performance. Going first will be the Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends, who will participate in on-field workouts starting on Thursday, Februrary 27.

To prepare everyone for the flurry of activity that is the NFL Combine, I am back to once again provide you with my Combine Prospect Previews—brief summaries of some of my favorite prospects in each position group. These are players who I believe the Falcons will be most interested in come draft day. Hopefully, these names will give you a little bit of guidance about who to watch when the players hit the field.

If you missed any of the other prospect previews, you can find them below:

WR | TE | RB | C/G | EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S

For added context, I’ll be incorporating player rankings from The Draft Network. This way you can have a general idea of where a current consensus of scouts ranks a particular player. Today we take a look at the TE position. At this point, it’s hard to say whether or not the Falcons will be interested in adding one via the draft—much depends on whether or not the team retains Austin Hooper and/or Luke Stocker for the 2020 season.

Devin Asiasi, UCLA

6’3, 279 | 44 receptions, 641 yards, 14.6 avg, 4 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 186 (6th Round)

Perhaps the least well-known TE at the Combine—TDN doesn’t even have a report up on him yet—UCLA’s Devin Asiasi is nonetheless an intriguing prospect for a team in need of TE help. It’s been hard to get a read on Asiasi’s weight—some have him as high as 289, others in the 260s. That weight fluctuation and the lack of consistent production for Asiasi make him a rather risky draft selection. But he’s undoubtedly a talented athlete with the want-to and build to find success as both a blocker and a receiver.

A strong Combine could certainly awaken more analysts to Asiasi’s potential and lift him into early-Day 3 consideration, but he’ll otherwise be a late-Day 3 developmental selection. If the Falcons re-sign Austin Hooper this season—and/or move on from Luke Stocker—Asiasi could be a high risk/reward depth addition for 2020 with the potential to grow into a future TE2.

Jacob Breeland, Oregon

6’5, 250 | 26 receptions, 405 yards, 15.6 avg, 6 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 146 (5th Round)

A leg injury cut Oregon TE Jacob Breeland’s 2019 season short after just six games, but that didn’t stop him from reaching career highs in receiving and TDs. Breeland is a well-rounded TE prospect who improved his receiving significantly this season and also profiles as a quality blocker. He can line up just about anywhere—including in-line, as an H-back, or out wide—and produce, although his upside in any one area is fairly limited.

Breeland projects well as an NFL TE2 who can give you a little of everything. If you need a secondary receiving option, Breeland is more than capable of filling in. In need of extra blocking? Breeland can handle that, too. If Atlanta elects to move on from Luke Stocker this offseason, Breeland could replicate the same role for the cost of a Day 3 pick—and significantly less money.

Harrison Bryant, FAU

6’5, 242 | 65 receptions, 1004 yards, 15.4 avg, 7 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 125 (4th Round)

If the Falcons do decide to part ways with Austin Hooper this offseason, but can’t afford to spend a Day 2 pick on a TE, Harrison Bryant might be their best option early on Day 3. Bryant offers good size (6’5, 242) and exceptional receiving ability at the TE position. He’s a quality athlete, although he’s not likely to blow anyone away with his Combine performance.

Bryant is a smooth, well-developed receiver with strong hands. Asking him to block, however, is a much more dubious proposition. Lined up in space or as an H-back, Bryant can be functional. However, he’s simply not strong enough—or technical enough—to survive in-line or with his hand in the dirt at this point. It’ll take some significant development before Bryant can be a reliable blocker at the NFL level. However, if the Falcons are looking for receiving upside on Day 3, they won’t do much better than Harrison Bryant.

Hunter Bryant, Washington

6’2, 239 | 52 receptions, 825 yards, 15.9 avg, 3 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 66 (3rd Round)

If the Falcons elect to let Hooper walk in free agency, their best bet for replicating his production in 2020 is going after one of the top Day 2 TE prospects. There’s plenty of debate surrounding which TE is the best at the top—TDN has three prospects within 8 spots of each other—but the best pure receiver is Washington’s Hunter Bryant. Bryant is an electric athlete at the TE position whose smaller frame (6’2, 239) reminds me a bit of Evan Engram.

As you might expect with that smaller frame, Bryant doesn’t offer much as a blocking option. He’s functional when put on the move or out in space, but he’s going to be most valuable when flexed out wide or as a slot option. Bryant is a strong route runner for a TE, which when combined with his excellent quickness and flexibility makes him difficult to match up with for LBs and safeties. Long-term, Bryant has high-end TE1 upside as a receiving specialist, but he’ll cost the Falcons a premium Day 2 pick.

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

6’4, 241 | 61 receptions, 830 yards, 13.6 avg, 7 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 64 (2nd Round)

The current consensus TE1 according to TDN, Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins certainly has a more traditional build than the other two contenders for the top spot. At 6’4, 241, Hopkins looks more the part of a traditional in-line TE. Despite that size, however, Hopkins is still pretty underdeveloped as a blocker and will need time to learn how to play an in-line role in the NFL.

Where he stands out is as a receiver, where his strong route-running and athletic ability can be used to dominate LBs. His hands can be a little inconsistent, but he’s strong at the catch point and thrives in contested situations. Hopkins can thrive at all areas of the field and run just about every route in the book, which makes him a dangerous weapon for a creative offensive coordinator. His second-round price tag is almost assuredly too high for the Falcons, but there’s always a chance for Dimitroff to do something silly.

Cole Kmet, Notre Dame

6’4, 235 | 43 receptions, 515 yards, 12.0 avg, 6 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 72 (3rd Round)

Perhaps the best fit of the top TE prospects in the traditional in-line role, Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is a well-rounded player with solid size (6’4, 235) and athleticism. While he’s nowhere near the level of Hunter Bryant or Brycen Hopkins as an athlete, he’s certainly functional in this area and is a more NFL-ready blocker. I love his hands and his advanced, nuanced route-running, and he pairs that with better strength at the point of attack than the other two top TEs.

Kmet simply doesn’t have the upside of Bryant or Hopkins as a receiver, however. He’s good and certainly talented enough to be a starter in the league, but won’t ever be a “game-changer” or matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. While Kmet is a better blocker than the other two top TEs and has more upside in this area, he’s still got some technical issues to clean up before he can be trusted consistently in pass protection.

Thaddeus Moss, LSU

6’3, 249 | 47 receptions, 570 yards, 12.1 avg, 4 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 88 (3rd Round)

When you hear Thaddeus Moss’ name, it undoubtedly conjures up images of Randy Moss dominating opponents as a receiver. In reality, however, Thaddeus Moss is actually a far better blocker than a receiver—perhaps the best blocker in the entire 2020 TE class. At 6’3, 249, Moss has a thick, well-built frame. He’s got excellent power and strength at the point of attack, and Moss is just about as NFL-ready as they come as both a pass and run blocker.

As a receiver, Moss is solid. He can use his size and physicality to succeed in the red zone and on shorter routes, and he’s got strong hands to make catches consistently in traffic. Athletically, however, Moss is fairly average—he’s not going to blow anyone away with his long speed or agility. I believe Moss projects best to a complementary TE2 role for a team that likes to use a lot of 12 personnel. If the Falcons do move on from Luke Stocker, Moss could provide better blocking and—eventually—better receiving for a lot less cap space.

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

6’5, 255 | 26 receptions, 306 yards, 11.8 avg, 6 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 161 (6th Round)

One of the most polarizing TE prospects in the 2020 class, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam made a name for himself during his freshman season after piling up 11 TDs on just 29 receptions. Since then, however, Okwuegbunam has failed to build off that tremendous start—he’s failed to eclipse 500 yards or 6 TDs in the last two seasons. His size (6’5, 255) and long arms make him a natural red zone and possession target, but he’s struggled quite a bit with injuries over the past few seasons.

Okwuegbunam’s best traits are his soft hands and ability to win with his physicality in contested situations. Athletically, I’m not sure he’s any better than average, and despite his size he’s been lackluster as a blocker. The Combine will go a long way in determining his final stock, as a strong showing could convince a team to take a chance on developing him early on Day 3. As it stands now, I’d be most comfortable adding Okwuegbunam late as a long-term TE2 candidate who can be developed into a better blocker and red zone specialist.

Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt

6’4, 254 | 20 receptions, 233 yards, 11.7 avg, 2 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 102 (4th Round)

Another early-Day 3 option for the Falcons if they’re looking for a low-cost rookie to replace Luke Stocker, Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney is a strong blocker with functional receiving ability. He’s got good size at 6’4, 254, and solid enough athleticism to get the job done as a blocker and receiver. I like his hands and willingness to go up and get it in contested situations—he’s not a huge threat as a receiver, but he’s more than capable of being a tertiary piece when called upon.

Pinkney’s strength is his blocking, and he’s good at it. He’s got plenty of power at the point of attack and has the mean streak you look for from your trench players. Technically, there are some issues to clean up with his hands, and his lack of burst can cause issues against athletic opponents. However, if the Falcons want a low-cost blocking TE who can contribute a little in the receiving game, Pinkney would be a solid value in the fourth round.

Adam Trautman, Dayton

6’5, 251 | 70 receptions, 916 yards, 14 TD

TDN Prospect Rank: 91 (3rd Round)

Every year it seems like there’s an intriguing small school TE prospect who everyone is watching coming into the Combine. Adam Shaheen and Dallas Goedert are two of the most recent examples who come to mind. This year, that player is Dayton’s Adam Trautman, who’s been incredibly productive in the FCS over his career. At 6’5, 251 and possessing excellent athletic traits, Trautman appears to check all the boxes of a future NFL TE1. The questions lie with his technique and ability as a blocker, both of which will likely require time to develop in the NFL.

Trautman has great upside as a potential dual-threat TE, with the strength to succeed as a blocker and the athleticism, route-running ability, and hands to thrive as a receiver. How he tests at the Combine will likely determine just how high his ceiling can be, but he had no trouble dominating the lower level of competition at Dayton. Can he continue his dominance against NFL athletes? How long will it take him to adjust to the higher level of competition? These are questions teams will have to answer for themselves, but Trautman remains one of the most intriguing TE options on Day 2.

What are your thoughts on the 2020 tight end class at the NFL Combine? Do you expect the Falcons to move on from Austin Hooper and/or Luke Stocker, and if so, are you in favor of adding another TE in the draft? Who are some of your favorite TE prospects in the draft class?