The NFL Draft takes place April 29–May 1, 2021 and will return to some form of familiarity. Last year’s draft happened two months into the COVID-19 pandemic and was relegated to Zoom– removing all in-person aspects like fans, hugs, and the like. Thankfully, the 2021 draft will return fans and in-person drafting when it takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. The Greater Cleveland Sports Console is taking protocols from Super Bowl LV in Tampa and the NBA Playoff Bubble in Orlando to hold a safe draft that’s as close to normal as they can get.
With the central focus shifted off the virus, it’s time to take a look at this year’s draft pool. We’re here to give you positional rundowns, including who the favorites are to be drafted where and what players are generating league buzz.
NFL draft odds: First TE drafted
How to bet on first TE drafted
Sportsbooks offer options for several NFL Draft bets, including the first player drafted at each position. To find this section click the NFL tab and find a tab for “First Pick by Position” then view the odds listed below.
NFL Draft: 2021 TE profiles
Kyle Pitts, Florida: Kyle Pitts is unequivocally the top tight end in this draft class. His threat as a pass catcher is unrivaled and might even lead the group of wide receivers, too; he’s been hailed as a generational talent that could make as big an impact as Rob Gronkowski and give Travis Kelce a run for his title as top tight end from Day 1. At Florida, he was a touchdown machine, hauling in 12 touchdowns in just eight games. Touchdowns accounted for 28% of his total receptions in 2020 and that’s not a product of being targeted heavily in the red zone– he averaged nearly 18 yards per reception on the season.
The range in which Pitts could be drafted is a wide one: he’s been projected to go as high as fourth to the Falcons and as low as 15th to the Patriots. He’s a weapon that would add to any team, with the ability to play with both his hand in the dirt and split out as a wide receiver. At 6′ 5″, 240 pounds, he’s a matchup nightmare even against the NFL’s most athletic linebackers akin to Travis Kelce. Any team in the top half of the first round taking Pitts wouldn’t come as a surprise, he’s truly an elite prospect. There’s absolutely no question surrounding who the first tight end will be taken in this year’s draft.
Pat Freiermuth, Penn State: “Prototypical” is the best descriptor for Freiermuth out of Penn State, who stands 6′ 5″, 250 pounds. He played in just four games in 2020 after undergoing surgery in November. As a freshman in 2018, Freiermuth hauled in eight touchdowns on just 26 receptions and added another seven touchdowns the following season. He’s a capable pass catcher, though durability is a big question mark on many scouting reports.
Other concerns also arise surrounding his blocking ability, especially for a player his size. He’ll need to land with a team that’s comfortable using him almost exclusively in the passing game and has another, more willing, blocking tight end. Some teams that do have an established blocking tight end include the Colts, Jaguars, and Jets. Though it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility for Freiermuth to be taken in the first round, he’s more likely a second-round player, albeit early.
Brevin Jordan, Miami: The Canes continue to be a factory of athletic, pass catching tight ends and Brevin Jordan is just the next in a long line that include Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, David Njoku, and Chris Herndon. Jordan is aptly-sized for an NFL tight end (6′ 3″, 245 pounds) and brings an athletic skillset that’s above most other prospects in this class. The term “F Tight End” is a growing one used in plenty of NFL systems, meaning a tight end that’s moved from split out wide to leading the slot to having his hand in the dirt on any given play.
Jordan will likely land in the second round, potentially in the earlier picks, to teams like Atlanta (35), Cincinnati (38), or the New York Giants (42). The history of success in tight ends to come out of Miami likely helps at least put Jordan on the map, but his abilities earn him his draft position. He’s a capable and willing blocker and has grown exponentially each year in college, making him a coachable player. While it’d be unexpected for him to be drafted on Day 1, he won’t last long in the second round.
NFL Draft TE history
Here is a list of the first tight ends taken in each NFL Draft going back to 2010.
|Year||Team||Player||College||Pick (No. overall)|
|2020||Chicago||Cole Kmet||Notre Dame||No. 43|
|2019||Detroit||TJ Hockenson||Iowa||No. 8|
|2018||Baltimore||Hayden Hurst||South Carolina||No. 25|
|2017||Tampa Bay||OJ Howard||Alabama||No. 19|
|2016||San Diego||Hunter Henry||Arkansas||No. 35|
|2015||Carolina||Devin Funchess||Michigan||No. 41|
|2014||Detroit||Eric Ebron||North Carolina||No. 10|
|2013||Cincinnati||Tyler Eifert||Notre Dame||No. 21|
|2012||Indianapolis||Coby Fleener||Stanford||No. 34|
|2011||Minnesota||Kyle Rudolph||Notre Dame||No. 43|
|2010||Cincinnati||Jermaine Gresham||Oklahoma||No. 22|
NFL Draft strategy and trends
There’s really only three tight ends in the conversation for being picked through the first two or three rounds this year, making it one of the lighter classes in recent history. In 2020, no tight ends were taken in the first round, just one was taken in Round 2 (Cole Kmet), and four fell in the third round. While tight ends haven’t been drafted or viewed as a high-commodity position, they’ve proven to be valuable to offenses, with guys like Travis Kelce and Darren Waller becoming real centerpieces to effective offenses.
2017 was a draft that saw three tight ends go in the first round and 2019 saw two. Since 2010, four drafts have had no tight ends go in the first and the remainder had just one. 2021 projects to be the same, with Pitts being a no-doubter on Day 1 and the rest of the group likely waiting for Day 2 and later.