2017 NFL Draft Preview: The Case for Adding a Tight End

Breaking down the Chiefs tight ends and looking at a handful of prospects

When the game of football is broken down, it's a chess match of matchups, and nothing gives a defensive coordinator more problems than a versatile tight end.

Individually, they're too fast and fluid to be covered by linebackers or safeties out in space, and they're too big and strong for a defense to feel good about its' run defense by simply using a cornerback to handle them in coverage.

While that's a simplistic view of how these athletes have changed the way defenses are constructed and schemed in today's NFL, the point remains the same—teams are looking for any way to have a matchup advantage, and tight ends are one way of finding that edge.

Kansas City Chiefs - Current Tight Ends

NAME

AGE

EXP

COLLEGE

OFF SNAPS (2016)

Kelce, Travis

27

4

Cincinnati

886

Harris, Demetrius

25

3

Wis.-Milwaukee

459

O'Shaughnessy, James

25

2

Illinois State

111

Travis, Ross

24

1

Penn State

56

Consequently, it's not a secret that Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid enjoys this part of the game—the scheming of different personnel groups and finding creative ways to get the ball to his playmakers—particularly at tight end.

The development and utilization of All-Pro Travis Kelce over the past few seasons have been a shining example of how Reid has found multiple ways to get the ball in the hands of his best players in the passing game.

Kelce has been involved in both inside and outside screens in the passing game, and he's been known to split out and handle traditional receiver routes while displaying the nuance of a fleeter-foot athlete to gain separation from defensive backs in space, but it's his ability and willingness in the running game that makes him a complete tight end.

If having one versatile tight end is good, then having multiple is great, and the Chiefs' passing game was significantly more explosive last year with multiple tight ends on the field. 

With one or no tight ends on the field, the Chiefs completed 66 percent (312 of 472) of their passes with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions, which was good for an average of 6.91 yards per passing attempt.

But with two or three tight ends on the field together, the Chiefs completed 72 percent (53 of 74) with five touchdowns and just one interception, which was good for 8.77 yards per passing attempt.

Even though there were substantially fewer attempts (almost 7:1), the Chiefs picked up larger chunks of yards in the passing game when there were multiple tight ends on the field together than if there were one or none.

Simply stated, it's an important package in their offense, which means it's always an area that the personnel staff will look at adding more talent.

In his four years leading the Chiefs' personnel department, general manager John Dorsey has drafted only two tight ends. He signed both Demetrius Harris and Ross Travis as undrafted free agents.

Chiefs Draft History Under John Dorsey - Tight Ends

Year

Round

Pick

Player

Games

College

2013

3

63

49

2015

5

173

23

 Overall in their history, the Chiefs have found success drafting tight ends, including arguably the best to ever play the position in future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.

Pro Bowl Tight Ends Drafted by the Chiefs

Year

Rnd

Pick

Player

Pro Bowls

College

1

13

14

7

54

5

3

63

2

18

141

2

14

106

2

17

131

1

1

15

1

16

126

1

 According to many of the media's most notable NFL Draft experts, this year's group of tight ends is among the best and deepest in recent memory.

NFL Draft Experts' Top 5 TEs in 2017 NFL Draft

Rank

1

O.J. Howard - Alabama

O.J. Howard - Alabama

O.J. Howard - Alabama

O.J. Howard - Alabama

O.J. Howard - Alabama

2

David Njoku - Miami (Fla.)

Jake Butt - Michigan

David Njoku - Miami (Fla.)

David Njoku - Miami (Fla.)

David Njoku - Miami (Fla.)

3

Evan Engram - Mississippi

David Njoku - Miami (Fla.)

Evan Engram - Mississippi

Evan Engram - Mississippi

Evan Engram - Mississippi

4

Gerald Everett - South Alabama

Evan Engram - Mississippi

Jordan Leggett - Clemson

Adam Shaheen - Ashland

Adam Shaheen - Ashland

5

George Kittle - Iowa

Jordan Leggett - Clemson

Bucky Hodges - Virginia Tech

Gerald Everett - South Alabama

Bucky Hodges - Virginia Tech

Five More Intriguing Tight End Prospects

While the players in the chart above are considered the best in this year's class by those analysts, here are a few other names to keep in mind as the draft draws closer:

(Analysis via NFL.com's draft profiles, click name to see full scouting report)

Iowa's George Kittle* (6'4", 247 pounds)*

"H-back type who lacks the desired size for in-line blocking but certainly has the technique and willingness to do it. He has good hands and flashes an ability to challenge as a pass catcher on all three levels. Kittle has the athleticism and blocking ability to become an effective move tight end if paired in the right system."

Iowa TE George Kittle (6'4", 247 pounds) isn't lacking aggression in the running game. pic.twitter.com/Z687HqdfRG — BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) March 28, 2017

Arkansas' Jeremy Sprinkle* (6'5", 252 pounds)*

**"True "Y" tight end with outstanding length and a frame that can handle more weight. Has the toughness to be an NFL blocker, but might need to add more upper- and lower-body strength before he's ready. He's a big, reliable target in the red zone and underneath against zone, but needs a longer runway to create separation in his routes. Sprinkle isn't great in any one area, but he's good in most and should be a safe pick and quality starter in the league."

Washington's Darrell Daniels* (6'3", 247 pounds)*

"Has absolutely freakish physical attributes. Arm length and hand size would be considered outstanding for an offensive tackle…Carded a verified sub 4.50 40-yard dash during spring. Short strider, but feet turn over rapidly to propel him down the field. Can work the third level. Adjusts his path to off-target deep throws. Team-first player and vocal leader. Has successful stint as a cover man on special teams in his background."

Toledo's Michael Roberts* (6'5", 270 pounds)*

"One season of "wow" production, but has NFL size and length. Roberts' tape shows inconsistent effort from a blocking standpoint, but it also shows the strength and ability to handle those chores on the next level. He should be a functional receiver target as well and could come in as a third tight end with the ability to work his way up the ladder."

"When he catches the ball, it matters...80% of catches for first downs, 35.5% for TDs (16)."

Pittsburgh's Scott Orndoff* (6'5", 253 pounds)*

"Experience working down the field in Pitt's pro-style passing attack. Works the seam and secures the catch despite imminent punishment from safety. Banger after the catch. Reliable in-line blocker. Secures and climbs smoothly in combo blocks. Adjusts blocking assignments quickly when initial block vacates. Has potential to handle himself on an island in pass protection from time to time. Can become a solid blocking "Y" tight end for a run-heavy team."

Why Adding a Tight End Makes Sense for the Chiefs:

The tight end position is so important in today's NFL that it only makes sense for Dorsey and company to create as much competition in that room as possible.

All four of the tight ends currently on the roster have also been with the Chiefs for multiple years (Kelce, Harris, O'Shaughnessy, Travis), so it wouldn't necessarily be surprising in a draft this deep and talented at the position to see a new body added to the mix.

It's also important to note how vital those second and third tight ends on the roster are to special teams. Both Harris and O'Shaughnessy were among the team leaders in snaps played for Dave Toub's special team's units last year with more than 280.

The Chiefs have a total of 10 picks, which can be found here.


2017 NFL Draft Preview Series

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