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2020 NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Tight Ends

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine begins next week. As I have for the past decade-plus, I will travel to Indianapolis, Ind., for the festivities.

This is the biggest job interview these players will ever have in their lifetime. It’s a rigorous process where they work out for teams, get interviewed by almost every franchise and they undergo medical checks by interested teams.

The Combine is often called the “Underwear Olympics” by some in the media; many poke fun at the process. That’s a foolish outlook from the more ignorant minds.

While it’s not a huge part of a player’s grade – I say roughly one percent – the Combine does reveal a lot about a player coming into the league. Scouts and general managers can see how players respond to workouts, how they’ve prepared for this process, and how intelligent they are during interviews and work on the whiteboard. Film is the largest part of a player’s grade, but the Combine is not to be overlooked.

Here is my 2020 Combine preview for tight ends.

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No First-Round Talent

Last year was one of the best tight end classes in NFL history. This year, there is not going to be a tight end selected in the first round of the draft. In fact, we might get well into the second round before a tight end hears his name called.

The best tight end in this bunch is Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic. An offensive tackle in high school, Bryant did play one year of tight end during his prep career. He showed up in college and made an impact as a receiver, but the tenacity is there for him to be a strong blocker because of his background.

Bryant is certainly no stiff when it comes to movement ability. While he’s not incredibly dangerous after the catch with moves, Bryant can pick up extra yards because of his toughness and willingness to fight through contact. In fact, there are some in the scouting community who say there are shades of 49ers tight end George Kittle to Bryant’s game. That’s incredibly high praise, and Bryant has a lot of work to do before he can even approach that level.

After Bryant, I like Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. He’s an athletic player who can get open down the deep middle seam. He’s 250 pounds and your classic “Y” tight end, meaning that he can excel as both a blocker and as a receiver. Kmet is not afraid of contact and he likes to push defenders around after the catch. He’ll need to be a bit more savvy out of his breaks at the pro level to get proper separation, but Kmet is a hard worker who NFL teams will love to have in the locker room.

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Get to Know

There are certain players who just intrigue me heading into the Combine, and Dayton’s Adam Trautman is one of those guys. I watched him closely at the Senior Bowl earlier this year and his performance did nothing to slow down the hype that was building around him.

In 2019 at Dayton, Trautman caught a whopping 70 passes and 15 touchdowns for 916 yards. He’s a converted quarterback, so Trautman knows how to find a soft spot in a zone. He’ll work his way back to the ball and square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage to be a quarterback’s favorite target. Trautman is a former basketball player from high school, so he can play “above the rim” and knows how to box out defenders for the ball.

The level of competition is a concern and he’ll need to prove that he can handle NFL strength when asked to block. Trautman is a big-bodied target who should thrive as a pass-catcher if given enough time to develop. He’s a mid- to late-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft with intriguing upside. Don’t be surprised if we’re talking about Trautman in a few years.

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Homegrown Talent

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene. I watched him play football with my son at Chatfield High School, where they started their prep careers together as quarterbacks. Keene was switched to running back and became the centerpiece of the Chargers offense for three years after that.

He’s one of the most-versatile players at the position in this draft class. Keene can play tight end, but he’s also capable of playing fullback or H-back at the pro level. He’s strong, has good hands and a nose for the end zone.

The NFL is going to players who are essentially “multiples.” Keene is one of those prospects who can line up in multiple places and contribute. He will at least be a special teams player who could run some gadget plays for an offense if need be. Right here from Littleton, Colo., I’m excited to continue seeing Keene play football in the NFL.

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