Current Situation: Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo are the only warm bodies in the Pats tight end room at the moment with LaCosse technically the “starter”.
Level of Need: High
SHS Take: Tight end is the biggest need for the Patriots in my opinion. They have absolutely nothing at the position and didn’t bring in any options in free agency. If I were them I would double dip in this draft, although the general opinion amongst scouts is that it is a weak tight end class.
Early Round Fits
Cole Kmet – Junior, Notre Dame, 6’6″, 262 lbs
The consensus top tight end option in the draft, Kmet offers excellent size at 6’6″ with a great catch radius. While his blocking isn’t at an NFL level yet, the tools are there to improve. At Notre Dame, Kmet had a ton of success running seam routes from in tight and in the slot which should bring back memories of 2011 Gronk. Kmet isn’t going to run away from defensive backs like a Zach Ertz, but he separates well from linebackers and safeties and isn’t afraid to take hits over the middle. Kmet could likely step in on day one and be the starter in the Patriots offense if they brought the former Irish to Foxboro. Even though he is the top tight end option, Kmet won’t hear his name called until the second round, so the Patriots are most likely going to need to package a few picks together to nab him or trade down from 23.
Projection: Early 2nd to Late 2nd
NFL Comparison: Kyle Rudolph
Adam Trautman – Redshirt Senior, Dayton, 6’5″, 255 lbs
A high ceiling prospect, Trautman had an impressive senior season at Dayton, hauling in 70 catches for over 900 yards. He won’t wow you with blazing speed or agility, however, Trautman is able to make plays with savvy route running and terrific contested catch ability. At Dayton, he didn’t play as much inline tight end as you’d want a Patriots tight end to do, but he should be able to adjust to a pro-style offense in time. He met with the Patriots at the combine, so there is some level of interest. The Michigan native is a below-average blocker for his size, however, his frame and length will allow him to continue to improve in the run game at an NFL level.
Projection: Late 2nd to Mid 3rd
NFL Comparison: Tyler Higbee
Mid Round Fits
Albert Okwuegbunam – Redshirt Junior, Missouri, 6’5″, 258 lbs
A tantalizing talent out of Illinois, Okwuegbunam’s measurables make most scouts do double-takes when they lair their eyes on him. It isn’t often you can find a guy with his size and strength that runs a 4.49 forty. Okwuegbunam has unbelievable contested catch ability and can run away from defensive backs consistently. Character concerns involving toughness and willingness to play through injury are what is preventing the former Tiger from being taken in the first couple rounds of the draft. His willingness to block isn’t there yet, but if there’s anyone that can coach that into him it’s Belichick. Okwuegbunam can be a lazy route runner at times, but when he is on his game, he is tough to stop in the passing game. He’s more of a “move” tight end than your traditional “Y”, but if the Patriots shift to more of a spread offense with some RPO concepts this year with Stidham at the helm, Okwuegbunam would fit nicely.
Projection: Mid 3rd to Late 4th
NFL Comparison: Evan Engram
Colby Parkinson – Junior, Stanford, 6’7″, 252 lbs
Another guy who is more of a receiver than a true tight end, Parkinson has too much upside to overlook. At a whopping 6’7″, the young man out of Simi Valley has the ability to post up defenders and make contested catches at a high rate. He played a big slot role rather than a traditional inline bookend at Stanford, so it would take some adjusting to the Pats system, even if they shift to a spread, college-style system. He doesn’t run exceptionally well, and didn’t do much to impress at the combine, but he has solid hands, and the ability to make people miss at the second level. Parkinson runs routes like a wide receiver, and is capable of making plays at all three levels of the defense.
Projection: Mid 3rd to Late 4th
NFL Comparison: Austin Hooper
Late Round Fits
Brycen Hopkins – Redshirt Senior, Purdue, 6’4″, 246 lbs
Hopkins is built more like a big wide receiver than a typical “Y” tight end, but he offers high-end receiving ability out of the slot. He will be a project in many areas, (blocking, route running, etc.) but has the raw skills to develop into a starting-level player. He flashed his above-average speed frequently last year at Purdue to the tune of 61 catches for 830 yards. While he had a large amount of empty yards on trick and broken plays, the numbers he put up are impressive. The former Boilermaker did in fact meet with the Pats at the combine in February, so there is an established link between the two parties. Hopkins is undersized for the tight end position, so he will never be Mark Bavaro in the run game or Gronk in the red zone, but if he puts the work in, and improves on his craft, there is something to work with there.
Projection: Mid 4th to Early 6th
NFL Comparison: Gerald Everett
Harrison Bryant – Senior, Florida Atlantic, 6’5″, 243 lbs
One of my favorite prospects in the entire draft, Bryant is a do-it-all tight end that can impact the game in a myriad of ways. He’s a bit light for the position, but his blocking is more than satisfactory, especially for a player with his speed and agility. The Georgia native used to play tackle, so he’s plenty used to getting his hands dirty in the trenches. His receiving ability is well known, as he was awarded the John Mackey award in 2019 as the best tight end in college football. His catch-in-traffic skills are the most advanced of any tight end in this class, and he’s a precise route runner. A true modern-day tight end, Bryant can line up all over the field and has the ability to beat man coverage from cornerbacks. There’s a lot to like with Bryant, and frankly, I’m not sure why teams aren’t as high on him as I am, but he could be an impact player from the get-go. The Patriots met with him at the combine, so he’s on their radar.
Projection: Mid 4th to Late 5th
NFL Comparison: Mark Andrews with better blocking
*All stats via NFL.com and Walter Football