The NFL Draft is only a couple weeks away (April 29 through May 1), and the Jacksonville Jaguars are pretty much certain to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall selection. Outside of quarterback, though, arguably the biggest area of need the Jaguars must target is the tight end position.
After striking out on the top tight ends in free agency — Jacksonville did sign Chris Manhertz, but he is a strong blocking tight end, and not much of a threat in the passing game — the Jaguars must address the position in the NFL Draft. The current group consists of Manhertz, James O’Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis and Ben Ellefson.
With that in mind, let’s run through one player the Jaguars could possibly target in each round of the draft. Note, Jacksonville does not currently have a sixth round pick, but does have multiple picks in the first, second, fourth and fifth rounds.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts is likely to go in the top-10, and unless Jacksonville is willing to give up the farm to trade up for him (highly unlikely), he is likely out of the Jaguars’ reach, and therefore is not included on the list.
In previous years I have had some success with this exercise in predicting possible players the Jaguars could draft. Last year, when looking at cornerback options in each round, I correctly predicted both CJ Henderson and Josiah Scott as targets for Jacksonville. In 2019, I correctly predicted tight end Josh Oliver to the Jaguars (even if I was off by one round). We’ll soon find out if any of the names in this article come to fruition.
Round 1 (No. 1 and No. 25 overall): Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
The Jaguars probably aren’t taking a tight end in the first round, and certainly not at No. 1 overall. However — with Pitts almost certainly off the board — Pat Freiermuth makes a lot of sense for the team, and if Jacksonville doesn’t feel like it can get him in the second round, then Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke may feel compelled to take him early at No. 25 overall. Meyer recently hired Tyler Bowen as Jacksonville’s tight end coach, and Bowen’s last stop just so happened to be at Penn State as co-offensive coordinator, offensive recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, where he coached Freiermuth.
Freiermuth, listed at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, was a two-year team captain for the Nittany Lions. In 30 career games with Penn State (26 starts), he recorded 92 receptions for 1,185 (12.9 yards per catch) and 16 touchdowns. Freiermuth was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2020 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2019. He has plus-potential as both a receiver and blocker and could be a longtime NFL starter. Freiermuth did have a season-ending shoulder injury this past season, which required surgery, though. I would expect Freiermuth to be more of a second-round target as opposed to a first-rounder, but late first round is in play.
Round 2 (No. 33 and No. 45 overall), Brevin Jordan, Miami (FL).
If the Jaguars miss out on (or choose to skip over) Freiermuth, Jordan is the next likeliest tight end to come off of the board. Jordan has decent size at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds and good speed (4.64-second 40-yard dash) and athleticism at the tight end position. Scouts would like to see Jordan improve on his consistency in his run-blocking, but he is already a willing blocker. He showed off his pass-catching prowess at Miami with 105 receptions for 1,358 yards (12.9 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns in 30 career games, which is something Jacksonville desperately needs from the tight end spot.
Some of the “negatives” often mentioned with Jordan are his route-running (which improved throughout his career) and that he uses his body too often to catch passes, and should use his hands more frequently. That said, Jordan could be a dangerous weapon in the slot in the NFL, and is highly-regarded for his ability to get yards after the catch. Jordan was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2019, and and second-team all-conference honors in 2020.
Round 3 (No. 65 overall), Hunter Long, Boston College
Long is a pass-catching tight end, and provides a big target at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds. He is consistent with his hands, and ran an impressive 4.63-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. Long exploded as a junior in 2020, catching 57 passes for 685 yards (12 yards per catch) and five touchdowns, while averaging 5.2 receptions per game. Long was rewarded for his efforts by being named first-team All-ACC. He’s not going to make a lot of plays after the catch, but is a reliable target who seems to catch almost everything thrown his way.
Long’s run-blocking needs a lot of work, however. He needs to add strength, consistency and aggression in that area, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. With Manhertz already on the roster as the team’s top blocking tight end, though, Long can develop and improve his blocking skills while adding a receiving weapon to the tight ends room, which is something currently lacking from the group.
Round 4 (No. 106 and No. 130 overall), Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
It’s possible Tremble comes off the board prior to the fourth round, but with the Jaguars having the first pick of the round, and another pick later on in the fourth, Tremble could be an enticing option for Jacksonville if he is still available. Tremble isn’t as accomplished of a pass-catcher as the other names on the list, with just 35 career catches for 401 yards (11.5 yards per catch) and four touchdowns, but a lot of that had to do with playing next to Cole Kmet (a 2020 second-round pick by the Chicago Bears) and Michael Mayer, who had 42 catches and 450 yards as a freshman at Notre Dame in 2020.
Tremble — who earned All-ACC honorable mention recognition in 2020 — excels as a blocker, however. In fact, his 83.7 run-blocking grade last season was the highest of all tight ends in the country, according to Pro Football Focus. He also has the speed (highly impressive 4.59-second 40-yard dash) and athleticism to improve in the passing game. Tremble needs to work on his hands and progress as route-runner, but could carve out a solid NFL career.
Round 5 (No. 145 and No. 170 overall), Tre’ McKitty, Georgia
McKitty began his career at Florida State where he caught for 520 yards and two touchdowns. He then transferred to Georgia as a graduate senior. A knee injury forced him to miss Georgia’s first two games, but he then started the final seven regular season games with the Bulldogs, catching just six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound tight end was underused as a pass-catcher, but he has displayed good hands when given the opportunity. He also improved as a run-blocker and is a plus-athlete, which helps his draft stock. McKitty was actually voted as the American team’s “Top Tight End” at the Senior Bowl in January.
McKitty’s lack of college production could be looked at as a negative, but he is a player that will likely have better opportunities in the NFL. He could be a “move” tight end for the Jaguars, being utilized in pre-snap motion. He is serviceable as both a pass-catcher and blocker, and could help bolster a desperately thin tight end group for Jacksonville. He should be available on Day Three of the NFL Draft.
Round 7 (No. 249 overall), Tony Poljan, Virginia
The hope is that the Jaguars take at least one tight end prior to the final round of the draft, but if he is still available at this point (he could certainly go a round earlier), Poljan could prove to be a value pick. A former quarterback at Central Michigan (Fire Up!), Poljan made the switch to tight end toward the end of the 2018 season. In 2019, Poljan caught 33 passes for 496 yards and four touchdowns for the Chippewas, earning second-team All-MAC honors. He then came to Virginia as a graduate transfer, and after just one season with the Cavaliers (10 games), he ranks eighth all-time in program history for touchdown receptions by a tight end (six). In addition to the scores, Poljan recorded 38 receptions for 411 yards.
In 2020, he was selected to Phil Steele’s All-ACC third-team, and was invited to the Senior Bowl (although he did not participate). At 6-foot-7, Poljan provides a big target and catch radius. He is also an adequate in-line blocker. Poljan is more of an old school tight end, who isn’t going to burn you with speed often, but can gain tough yards and beat zone coverage on underneath routes.
Honorable mention: Mississippi’s Kenny Yeboah could be an option in the middle rounds for the Jaguars. After starting his career at Temple before transferring to Ole Miss, Yeboah caught a total of 74 passes for 1,062 yards and 12 touchdowns by the time his college playing days were over. He was a bit inconsistent with his hands, however, and needs to improve in his blocking.
Who do you want to see the Jaguars draft at the tight end position? Let us know in the comments section.