It’s no question that the New England Patriots got virtually nothing out of the tight end position in 2019 after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Though the best option may be to look into a deep free agent class to find NFL-productivity right now, the Patriots should for sure be looking for a tight end that could suit them well for the future in this year’s draft class as well. With that being said, let’s take a look at some potential targets.
Size: 6’3, 240 lbs
Starting with a popular opinion here, Moss would come in and immediately be a fan favorite as the son of NFL legend and former Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss. Not a lot can be said in terms of similarities between father and son, but the one thing they have in common is strong hands for the football. The younger Moss caught 47 passes and dropped zero for the Joe Burrow-led Tigers this season.
Moss can do what is asked for him in terms of a pass catcher. He is sort of an underneath guy who can help move the chains, excelled in the slot on several seam routes this season and can serve as a reliable fourth receiving option in the passing game while being capable of winning versus a lot of linebackers and edge guys.
The best part of his game, however, is his ability at the line of scrimmage. Despite being a bit undersized at the position, Moss is a true bully in terms of his run blocking and pass protection. As such he is a super physical tight end who fits the mold as a Patriots tight end — somebody who can provide value both blocking and catching the football.
Moss will likely be a round three or four type of guy considering he didn’t see much college action and played for a high-powered offense. He isn’t the most dynamic receiving option at the position and is still raw but projects to have the ability to play all three downs and provide help in the run game. Moss would be a fantastic pick with one of the three third rounders the Patriots are projected to have.
Size: 6’5, 250 lbs
Hopkins was named Big 10 Tight End of the Year last season and also a second-team All-American. He checks the box for all the traits you look for at the position: he is arguably the best tight end in the class and a fantastic seam runner with yard after the catch ability. He can also be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams because there’s not a lot of linebackers that can run with him while he is just flat out stronger than defensive backs.
Hopkins also possesses the skills to create natural separation with his ability to high-point the ball and strong playing speed making him obviously valuable as a pass catcher. He also is a fluid route-runner that is smooth in and out of his breaks and very good over the middle of the field and through the seam.
Hopkins, who is the son of 13-year NFL veteran Brad Hopkins, put together a solid career at Purdue with 130 catches for 1,945 yards and 16 touchdowns all while getting better in each of his four non-redshirt seasons. He will need to work more at the line of scrimmage as a blocker but provides very good value for a tight end needy team like the Patriots as a projected day two guy.
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6’6, 250 lbs
Kmet is a former two-sport athlete as he played baseball for the Fighting Irish his freshman year, and probably the most versatile tight end in the class. This is why he is being seen as a potential first-round pick despite just 23 career games at the college level.
Kmet is a big target in the passing game and very good at the line of scrimmage in terms of his releases. He is fluid through the seam and difficult to bring down as a ball-carrier due to his combination of size and strength.
Kmet racked up 43 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns last season despite primarily being the third or fourth option for the Notre Dame offense. The in-line tight end would fit perfectly here in New England as he’s everything the team is looking for at the position: big, athletic, versatile and brings the same energy at the line of scrimmage as he does catching the football.
Size: 6’2, 240 lbs
Rated number one on Pro Football Focus’ list of tight ends in the 2020 class, he is probably the best playmaker as a receiver available. Bryant is a super athletic tight end that made highlight play after highlight play for the Huskies, can line up anywhere — inline, slot, out wide — and is the best athlete at the position in the draft. Although undersized, Bryant wins the majority of his one-on-ones because of his burst and athleticism.
Bryant displays great body control who has an ability to high-point the ball in the air and make contested catches. He is also fantastic after the catch as he is known to make defenders miss in the open field as a runner. The junior had 52 catches for 825 receiving yards last year, with 416 of them coming after the catch. For his size, he’s a better blocker than he gets credit for but definitely struggles a bit at the line of scrimmage.
Overall, Bryant projects as a solid pro with developmental upside who will be able to make plays at the next level due to his size and playmaking ability. However, it will be interesting to see if he is available for the Patriots in the third round.
Size: 6’5, 250 lbs
Another big tight end option for the Patriots that should be available later in the draft. Trautman comes out of an FCS school in Dayton and brings great size to the position while certainly knowing how to use his big body in college. His ability to win contested catches has been on display numerous times in college, as was his ability to use his basketball background to box out defenders in the air and time balls perfectly to high-point them.
For as big as he is, Trautman brings above-average quickness to the table. This is particularly impressive considering that he just started playing tight end three years ago. He has also shown an ability to quickly get out of his breaks and accelerate down the field, especially through the seam. He definitely has the potential to become one of the better blockers in the draft, as he is super smooth and powerful at the line of scrimmage.
The one main concern is the lack of competition Trautman played against at Dayton: being at a D1A school, it will certainly be a question if his skillset can translate quickly to the pro-level. He would be a low risk, high reward type of pick for the Patriots later in the draft.
Size: 6’4, 255 lbs
Although turning pro last year may have helped his stock, Pinkney is still an interesting prospect despite being hindered by injuries during his senior year. He is an impressive athlete for his size, with great hands and an ability to adjust at the catch point. Despite playing just eight-games his monster junior year in the SEC — he caught 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 — is clearly enough to show that he can produce at the next level.
Pinkney is one of the best pass-catchers at the position as a solid route runner that brings speed and size to the table. He is a true power runner that is difficult to bring down in the open field and we saw that in a lot of one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl a few weeks back.
He can also consistently make plays over the middle of the field and make the tough catch if need be. He furthermore serves as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses as he’s typically faster than linebackers and can out-muscle defensive backs. The 6-foot-4 tight end also holds his own very well at the line of scrimmage providing value both in pass protection and run blocking.
The abilities Pinkney displayed in college might scare some teams away on day two, though. He’s an average blocker that needs to play at a more consistent pad level and work on initial contact along with his footwork and quickness. However, he is a mature player who is worth a flyer on in the later rounds.
School: Florida Atlantic
Size: 6’5, 240 lbs
Another big target with a basketball background, Bryant is a fluid athlete with outstanding seam ability. He has great body control and ability to make contested catches and has strong hands which allow him to hold onto the football even when fighting through contact. He hauled in 65 catches for over a 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns during his senior year, which earned him a trip to Mobile for the Senior Bowl.
Bryant has a skillset as a pass catcher that can translate right away to the NFL level as he is strong off the line of scrimmage and through the stream. He’s not as versatile as he should be for an athletic tight end and struggles a bit as an in-line blocker, but can help a passing game right away due to his athleticism and pure pass-catching ability. Bryant will likely be an option on day three.