The New England Patriots failed to find adequate replacements for retired tight end Rob Gronkowski last year, with neither offseason additions Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson nor second-year man Ryan Izzo performing on a consistent level throughout the team’s 2019 campaign. As a result, improving the position has to rank near the top of the Patriots’ to-dos this offseason — whether they attempt doing it through free agency or via the draft.
If New England wants to take the second route, one of the most intriguing prospects available might be Adam Trautman. Despite spending his college career at the Division I level and at a school that has not seen one of its players get drafted since 1977, Trautman was able to turn heads at the Senior Bowl last month and could quickly rise up the draft boards due to his athletic skillset in combination with a tight end class lacking star-power at the top.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at him.
Name: Adam Trautman
Position: Tight end
2019 stats: 11 games; 70 receptions, 916 receiving yards, 14 receiving touchdowns
Size: 6050, 251 lbs, 32 1/2 arm length, 9 5/8 hand size, 77 7/8 wing span
Expected round: 5th-6th
Strengths: At 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, Trautman brings ideal size to the table to find success as an NFL tight end. He certainly knew how to use his frame in college: his ability to win contested catches against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, and to adjust for the ball in the air, are superb and a testament to his background in basketball. He offers a big target that has proven production on his résumé not just in the short and intermediate area but down the field as well.
Trautman’s quickness and speed are impressive for a player his size that only started at the position in 2016: he has shown an ability to quickly get out of his breaks and accelerate down the field, which is a good foundation to build on. He also brings the necessary physicality to the table to succeed as both a blocker at the next level and when it comes to playing against more physical coverage than what he faced in college. Furthermore, Trautman was a team captain for the Flyers in 2019.
Weaknesses: While Trautman’s production and tape are certainly impressive, all of it came against lower-level competition in the FCS. As a result, his NFL projection is somewhat unclear despite an encouraging outing at the Senior Bowl. At Dayton, however, he oftentimes relied more on his outstanding athletic skills to win his matchups than on technique which speaks for what might be a steep learning curve at the next level.
Trautman also needs to get better at some of the core nuances at playing the tight end position. He has experience as an in-line blocker, for example, but his success has been nothing to write home about — he is relatively raw in this area and projects to be a work in progress as his hand placement and upper-body technique are rather inconsistent. Furthermore, his route tree is also somewhat limited as he found most of his success running crossers against zone or out-cuts in the intermediate area of the field. Trautman also needs to show he can succeed against press-man coverage.
What would be his role? Based on his performance at Dayton, Trautman would likely start his career in the NFL as a receiving-first tight end that needs to improve his blocking in both the running and the passing game and get more refined in his route running. If he can do all that, however, his role should increase substantially while he turns into a more well-rounded player.
How many downs can he play? Unless his blocking technique improves quickly, Trautman is projected to be a package-specific contributor in the passing game during his rookie season as well as a special teams option. Accordingly, the answer is two, but there is considerable potential for the number of downs he can play to increase as time goes on.
What is his special teams value? Trautman needs to learn the nuances of blocking, especially at the next level, but he might still be able to serve as a protector on field goal and extra point attempts relatively early on and with comparatively little coaching needed. He could also see some limited action on punt protection teams as well.
Does he have positional versatility? At the moment, his versatility appears to be somewhat limited. While he might be able to be moved across the formation in the passing game — lining up on the perimeter and in the slot — his rawness as a blocker prohibits him from being regularly used in this capacity at the moment against competition like the one he will face in the NFL.
Will his role change from year one to year two? Ideally, Trautman will be able to develop behind one or two veteran options at the position and improve his blocking and route-running technique between years one and two. If he can do that and become a player less reliant on his athletic abilities, his role should increase and incorporate more blocking and a more diverse route tree.
Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? No tight end on the Patriots’ roster is a lock to return next season, which means that all of them are projected to be his competition — from potential lower-tier free agency signings to (other?) day three draft picks and undrafted rookies. From the current roster, two players would be scheduled to be his competition for a spot on the team: Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, the only two tight ends currently under contract.
Why the Patriots? New England needs to upgrade at tight end, and with Benjamin Watson a free agent that is potentially headed into retirement, and Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo not showing much upside in 2019, the position is ripe for a complete overhaul. Trautman might be a part of it given his athletic skills and upside: while the Patriots should not trust him to become an impact player in year one, especially in the running game, they could develop him behind potential free agency acquisitions or prospects selected earlier in the draft.
Why not the Patriots? Trautman is a raw prospect and as such needs to be committed to in the long term. With the Patriots needing help at tight end now, investing in a high-upside player that is a bit of a gamble when it comes to contributions in 2020 might not be ideal from the team’s perspective. Instead, New England might prefer using its late-round resources to invest in positions with more proven quality at the top. Furthermore, his inconsistent technique as a blocker and route-runner might be evaluated as a fatal flaw.
Verdict: Adam Trautman is not a starting tight end at the NFL level right now, but he certainly has upside to become one further down the line. As such, investing a day three selection in him would be a smart move for the Patriots if the chance presented itself — and even if it is only to have another body to compete with LaCosse and Izzo behind higher-value acquisitions that also need to be made at the position.
Still, Trautman has something no tight end on New England’s roster in 2019 brought to the table: athletic upside and intriguing skills to be developed, which alone should make him a potential target for the Patriots in late April.