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2021 NFL Draft: Upgrading at tight end

Getting more production from the tight end position

When the Buffalo Bills brought in Tyler Kroft and drafted Dawson Knox in the third round during the 2019 offseason, it was expected that the team had finally solved the floundering production of their tight end position. However, injuries and stretches of ineffective play for both players has meant that production from the group is still severally lacking—with Knox finishing the 2020 season with only 388 yards and two touchdowns.

General manager Brandon Beane seemed to recognize the ineffectiveness of the team’s tight ends in his end of season comments by mentioning that ”It was never where the opposing defense was like, ‘Man we’ve really got to stop their tight ends from going off,’” As such, he might turn to the draft in order to search for some reinforcements, or even some upgrades, at the position. Below are a few of the players the Bills might consider.

Tier I

Kyle Pitts (Florida)
Pat Freiermuth (Penn State)

A unique athletic specimen, Pitts is an elite, massive receiving target and has more than a passing resemblance to former Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis—but he needs to improve his blocking. Luckily, he has the frame for it. With ample size and speed, Freiermuth has the rounded skillset to be a do-it-all tight end, but that talent never came to full fruition in college, and it’s fair to wonder if he can reach his potential in the pros.

Tier II

Tommy Tremble (Notre Dame)
Hunter Long (Boston College)
Brevin Jordan (Florida)

His pro day will be massively important, but Tremble has the blocking experience and mentality that teams crave from the position and seems to have the requisite straight-line speed as well. Another big, tough tight end who can block, Long doesn’t have quite the same receiving skillset as his draft colleagues, but can perform well enough in most areas. Jordan has a skill set and body type similar to current New York Jets TE Chris Herndon. He plays like a more compact, tougher wide receiver over the middle and excels at different types of short passes.

Tier III

Luke Farrell (Ohio State)
Noah Gray (Duke)
Matt Bushman (BYU)

A very solid blocker, Farrell doesn’t have the athletic upside of some of his classmates, but the team that drafts him will probably find a solid number-two option at the position. Gray is nominally a solid receiver, but his lack of speed and size means that he could end up struggling even there, and don’t expect him to line up as a traditional in-line option either. Injury troubles and a Mormon mission means that Bushman is an older prospect at 25 years old, so his upside is limited, but he does offer great hands and surprising route-running ability.