Top 10 tight ends in the 2021 NFL draft

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts (84) tires to get past Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine (16) after a reception during the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla.  (John Raoux/AP)
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts (84) tires to get past Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine (16) after a reception during the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (John Raoux/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Here are the top 10 tight end prospects (with projected round) for the 2021 NFL draft, which is set for April 29-May 1:

1. Kyle Pitts, Florida, 6-foot-5, 245 pounds (first): Forty-nine years have passed since a tight end was taken in the top five. Pitts has the chance to be the first tight end to be taken this high since the Denver Broncos selected former Houston tight end Riley Odoms fifth overall. For his size, Pitts has speed like a receiver and can line up all over the offensive formation. Just as important, he’s a great blocker when next to an offensive tackle. With three quarterbacks expected to go with the first three selections, the Falcons could be a potential destination for Pitts at No. 4 overall if they decide to pass on a quarterback themselves.

ExploreFlorida’s Kyle Pitts may be ‘unicorn’ Falcons seek

2. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State, 6-5, 251 pounds (second): Freiermuth dealt with a shoulder injury this past season that limited his use. Nicknamed “Baby Gronk,” Feiermuth has a similar build to Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski. Freiermuth, however, said he compares more favorably with Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Tyler Eifert. Freiermuth said NFL teams consider him a move tight end at the next level because of his pass-catching ability. One area Freiermuth wanted to prove during the pre-draft process is that he’s more than just a one-speed route runner.

Explore‘Baby Gronk’ wants to prove misconceptions wrong

3. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame, 6-3, 241 pounds (second/third): A graduate of Wesleyan School, Tremble lined up in multiple spots with the Fighting Irish while starting over the past two seasons. However, while Tremble wasn’t used much as a receiving option, he showed great strength and power as a blocker in the run game. Still, Tremble did show reliable hands when called upon and could develop into a receiving threat in the NFL.

4. Brevin Jordan, Miami, 6-2, 247 pounds (third): A very athletic tight end, Jordan averaged 35 receptions per season over his three seasons with the Hurricanes. His best campaign came in 2020, when he caught 38 balls for 576 yards and seven touchdowns. Jordan fits the bill as a receiving tight end who can create matchup issues. Although he doesn’t have traditional in-line size at tight end, he is a capable blocker.

ExploreBrevin Jordan confident in ability to create mismatches

5. Hunter Long, Boston College, 6-5, 254 pounds (fourth): Long fits the bill with his measurables, having the necessary height and weight that NFL personnel like to see when drafting a tight end. A quality pass-catching option at tight end, Long caught 57 passes for 685 yards and five touchdowns during his junior season in 2020. At Boston College, he moved around the formation, giving him versatility at the next level.

Georgia tight end Tre McKitty (87) gets some distance from a Tennessee defender for extra yardage Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA Sports)
Georgia tight end Tre McKitty (87) gets some distance from a Tennessee defender for extra yardage Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA Sports)

Credit: UGA Sports

Credit: UGA Sports

6. Tre’ McKitty, Georgia, 6-4, 246 pounds (fifth): McKitty never was in a position to become a volume tight end at Florida State or Georgia, where he landed as a graduate transfer in 2020. But at the Senior Bowl this year, McKitty showed he has what it takes to be a capable receiving target in the NFL. McKitty was injured throughout the 2020 season, but still put together some quality blocking tape.

ExploreTre’ McKitty assumes major role for Bulldogs

7. Ben Mason, Michigan, 6-2, 246 pounds (fifth): Mason rarely was asked to catch the ball. However, Mason’s ability as a blocker may be unmatched in this year’s class. A dominant blocking tight end, Mason has the skill set to become an in-line tight end who can also lead block at fullback. He even has the ability to line up at defensive tackle, which is something he did with the Wolverines in 2019.

8. Tony Poljan, Virginia, 6-6, 251 pounds (sixth): A former quarterback in high school, Poljan has the size to provide matchup advantages in man coverage over the middle of the field. As a senior, Poljan caught 38 passes for 411 yards and a career-best six touchdowns. Despite converting to tight end in college, Poljan displayed good blocking ability, which could translate at the NFL level.

9. John Bates, Boise State, 6-5, 250 pounds (sixth): Spending five years with the Broncos, Bates developed into a fundamental blocker who has the power to take on linebackers in the run game. Bates is a strong run blocker and pass protector as he wasn’t asked to catch passes too often. He finished his collegiate career with 47 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns over the past four seasons.

Mississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah (84) runs past Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) for long yardage during the first half Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Oxford, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
Mississippi tight end Kenny Yeboah (84) runs past Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) for long yardage during the first half Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Oxford, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

10. Kenny Yeboah, Mississippi, 6-3, 257 pounds (sixth/seventh): A graduate transfer from Temple, Yeboah saw more time in the passing game during his fifth season of college ball than he had previously. As a senior, Yeboah caught 27 passes for 524 yards and six touchdowns. Even at 250 pounds, he could stand to improve his blocking as his early contributions at the NFL level will be as a receiving option.

Teams in need: Dolphins, Falcons, Rams, Texans, Titans.

Need area for Falcons: Yes. Lee Smith is a free agent in 2022, and Hayden Hurst could be a free agent if the Falcons don’t pick up his fifth-year option.

Top 5 TEs for 2022 draft: Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar, Washington’s Cade Otton, Oklahoma’s Austin Stogner, Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle.

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

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