It cannot be overstated how rich with talent this 2017 NFL Draft class is and a great example of that is the tight end position. This year's group is loaded with not only great athletes, but polished players who can run clean routes, catch the ball consistently and block. There are all types of tight ends, which gives every team in the league options when looking at the loaded talent in this class. While the Eagles may not need a tight end early with Zach Ertz as a big cog in the offense and Trey Burton emerging as a nice second option, this class could end up being too good at the tight end position for the Eagles to not dip their toes in the water.
Stats are from 2016
Just missed the cut: Jordan Leggett (Clemson) and Pharaoh Brown (Oregon)
10. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, 33 Catches, 380 Yards, 4 Touchdowns: With a player of Sprinkle's caliber this "low", it should be obvious how good this tight end class is. Sprinkle has a massive frame at 6'6" with 34.5 inch arms and over 10 inch hands and it shows on the field. He is a match-up nightmare as a receiver and his size comes in handy as a blocker. He still has room to get stronger overall and become more polished as a route runner, but Sprinkle has a nice foundation to be a good player.
9. Adam Shaheen, Ashland, 57 Catches, 867 Yards, 16 Touchdowns: Shaheen has been a rapid and late riser in this process but it is not hard to see why. The 6'6" former basketball player dominated at Division III Ashland with massive production in a featured role. Shaheen is a good athlete at the position and shows dynamic ability with the ball in his hands and is incredibly good at one on one contested situations. Shaheen is coming from a much lower level so the learning curve should be steep and it is also a worry at how he was overpowered as a blocker by small school players. Shaheen will need to prove a more physical blocker, but his receiving ability is evident.
8. Jake Butt, Michigan, 46 Catches, 546 Yards, 4 Touchdowns: Jake Butt injuring himself in the last game of his outstanding college career is one of the bigger misfortunes of this draft season. If he is healthy, however, teams will be treated to an incredibly solid and well rounded football player. Butt doesn't have overly dynamic qualities, but he is very steady player in the passing game and a physical presence in the running game. In a class filled with flashy athletes, it is easy to forget that a player like Butt can still be an important piece in an offense.
7. Gerald Everett, South Alabama, 49 Catches, 717 Yards, 4 Touchdowns: Another former basketball player, Everett was set to play his career out at UAB before the school cut the program after Everett's first year. Everett landed at South Alabama where he went on to get two All Conference nods. Everett is an outstanding athlete for the position and is incredibly dynamic. He is a bit smaller than a traditional tight end, which hurts his blocking and his route running could use a lot of work. However, his potential as a "move" type of player is massively high.
6. George Kittle, Iowa, 22 Catches, 314 Yards, 4 Touchdowns: Kittle was hampered by injuries his final season at Iowa but still flashed serious ability at the position. Kittle is a fantastic athlete whose receiving ability was underused in a flaccid Hawkeye passing game, but Kittle was also a very good blocker who was an important part of Iowa's strong run game. Kittle could improve his technique as a receiver and try winning with more savvy instead of solely depending on athletic ability, but, if he can stay healthy, he will be a valuable piece in the league.
5. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 48 Catches, 691 Yards, 7 Touchdowns: Bucky Hodges has only been playing the tight end position for a few years after he switched from quarterback when he got to Virginia Tech. The 6'6" behemoth is a massive downfield target who flashes a rare ability to dominate the catch point. He is bigger than all cornerbacks and faster than all linebackers, making him a fascinating "move" tight end prospect. He is still pretty raw in every aspect of his game and god forbid you ask him to block, but if he can overcome inconsistencies as a pass catcher, an NFL team will get a very dynamic match up night mare.
4. Michael Roberts, Toledo, 45 Catches, 533, 533 Yards: Roberts is among my favorite players in this class. The 6'4", 270 pound tight end picked up a first down on over 80% of his catches and scored a touchdown on an insane 35.5% of his receptions. Roberts is a dependable, dominating pass catching target who can win contested situations and also play strongly after the catch. His thick, strong build also make him an outstanding blocker. Roberts might not be a big school name, but his tape and production speaks for itself.
3. David Njoku, Miami, 43 Catches, 698 Yards, 8 Touchdowns: Like a lot of the tight ends in this class, Njoku is a stellar athlete. His explosiveness as a pass catcher is tremendous and he may have the highest ceiling in the entire class. He has room to grow into his body and improve his technique as a route runner and a blocker, but as Njoku continues to learn the position, the limits in which he could be good are endless.
2. Evan Engram, Ole Miss, 65 Catches, 926 Yards, 8 touchdowns: At 6'3" and 234 pounds, there is a legitimate debate of whether or not the "undersized" tight end with 4.42 speed should just become a full time wide receiver. Considering Engram is actually a very good blocker, I would argue that it would mitigate his speed advantage that he has against linebackers and safeties and moving him would be unnecessary. Engram should be a guy who gets moved all over an offense to create mismatches and he is a solid blocker to boot who can help block in line or out of the backfield. Engram will be an exciting player on the right team with his speed, blocking ability and savvy as a pass catcher. The only concern has to do with his size, but it really has not hampered him yet.
1. OJ Howard, Alabama, 45 Catches, 595 Yards, 3 Touchdowns: One of the biggest crimes of college football is that we never got to see OJ Howard as a featured player in the Alabama offense because whenever he was, he was truly dominant. At 6'6", 250 pounds with 10 inch hands, Howard has ideal build for the position. As a traditional tight end, Howard is a dominant, consistent blocker who will be a pivotal piece in a run game. Even more valuable, however, is his speed and polish as a pass catcher. Howard is one of the higher upside players in this class and, yet, also has one of the highest floors. Every team in the NFL gets better with him on the field and he should be one of the first 10 players taken this season.