Josh Norris

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Top Pass Catching Tight Ends

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Each week I’ll be looking at a group of draft-eligible NFL prospects under certain parameters. I just don’t currently have the time to watch every prospect, so coming out with a top 10 list would be disingenuous. Instead, this allows me to focus on a few players with the goal of finding where they might impact the game.


Top Big Play Running Backs

Top Red Zone Wide Receivers

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Big Play Wide Receivers


2017 contributed a historic draft class at tight end. Evan Engram is on pace for one of, if not the, best rookie season of all time at the position. From an athleticism standpoint, four tight ends posted composite scores above the 70th percentile in the 2016 and 2015 drafts combined. In 2017, 11 tight ends qualified.


So who can follow that up? Let’s find out by looking at tight ends with the highest reception totals for the 2017 season.


NC State’s Jaylen Samuels (5’11/223) 61 receptions


The swiss army knife of this list. Samuels is not a true tight end, nor running back. Carrying the ball is secondary, and maybe even tertiary. Samuels frequently lines up in an H-back role, detached tight end or inline. Because of those alignments, Samuels actually runs routes beyond the line of scrimmage. The routes aren’t the impressive part, it’s Samuels hands and ability to adjust to off-target throws that stood out. He continually made contested grabs or adjusted for difficult grabs that many others in his position wouldn’t come down with.


The question is if this type of skillset translates with Samuels’ frame. At sub-6-feet tall, Samuels needs an area where he wins, and perhaps dominates, in order to find a role on an NFL team. I’m not sure how many teams prioritize his type, unless they move Samuels to a true fullback-plus position. On the surface his height will hurt him. Perhaps his athletic testing will compensate.


UMass’ Adam Breneman (6’4/252) 54 receptions


Breneman lives in the middle of the field, on curls and on routes in the flats. His reaction to passes away from his frame allows him to make catches many others can’t. That is his best trait, to cover up his quarterback’s inaccuracies. In terms of movement pre- and post-catch, nothing stands out.


South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert (6’3/255) 49 receptions


Friends. Watch this man work.



A former basketball player and walk-on at South Dakota State did that. Goedert produced a 92 reception, 1,293 yard and 11 touchdown season in 2016. There are plenty of snaps with Goedert inline and in the slot, and his routes typically consist of drags, outside breaking routes and traveling down the seam. He is not afraid to make a grab away from his body or take a hit on contact.


Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews (6’4/254) 43 receptions


I don’t have the numbers to back this up, but it seems Andrews played from a receiver position more often than inline. Your first observation will be Andrews’ thick upper body. If Andrews wanted to, he could be a few catered meals away from an offensive lineman’s frame. Next, you’ll notice Andrews’ nimble footwork with the ball in his hands.



A dancing bear.


Andrews sets up awaiting defenders as a ball carrier, using their momentum against themselves. He does the same thing with his routes in man coverage, forcing defenders to take false moves thanks to head fakes and jab steps.


With that said, I did see Andrews win more often when finding soft spots than when facing man coverage. The limber leviathan’s short strides are where the magic lies. His athletic testing might be telling in terms of knowing if that style translates.


Penn State’s Mike Gesicki (42 receptions)


The gazelle. Gesicki is so explosive in a straight line. That goes for his vertical as well, since Gesicki frequently elevates over, around or through smaller defenders at the catch point.



We just discussed Mark Andrews, so look at the difference in Gesicki’s strides. That will prevent him from making people miss in the open field, but he has a better chance of outrunning everyone. Gesicki’s longer strides also force him into the mud at the top of his routes.



Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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