One thing that is certain is that the Jaguars need to draft a young, play-making tight end at some point — sorry, but the current tight end group isn’t really striking fear into opposing defensive coordinators. It’s not really a question of if the Jaguars will draft a tight end, but more of a question of when. This is an unusually deep draft for tight ends, so while many Jaguars fans would like to see T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant get drafted by Jacksonville as early as No. 7 overall, the Jags could easily find a starting or rotational player later in the draft.
Jacksonville’s new starting quarterback, Nick Foles, also recently talked about the importance of the tight end position. Foles has had the luxury of playing with two of the current best tight ends in the NFL, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, during his career.
So, let’s go round by round and list one tight end the Jaguars could covet in each round of the draft. Note: the Jaguars do not currently own a fifth-round pick.
Round 1, No. 7 overall: T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Hockenson, the draft darling at the tight end position, will likely not last past pick No. 15, but may even be taken in the top-10. So if the Jaguars want him, they need to pull the trigger at No. 7 overall. Hockenson possesses all of the traits you want in a tight end — already a good blocker, as well as a good receiver. Say what you want about seventh overall being too early to draft a tight end, but when you have a chance to add a transcendent talent at a position of need in an offense that severely lacks playmakers, then who cares? I would make this pick if I were in charge — Hockenson is a Pro-Bowl level talent.
Of course, no prospect is perfect. I mentioned Hock is already a good blocker, but he still has plenty to improve upon there. I feel like this article is a bit nit-picky, but it sheds some light on Hockenson’s shortcomings as a blocker. But again, the Iowa tight end is much further along than many others in the draft class. Hock has good heighth at 6-feet-5, but can still add some mass. But if these are the two biggest knocks on him — things that can be corrected by the weight room and coaching — I still feel really good about his potential.
Other potential Round 1 options: Noah Fant, Irv Smith, Jr.
Round 2, No. 38 overall: Irv Smith, Jr., Alabama
There is a decent chance Smith is gone prior to No. 38 overall, but if he is still there (and many trusted analysts do project him to be a second-rounder), then the Jaguars should not hesitate to make this pick. He needs to improve as a run-blocker, which is a key element for the position in Jacksonville’s offense, but he has the potential to be a plus-blocker — he’s relatively inexperienced only playing in 24 collegiate games and will only get better with more playing time. His route-running will get better with experience as well.
Where Smith excels at is as a receiver. He has good downfield speed, and his 4.63-second 40-yard dash was tied for third-fastest amongst all tight ends at the NFL Combine. He also has strong hands and is tough. He is considered somewhat undersized for the position (6-feet-2-inches, 242 pounds), but he would look to add some muscle, so I don’t personally see this as a dealbreaker. He caught 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons and can be both a downfield threat with linebackers unable to cover him, as well as a red-zone threat with the ability to box out defenders and make contested catches.
Other potential Round 2 options: Noah Fant, Dawson Knox, Jace Sternberger
Round 3, No. 69 overall: Dawson Knox, Mississippi
Knox is an example of a player you expect to produce better as a pro than he did as a college player. He wasn’t very productive at Ole Miss, but that receiving corp also included A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. Knox finished his college career with just 39 catches for 605 yards and zero touchdowns. Still, Knox has all of the skills and intangibles you would want in a starting tight end: measurables (6-feet-4-inches, 254 pounds), solid hands, blocking ability, toughness, athleticism, etc. He is going to be a bit of a project, but he seems to possess the necessary traits to eventually be a No. 1 tight end option.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compares him to Kyle Rudolph, while The Draft Network mentions similarities to George Kittle — two players the Jaguars would love to have on the roster. Similarly to Knox, Kittle was not extremely productive in college, but is now doing quite well in the NFL. Knox had impressive workout numbers, but that didn’t translate to the gridiron. He also has a lot of work to do with his route running, but that is expected as the position is still relatively new to him — he was a high school quarterback. Lots of potential here.
Other potential Round 3 options: Jace Sternberger, Kahale Warring, Foster Moreau
Round 3, No. 98 overall: Foster Moreau, LSU
This may be a tad bit early for Moreau, but he could go anywhere between the third and fifth rounds. He would be a good fit for the Jaguars, and without a fifth-round pick, Jacksonville may want to pull the trigger early to get their guy at the end of the third round or early in the fourth (but you’ll see shortly that I have a different guy in mind at pick No. 109). Moreau never put up eye-popping numbers in a single season (his career best season was 24 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns in 2017), but tight end production at LSU is historically low — Moreau’s 52 career receptions were seventh all-time, and his six touchdowns were fourth all-time, in school history.
Moreau was also a team captain for LSU, so you should like his leadership traits. He really impressed at the NFL Combine. His 4.66-second 40-yard dash was fifth-fastest amongst tight ends at the Combine, while his 4.11-second 20-yard shuffle was the best in the position group. He needs to work on his footwork in route-running and has to find ways to get open more often, but overall Moreau is another guy who could be a mid-round gem if he reaches his full potential.
Other potential Round 3 options: Jace Sternberger, Josh Oliver, Drew Sample, Kahale Warring
Round 4, No. 109: Josh Oliver, San Jose State
At the Combine, Oliver showed off all of the traits NFL scouts covet: size (measured at 6-feet-5, 249 pounds), strength (22 bench press reps, tied for second amongst tight ends) and speed (4.63-second 40-yard dash time, tired for third). Oliver was also productive on the field the past two seasons. In 2017-2018, he combined for 91 catches, 1,005 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging about 12 yards per catch. He has good hands, a wide catch radius, superb ball skills and is a polished route-runner.
Similar to Knox, Oliver is still learning the tight end position. He was actually recruited to play edge/linebacker at San Jose State, but after injuries, the team switched his position. So he could have a high ceiling. Scouts say his run-blocking ability needs to improve at the professional level, but that’s a knock on most of the prospects at this point. While he may not be immediately used as an in-line blocker, he could work out of the slot and would add another element to the passing game. Without a fifth-round pick, No. 109 overall may be the optimal time to target Oliver.
Other potential Round 4 options: Isaac Nauta, Drew Sample
Round 6, No. 178: Kaden Smith, Stanford
Smith is a player who could prove to be a late-round steal later in his career, but will likely need time to develop. If he is available in the sixth or seventh rounds, he could be worth a look for the Jags. Jacksonville should like his size and willingness/experience as a run-blocker. He can still add strength and improve his technique in some areas, but overall he is well ahead of the curve in terms of blocking. He also has flashed his potential as a pass-catcher, making contested catches and showing off quick hands. Smith caught 70 catches for 1,049 yards and seven scores over the past two seasons at Stanford.
He’s not a supreme athlete and lacks speed (4.92 40-yard dash), but he did post one of the best three-cone drill times amongst his position groups (7.08 seconds), which shows off his lateral fluidity, agility and short-area quickness. Scouts would also like to see him get better as a route-runner, while his hand placement in blocking also needs work. Again, he is a slight project, but a tight end who already has plus blocking and receiving skills could be exactly what the Jaguars need on Day Three.
Other potential Round 6 options: Alzie Mack, Trevon Wesco
Round 7, No. 236: Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
Sweeney had a productive career at Boston College with 99 catches for 1,281 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging about 13 yards per catch. Of course, anybody you draft in the seventh round is a wild card, but he’s a guy who might be able to step in and play the “Y” position after he develops. Ben Koyack was also a seventh-rounder and while he hasn’t been incredibly productive, he’s been a mainstay with the team since 2015, and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the playoff win against the Buffalo Bills. Sweeney is also a solid run-blocker, but just like pretty much all of the prospects we’ve mentioned has plenty of room to improve there
The negatives on Sweeney mainly revolve around his lack of athleticism and inability to consistently get open. He may not be a No. 1 tight end, but could be a role player in 12 personnel (two tight end sets). Again, though, drafting any player in the seventh round is just kind of a dart throw, and expectations shouldn’t be too high. Sweeney could be gone as soon as the fifth round, but I think the sixth or seventh rounds are more likely.
Other potential Round 7 options: Caleb Wilson, Dax Raymond, C.J. Conrad
Of course, these are all based on projections, but you never know where a player may actually land — a team could fall in love and draft him earlier than expected, or there could be unknown reasons why a player falls down a draft board. Either way, this should act as a base guideline for tight ends the Jaguars could take. Perhaps they’ll even double dip at the position, though that may be unlikely.
Which tight end would you like to see the Jaguars draft? Let us know in the comments section below.