After the Detroit Lions traded tight end TJ Hockenson in the middle of last season, replacing his talent became an off-season priority.
Rookie James Mitchell and second year player Brock Wright did an admirable job for the last half of the season. But it would be wise for Lions GM Brad Holmes to, at minimum, add depth to the position group.
Luckily for him, there is great value in the tight end position at the draft. Holmes can wait until after the first round to select one and still find a player who can become a contributing player right away.
Here are a few tight ends to keep an eye on at the upcoming NFL Combine.
Dalton Kincaid, Utah – Arguably the best pass catcher in the TE class, Kincaid may not make it out of the first round. He should test well in the athleticism drills to help bolster his already impressive tape. Kincaid is elusive after the catch and plays with a toughness any coach would love.
Both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN have Kincaid as their second ranked tight end in the class. Most mock drafts have him going between the late first and middle second rounds.
Luke Musgrave, Oregon St – Likely the best athlete of the position group is the former Beaver. He missed most of last season due to a knee injury, something teams will want to check on at the combine. Some scouts believe Musgrave could run a 4.4 40-yard dash time, very rare for a tight end. At the Senior Bowl, he was clocked running 20 miles per hour. The only tight end to do so in the five years they’ve tracked speeds at the Senior Bowl.
Fun fact: he was a champion alpine skier in high school. Musgrave has been projected to go all over the second round.
Sam LaPorta, Iowa – If you really liked Hockenson than let me tell you about LaPorta. Good hands but not going to blow you away athletically. Oh, and he went to Iowa, sound familiar? LaPorta isn’t as polished of a blocker as Hockenson is. But that’s why you have offensive linemen.
McShay has him ranked as the fifth best tight end in the class. He’s projected as a third-round pick. He projects as an eventual starter after some development.
Tucker Kraft, South Dakota St – An all-around guy who has the tools to become a starter. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein compares Kraft to Pat Freiermuth. I’d take that. He has enough athleticism to make him dangerous and enough grit to be a solid blocker.
Kraft is projected in the 2-3 rounds but he comes with the caveat of coming from a small school. Some teams still tend to be more bearish on FCS prospects.
Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion – His towering frame of 6’8 251 lbs is what sticks out for Kuntz. Combine that with being a hurdles and high jump champion, look out. He has the athletic skill set but struggles with the technical part of the position.