When Mike Mayock left NFL Network last year to take over as the then-Oakland Raiders’ new general manager, Daniel Jeremiah inherited his old role as the network’s top draft analyst. Like Mayock, Jeremiah also holds an annual conference call with the media ahead of the scouting combine in Indianapolis to talk all things draft — including who he thinks the New England Patriots might have on their radar at their biggest position of need.
Jeremiah was asked about his thoughts on the team improving its tight end group through the draft, and he went on to name a total of six players in his answer — three as earlier-round options capable of potentially filling the number one role that was previously held by Rob Gronkowski, and three later-round prospects who could serve as situation-specific move tight ends that might be used in multiple roles at the next level.
“Cole Kmet from Notre Dame. Big, physical, he’s the one, if you’re saying, ‘Okay, who looks like Gronk and who kind of has that physicality to them?’ it would be Kmet,” Jeremiah said. “Now he’s not nearly as athletic as Gronk, but he’s somebody with that big catch radius. He’s tough to tackle. Big, physical and strong. He’s good in the run game. He can create some movement there and help you. So he’s a nice two-way tight end there.”
One of the premier tight ends to enter this year’s draft, Kmet is coming off an impressive 2019 season at Notre Dame during which he caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns. An intriguing player that is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to route-running and his athletic profile, he would certainly be a good addition to the Patriots’ tight end group due to the athletic features and versatility Jeremiah mentions.
Kmet would be a high-profile selection due to his alma mater and status as arguably the most complete tight end in the draft, and therefore the complete opposite of the second tight end mentioned by Jeremiah: Adam Trautman, who is quickly rising up draft boards despite having played at Division-II’s Dayton — a school that has not seen one of its players get drafted since all the way back in 1977. Trautman is likely to end this streak.
“The kid from Dayton, he’s 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Obviously a small school. Was a high school quarterback. Switches to tight end. Now his position coach at Dayton was also a high school science teacher. This kid, he’s going to just continue to get better and better. And the crazy thing is he’s really polished. He knows how to set up defenders. He can separate. He’s got wiggle. He wins a lot of 50/50 balls,” Jeremiah said about Trautman.
“He had a great Senior Bowl week. I thought he was outstanding there. I thought he was the best tight end down there, which it was a good group,” he added about a player that needs to improve as a blocker and can show that he can also be successful against much better competition. “He’s somebody I think for the Patriots [can] give you a little bit more separation and athleticism at the position. And I can make a strong case for that.”
Trautman certainly turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, but he is not the tight end who was present to make Jeremiah’s list as a potential draft target for New England: Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant, who finished the 2019 season with 65 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns, also was mentioned by the former NFL scout — and it not hard to see why given his impressive blend of size and athleticism.
“He’s somebody who has got some burst and some juice. Real athletic, easy mover, better in the run game than I anticipated he would be,” said Jeremiah about the 21-year-old who had over 2,000 receiving yards in three full-time seasons. “Not quite as heavy and not quite as big as Trautman and Kmet. But he’s somebody, give them a little more athleticism in there. So I think any of those three guys, I think any of the three would be great players.”
As mentioned above, Jeremiah also dug a little deeper into another group of players — the tweener-types who are smaller but might be able to make a living by playing more of a move-role at the NFL level: “If you want to go down around and you start getting into maybe more in that late two, into the third round, if you wanted to move tight ends like H-backs, kind of could do some fullback stuff if you wanted, there’s three names that I really like.”
“[Josiah] Deguara from Cincinnati, who is really, really explosive and athletic. [Charlie] Taumoepeau from Portland State — similar type players. And Hunter Bryant from Washington, who is, to me, a lot like a guy like Gerald Everett, if you’ve seen him play with the Rams,” said Jeremiah. “Those three guys are kind of riding together. They’re all 6-foot-2-and-a-half, 245-pound-type guys, and that’s that move tight end, that H that you’re looking for to fill that role.”
The Patriots, as can be seen by Jeremiah’s answers, will have plenty of options if they want to look to the draft to add to a tight end position that struggled big time in 2019 and lacked athletic upside to support a wide receiver group that was either plagued by injury, inexperience, or outside factors. While this year’s draft lacks high-end options like T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant in 2019, New England could be able to find solid developmental options to add to the position in late April.