The Jaguars did a lot to address their needs across the roster during the first week of free agency. While GM Trent Baalke improved the tight end group by signing blocking tight end Chris Manhertz and re-signing the balanced veteran James O'Shaughnessy, the F-tight end spot remains one of the top needs on the roster, as Urban Meyer alluded to last week.
"The next one is the 'F' and that's the primary pass catcher, but also a functional blocker," Meyer told the local media. "We have not addressed that. [James] O'Shaughnessy—two years ago, O'Shaughnessy had a very good year, showed a lot of potential. Obviously, he had an ACL injury, he's been in here training, I've gotten to know him, really enjoy being around him. So, we count on him, but we have not finalized that piece of the puzzle yet."
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on April 29th, and the Jaguars appear likely to land at least one tight end. But which ones make the most sense for Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence (yes, the Jaguars are taking him with the top pick), and this new look Jacksonville team?
Kyle Pitts from Florida should be the top tight end on every team's board and perhaps the highest-ranked offensive weapon overall. He's my top-ranked non-QB in this class. He has a rare blend of size, speed, and overall athletic ability. He's a natural hands catcher that tracks the ball well down the field and creates matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. He scored 12 times in just eight games, averaging nearly 18 yards per catch in 2020. Because Pitts is likely to go in the top ten, the chances of the Jaguars landing him are slim, but should he fall to the teens, I wouldn't be against putting a package together to move up for him. His presence would create stress for opposing defenses and help ease Trevor Lawrence's transition to the next level.
The next tight end the Jaguars should consider is Pat Freiermuth, and given that he's expected to fall into the second round, the former Penn State Nittany Lion would seem to be much more attainable. He's my second-ranked tight end and comes in at 27 overall on my big board. Freiermuth, while athletic, also has the ability to block at a high level from the inline position, meaning he has the versatility to fill multiple roles in the Jaguars' offense. Freiermuth isn't the athletic freak that Pitts or even Brevin Jordan is, but he is a plus athlete at the tight end position and has underrated lateral agility. Freiermuth has strong hands, a sturdy frame, and a knack for making big plays down the field. He also has a connection to the Jaguars — his tight end coach in college, Tyler Bowen, now serves the same role in Jacksonville. I wouldn't blame the Jaguars for targeting Freiermuth at 25, but he makes more sense to me at 33 or 45.
Next up? Brevin Jordan. While he is a willing blocker, there are some serious whiffs on tape. But you're not drafting Jordan to block. He is a move tight end in the mold of Jonnu Smith. He has similar athletic traits and is the same size as Smith. Jordan has some rawness and inconsistency to his game, but his physicality, athleticism, and soft hands make him a mid to late-round-two target. The Jaguars could target him at 45 or 65, with 65 being more preferable.
Tommy Tremble from Notre Dame projects better to being an impact pass catcher and move tight end, but he didn't have the usage at Notre Dame to warrant an early draft selection. With only 35 catches in his college career, it takes some vision to see what Tremble might be. But the athletic ability flashes often, and he can lay the wood as a blocker in space. He could ultimately be the second most talented tight end in the class. Tremble could be a target as early as 45 or 65 but would be an excellent value pick late on day two or early on day three.
Kenny Yeboah is a name that's gone a bit under the radar, partially due to him coming on later in his career. He transferred from Temple to Ole Miss in 2020. Over his final two seasons, Yeboah hauled in 46 catches and scored 12 touchdowns. At Ole Miss, he averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. He was able to find so much success due to his combination of size, soft hands, and initial burst. I would rarely use him in inline blocking situations due he's functional as a blocker in space. As a move tight end, Yeboah could have starting upside. He could be in play late in the third round if the Jaguars are looking to trade up but would present move value in the fourth or fifth.
Hunter Long caught a ton of passes at Boston College and has prototypical size, but he's only a modest athlete for the position. Long has strong hands and has some flashes of YAC ability, but again, athleticism will limit his upside. He can certainly line up in line and has shown the ability to block well. I think Long makes much more sense as a complementary tight end than a real number one guy, which is why I wouldn't take him before day three of the draft.
Tre' McKitty was rarely used at Georgia in 2020 after transferring from FSU. But a deep dive into his tape shows a player with plenty of potential as a starting move tight end. He has plus size and athleticism. He needs development as a route runner. McKitty is probably a fourth, fifth, or sixth-round pick.
Other names to watch: Pro Wells (TCU), Quintin Morris (Bowling Green)
If I were Urban Meyer or Trent Baalke and wanted to give Trevor Lawrence a quality pass-catching tight end early on his career, I'd be hoping to land Pitts, Freiermuth, Jordan, or Tremble. My guess is they'll land Pat Freiermuth on day two.
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