Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant in the mix to be top tight end drafted

Florida Atlantic Owls tight end Harrison Bryant (40) is hit by Air Force Falcons defensive back Garrett Kauppila (22) near the goal line Sept. 8, 2018, at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
Florida Atlantic Owls tight end Harrison Bryant (40) is hit by Air Force Falcons defensive back Garrett Kauppila (22) near the goal line Sept. 8, 2018, at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.

Credit: Allen Eyestone

Credit: Allen Eyestone

Harrison Bryant had packed his suitcase and was ready to make the trip from Milledgeville to Birmingham, Ala.

He was ready to go sack quarterbacks for Samford as a defensive end.

But thanks to some unforeseen events, he decided to make the trip to Boca Raton, Fla., to play tight end at Florida Atlantic.

Because of the school change and position change, Bryant who played at John Milledge Academy, now is one of the top tight ends in the nation and ready to be selected in the NFL draft, which is set for April 23-25.

“I have the same grade on Adam Trautman from Dayton, Harrison Bryant and Cole Kmet from Notre Dame,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I think all of those guys are in position to potentially be the first tight end picked.”

» MORE: Top 10 tight ends in NFL Draft

Bryant played offensive tackle in high school before switching to tight end his senior season.

But when Samford’s offensive coordinator left to join the staff at Florida Atlantic, Bryant followed him to play tight end for the Owls.

“I just always had preferred to play tight end, and when the opportunity came, I couldn’t turn it down,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s route-running was a little raw at first.

“Going into FAU, I couldn’t run a route at all,” Bryant said. “Actually, my roommate (John Raine), our other tight end, he taught me how to run routes.”

Bryant caught 65 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He won the John Mackey award as the top tight end in the nation and earned unanimous All-American status.

Over his career, Bryant, who learned how to effectively run routes, caught 147 passes for 2,137 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Bryant’s background as a tackle has helped him with his blocking.

“Just knowing the technique, the fundamentals and stuff just carried over to the tight end position with run-blocking and pass protection,” Bryant said.

He played his final three seasons at Florida Atlantic for Lane Kiffin, who left after the 2019 season to become the head coach at Ole Miss.

“He’s a funny guy,” Bryant said. “He’s keeping the mood light. It was a good three years playing for him.”

With most team’s using spread offenses, blocking at the tight end position, overall, has been a lost quality in the eyes of several NFL coaches and scouts.

“When I look at Harrison Bryant, they split him out,” Jeremiah said. “They use him all over the place. I was a little bit interested to see what he would look like in the run game. I thought at the Senior Bowl he did a really nice job.”

Some have Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins in the top group of tight ends.

“He’s real fluid,” Jeremiah said. “He’s a clean route runner, but I just, man, there was a lot of drops when I watched him. So, that was kind of my concern there. And you're going to need to continue to grow and develop as a blocker. So, I put him, literally the grade I gave him is a developmental grade, which kind of puts him in the fourth-, fifth-round range.”

LSU’s Thaddeus Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, had a strong senior season.

“He’s helped me a lot all the way up to this point in my career,” Moss said of his dad. “He’s been through a lot and seen a lot, so he has answers for everything.”

But why play tight end and not follow in his dad’s footsteps at wide receiver?

“I've been playing football since the second grade, tight end’s the one position I’ve played my whole life,” Moss said. “I started playing tight end and middle linebacker when I first started playing. I was too big to play receiver.”

Moss likes some of the top tight ends currently in the NFL.

“I watched a lot of film of George Kittle (of the 49ers) this past year,” Moss said. “His versatility, being able to do everything in the run game, being able to do it again in the pass game, plus the tenacity that he plays with.”

Moss is fine with the requirement to block in the NFL.

“At LSU, physicality is in our DNA,” Moss said. “So run game-wise, I was asked to do a lot. I looked forward to it. I love blocking. I love the physicality of football.

“Passing-game wise, I was in protection a good bit. I wouldn’t say a lot. I got out on routes more than I pass-blocked, but I was asked to do a little bit of everything this past season, run-blocking and pass blocking.”

AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES

Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10 QBs
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10 RBs
Tight ends: A surprise prospect from Georgia | Top TEs
Part 4: Offensive line (guards/center)
Part 5: Offensive line (tackles)
Part 6: Wide receivers
Part 7: Defensive tackle
Part 8: Defensive end
Part 9: Linebackers
Part 10: Safeties
Part 11: Special Teams
Part 12: Cornerbacks

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