Ranking the top five tight end prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft

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Tom E. Curran
·4 min read
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Curran: My top five TE prospects in the '21 NFL Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Patriots rummaged around in the tight end bucket twice in last year’s draft. They fished out Devin Asiasi (91st overall) and Dalton Keene (101st overall).

They combined for five catches for 59 yards. All season. Which was a stat that goes upside the head of all of us who thought that they’d be actually relevant as rookies and that five catches and 59 yards would represent a nice game for one of them in 2020, not their combined work for the whole year.

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Was it Cam? Was it scheme? Was it the learning curve? Was it a lack of talent? All? None? The Patriots will need another year – at least – to find out.

How will their presence affect the 2021 draft plan? Well, there are two projected first-rounders and then a couple of the Asiasi-Keene level players. So if they don’t get one of the top two, they may be looking to free agency if they think they need better players there.

USA Today Sports

Kyle Pitts, Florida

Size: 6-foot-6, 240 pounds

Birthdate: October 6, 2000

Far and away the most promising of the tight end prospects in the draft. Definitely a top-15 pick, possibly top 10. In eight games this year, he had 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 scores.

Fantastic length, smooth and fast route runner with above-average body control and the strength and explosiveness to high point brilliantly.

Just a walking mismatch who is too wiry and smooth to easily compare to most tight ends. The best comp is probably … Calvin Johnson? Or going way back, a Hall of Fame wideout that you should get familiar with named Harold Carmichael.

Pitts is from Philly – which is where Carmichael played – and by all accounts Pitts has Philly toughness and a love of football. He won’t turn 21 until October. By the time he’s 30, he could be on his way to the Hall of Fame himself.

USA Today Sports

Pat Freiermuth, Penn State

Size: 6-foot-5, 260 pounds

Birthdate: October 25, 1998

More a classic build tight end than Pitts, he’s got good hands and an ideal frame to work in the seam or red zone. You’ll see a lot of Gronk-style routes and catches here. He doesn’t exhibit the after-the-catch strength and athleticism that Gronk did and still does. But he’s a Hall of Famer.

Freiermuth – who’s been dubbed Baby Gronk – projects as a mid-to-late first-rounder and should make some team and quarterback very happy. Caught 23 for 310 with a TD in four games this season before having season-ending shoulder surgery. He’s from Merrimack, Mass.

USA Today Sports

Hunter Long, Boston College

Size: 6-foot-5, 253 pounds

Age: 22

A native of Exeter, New Hampshire, Long had an outstanding 2020 with 57 catches for 685 yards and five scores. He finished his three years at BC with 89 catches for 1,297 yards and nine touchdowns. Long’s length is a strong suit. He’s got an 83-inch wingspan. He’s also worked exceptionally hard to bulk up during his time at BC and previously at Deerfield Academy. He’s a very smart and coachable player.

While Freiermuth is more celebrated, there’s not a lot of obvious difference between he and Long. Long is leaner and longer, more like a Jacob Hollister build. He’s not viewed as a first-round pick. He would be a complementary player in terms of style to Keene and Asiasi.

USA Today Sports

Brevin Jordan, Miami

Size: 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

Birthdate: July 16, 2000

Jordan caught 105 passes for 1,358 yards with 13 touchdowns in three seasons at the U. In 2020, he had 38 catches for 576 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games with a dicey quarterback situation. He’s a sturdily built, shorter tight end with a big lower half especially in the thighs and butt. That’s helped him be an after-the-catch problem as he’s tough to wrap up and bring down.

Makes athletic, diving grabs routinely. He’s been injury prone and played just 26 games in his three seasons at Miami.

USA Today Sports

Matt Bushman, BYU

Size: 6-foot-5, 240 pounds

Birthdate: December 4, 1995

Missed the 2020 season with a torn Achilles and, at 25 after serving his mission at BYU, Bushman is a sleeper in the draft. But he’s been productive and made 125 catches for 1,719 yards while at BYU.

The tight end group really falls off after Jordan so the inclusion of Bushman is a lark. He’s got great hands, blocks with interest and is a mature, high-character player. He may go late in the draft because of the age and injury but the Patriots have used late picks and kept their fingers crossed before. This could be a spot to do so again.