football Edit

Pre-combine rankings: Tight End

With the Super Bowl over and spring football a little bit away for most programs, this is officially NFL Draft season. And with the NFL Combine set for the end of the month, it’s time to take a look at each position and how they rank heading into the big event and, in tradition, how they ranked out of high school.

Today we look at our top tight ends.

MORE PRE-COMBINE RANKINGS: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers


The skinny: The top-ranked tight end in the 2013 class and a five-star prospect, Howard committed to Alabama leading into his junior season over Auburn, Florida State and others. Howard finished the 2016 season with 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

Interesting note: Howard grew up an Auburn fan but after multiple visits to Tuscaloosa, he decided to commit to the Crimson Tide in the summer before his junior season. He is one of only eight five-star tight ends in history.

Farrell’s take: Howard is the most athletic player I have ever scouted at the position. Simply put, Howard was a freak of nature I still don’t understand how he wasn’t used more often at Alabama, especially in the red zone. One underrated part about Howard’s game? His hands, he rarely drops anything. He also proved to be a better blocker than I expected.

The skinny: Njoku picked Miami over Ohio State, Boston College, Temple and others after decommitting from Rutgers. He grew up a fan of the Hurricanes. This past season Njoku finished with 48 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.

Interesting note: Want more proof that Njoku is one of the top athletes at tight end in this draft? He won the national championship for the high jump in 2014 at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor.

Farrell’s take: Njoku was a freaky athlete who was very raw coming out of high school. In fact, he was better known for his ability on the track or in testing than he was as a football player back then, but Miami and a few others clearly saw the potential. He played wide receiver in high school and was new to football when we scouted him and now he’s emerged as a potential first rounder in the draft.

The skinny: The three-star prospect committed to Clemson in early March of his junior year over offers from Louisville, South Florida and Central Florida. He was the No. 13 tight end in the 2013 class. Leggett recorded 46 catches for 736 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Interesting note: Leggett was part of Clemson’s 2013 recruiting class, which finished No. 14 nationally. There were no five-stars in that class but it featured Mackensie Alexander, Mike Williams, Ben Boulware and many others.

Farrell’s take: Leggett was a tall, skinny kid coming out of high school who fell short of four-star status by a few spots and has since proven us wrong. He was under-recruited and is another great example of the Clemson staff seeing something many others missed. Leggett has tremendous upside but has struggled with consistency, as evidenced by the title game where he dropped an easy pass and then made an impossible catch. NFL scouts want reliability at tight end, but I still think he rises on a lot of boards.

The skinny: Rated as a four-star quarterback in the 2013 class, Hodges picked Virginia Tech over offers from Ohio State, West Virginia, Illinois, Maryland and others. Hodges had 48 catches for 691 yards and he tied a team-high with seven receiving touchdowns in 2016.

Interesting note: Hodges was ranked as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 class. In his junior and senior seasons in high school, Hodges threw for more than 4,000 yards with 44 touchdowns.

Farrell’s take: Hodges, a four-star quarterback when I scouted him in high school, has blossomed into a huge tight end who is hard to handle because he’s so big and sneaky-fast downfield. He can stretch the field and also do damage over the middle. I thought he was the perfect fit as a mobile quarterback for the Hokies, but he’s been a better fit as a tight end and his athleticism is under-appreciated.

The skinny: A few weeks following National Signing Day 2012, Butt committed to Michigan over several Big Ten and MAC schools and others, including Stanford, Tennessee and UCLA. Butt finished second on the team in 2016 with 46 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns.

Interesting note: The Pickerington (Ohio) North standout was a lifelong Ohio State fan but was not offered by the Buckeyes.

Farrell’s take: The former four-star tight end is probably the most well-rounded on this list as he can block, catch and work inline and outside effectively. The NFL likes tight ends that can do it all, but they are enamored with athletic freaks, which is why Howard, Njoku, Leggett and Hodges are ahead of him on this list. Butt reminds me of future Hall of Famer Jason Witten so perhaps he’ll be one of the sleepers in this draft.