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2019 NFL Draft Random Thoughts: Talking Tight Ends

The TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant hype is real.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Titans have been frequently linked to a tight end in the first round. The NFL’s site currently has three writers sending a tight end (Noah Fant or Irv Smith) to Tennessee. While tight end may not come across as a major need, it is certainly one of the position groups with the most question marks. Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith are coming off major injuries and blocking tight end Luke Stocker is now in Atlanta. Jonnu Smith spent the first part of the year disappointing, but seemed to improve as the season went on. It is unfortunate that the team was robbed of seeing what he could as the top tight end. That would have gone a long way to sorting out these answers. What to expect from Walker, Smith, Anthony Firkser and/or MyCole Pruitt is anyone’s guess. As a result, plenty of analysts have mocked Iowa’s TJ Hockenson to Tennessee. That seems unlikely to happen...only because it seems very unlikely Hockenson will be there at 19. He is a complete prospect. He threatens in the pass game, displaying good route running and consistent catching. Perhaps most impressive is his ferocious run blocking, where he absolutely bulldozes his targets.
  • Mike Vrabel and Arthur Smith this offseason will have to define how the Titans’ offensive personnel usage will progress this year. Per Sharp Football Stats, the Titans were 26th (58%) in the league in 11 personnel usage (1RB, 1TE, 3WR). They were 4th (26%) in 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) and 2nd (13%) in 13 personnel (1RB, 3TE, 1WR). Spending nearly 40% of snaps with at least two tight ends on the field is significant. Adding someone like Hockenson provides flexibility in those sets and added insurance if Walker or Smith struggle from injuries.
  • Iowa’s other tight end, Noah Fant, may be just as intriguing for some teams. Fant seems like an ideal fit for a pass-happy offense that can use his size and speed in the slot. New Orleans doesn’t hold a first round pick this year, but that would have been the perfect team for Fant. Use him as a big receiver and he’s going to be a matchup nightmare.
  • There are mocks out there that have Houston DT Ed Oliver slipping out of the top ten. This seems ridiculous, but so did Harold Landry falling to the second round last year. Oliver would instantly provide interior pass rush and fit Vrabel’s desire for front multiplicity. A creative defensive mind will line up Oliver all over the field. It is not a surprise the Titans wanted to check him out as linebacker. He’s probably fast enough to be an edge rusher occasionally.
  • Duke’s Daniel Jones seems like this year’s prospect getting the “QB Boost.” His accuracy isn’t close to other top quarterbacks and he continually looks very average on film.
  • As always, the first round will be greatly affected by how quickly quarterbacks fly off the board. Other teams will be rooting for players like Daniel Jones to be selected early. Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins are likely early first rounders. If Jones and Drew Lock end up sneaking into the first half of the round, some of the teams picking 15th-20th will benefit with elite defensive talent falling.
  • Every year the argument about first round running backs and value continues on. Alabama’s Josh Jacobs has the best chance to hear his name on the draft’s Thursday night, but is he that much better than some of the second or third round options? You’ll be able to find contributors in the middle rounds at a cheaper cost.