It's the time you've all been waiting for. I apologize for not getting this list out sooner, because I know most of you have been on the edge of your seats, anxiously awaiting for which tight end the Detroit Lions may be looking at this year. Anyway, I'm not going to keep you waiting any longer. Here are my top 10 TEs in this year's NFL Draft:
1. Maxx Williams (Minnesota) | 6-foot-4, 249 pounds
You won’t find many experts willing to contest that Williams is the No. 1 tight end prospect in the draft. He simply is the most athletic and most polished prospect out there, and likely the only one who will be selected in the first round. This catch and run versus Missouri says it all.
2. Clive Walford (Miami [FL]) | 6-foot-4, 251 pounds
Much like Williams, Walford is very athletic for his size. He’s not as reliable in the pass game as Williams because of his issues with drops and ball security, but he is still a huge threat up the seam. He is an adequate blocker but often gets a little too high in his stance, causing him to lose his leverage. He’s also very versatile and had success lining up all over the field with the Hurricanes.
3. Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State) | 6-foot-5, 254 pounds
Heuerman has more potential than he has polish right now, but I believe he has arguably the highest ceiling in this class. His receiving statistics were much better in 2013 than 2014, but most importantly, he looked much improved as a blocker.
4. Blake Bell (Oklahoma) | 6-foot-6, 252 pounds
Bell is a converted quarterback with just one year of experience at TE under his belt. His tape doesn’t blow you away, but he has a ton of upside and improved greatly (especially as a blocker) as the year progressed. Bell will be a solid mid-to-late-round option for any team willing to take him on as a project.
5. Tyler Kroft (Rutgers) | 6-foot-5, 246 pounds
If the Lions have any interest in drafting another tight end, keep an eye out for this guy. While at Rutgers, Kroft played under Ron Prince, who is currently the Lions’ assistant head coach/tight ends coach. He was unable to participate at the combine and doesn’t appear to be the best athlete, but he’s a tenacious blocker with experience as an in-line and slot receiver.
6. Jesse James (Penn State) | 6-foot-7, 261 pounds
James has a massive frame but struggles to find separation. On tape, he is an average blocker that is unable to get any push in the run game and could add some strength. Oddly enough, he posted the second-highest amount of bench reps at the NFL Combine. Regardless, James is another project with high upside. At the very least, he could be a red-zone specialist in the NFL.
7. Ben Koyack (Notre Dame) | 6-foot-5, 255 pounds
Koyack is a great route-runner with a great understanding of sinking his hips and creating separation in the passing game. He’s built like a tight end but looks more like a wide receiver and struggles as an in-line blocker.
8. Wes Saxton (South Alabama) | 6-foot-3, 248 pounds
Saxton is a raw prospect with great athleticism and can be a nightmare matchup for linebackers. He’s a bit small for a tight end and can struggle as a blocker, but he can be a great receiver in the right system.
9. MyCole Pruitt (Southern Illinois) | 6-foot-2, 251 pounds
Pruitt posted the fastest 40 time (4.58) among all TEs. His combine speed doesn’t appear to match his film speed, however, and I’d like to see him work on selling his routes a little better. He’s smaller than your prototypical TE, but his production at Southern Illinois speaks for itself.
10. A.J. Derby (Arkansas) | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds
There is no TE prospect with a more intriguing path to playing the position than Derby. He started his career at Iowa as a backup QB but moved to linebacker for a year. After deciding it wasn’t the right fit for him, Derby transferred to Arkansas to play TE. He’s incredibly raw but can be a great late-round option for someone willing to work with his athleticism.