The Falcons season is getting started this Friday as Arthur Smith will host his former team, the Titans, in his new home stadium. Then, in about a month, Atlanta will kick off the 2021 regular season against the Eagles. Before we know it, the season will be coming to an end, and we’ll be evaluating draft prospects — one of my favorite times of the year.
It is never too early to be looking down the road at future draft classes; in fact, the most effective front offices plan for not only the present but the future as well. One of the strongest position groups in next year’s draft class is tight ends, which should intrigue Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot because of Smith’s background as a position coach and Fontenot knowing they only have one tight end under contract in 2022. There won’t be a Kyle Pitts-type of prospect in this upcoming draft class, but it is much deeper than the 2021 class, so here are a few names I could see intriguing Smith and Fontenot.
Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
Wydermyer is probably the top tight end coming out of college this year. In 2019, he had a successful freshman season but elevated his play in 2020 — finishing with 46 receptions, 506 yards, six touchdowns, and was named a Mackey Award finalist. He’s a massive human being, standing at 6’5″ and weighing in at 265 pounds, which can be seen in his blocking. He’s got soft hands, effective route running, can play above defenders, and is reliable in blocking situations.
Cade Otton, Washington
Though he isn’t the biggest tight end in the class, Otton is as physical as they come and might have the best blocking technique of the elite tight end prospects. This should intrigue Arthur Smith because he’s not just a blocker; Otton runs impressive routes and is a reliable catcher. His most impressive stat is his 14.3 yards per catch, the highest of the top tight ends in the 2022 draft class.
Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Kolar decided to return to Iowa State for his fifth season after forgoing the 2021 draft. He’s one of the most productive tight ends in this class — hauling in 44 receptions for 591 yards and seven touchdowns. His 17 career touchdowns are more than any other tight end in the class. He’s one of the best in contested-catch situations and is a proficient blocker.
Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
Likely isn’t nearly as impressive as a blocker as he is a receiver given Coastal Carolina’s spread-option offense, but he’s physical enough to be serviceable. His astonishing 20 yards per reception shows the kind of vertical threat he can be, but his ability to break tackles must also be noted. The athletic pass-catcher has totaled 74 receptions, 1,138 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns during his career. He might be one of the best route-running tight ends in this class.
Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
This is my favorite tight-end prospect in this class. He’s the latest Wisconsin Badger that excels at run blocking. Still, he can make a difference in the passing game as well. Although he only registered 305 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, he was the second-best receiver on the team. Over his career, he has totaled 1,168 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This is just five of what seems like 20 potential starters in this tight end class. Below are another dozen prospects that will surely be on Atlanta’s radar come April of 2022. I fully expect the Falcons to come away with two of these guys in next year’s draft.
Brant Kuithe, Utah; Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State; Trey McBride, Colorado State; Josh Whyle, Cincinnati; Will Mallory, Miami (FL); Braden Golloway, Clemson; Austin Stogner, Oklahoma; Trae Barry, Jacksonville State; Peyton Hendershot, Indiana; James Mitchell, Virginia Tech, Teagan Quitoriano, Oregon State; Nick Muse, South Carolina; Cole Turner, Nevada; Chase Allen, Iowa State; Greg Dulcich, UCLA.
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