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Under-the-Radar tight ends for the Titans in the 2021 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We’re continuing our week-long draft coverage with another installment in our “Under-the-Radar” series. I looked at some under-the-radar receivers and cornerbacks the Titans could look to target on Day 3 last week. We looked at EDGE rushers and offensive tackles on Monday and Tuesday. Today, just one day before the draft, we’re looking at the tight end position.

The Titans offense suffered a big blow when Jonnu Smith signed a four-year contract worth $50 M with the New England Patriots as soon as free agency began. Smith was a valuable piece on Tennessee’s explosive offense. One of the biggest things Smith brought to the table was versatility. The Titans didn’t tip run or pass when he was on the field because he was both a good run blocker and an excellent pass catcher. That’s an undervalued trait in today’s game. You never want to tip your hand on offense. It’s important to keep defenses on their toes. That’s what Smith helped the Titans do.

The Titans don’t have another guy like that at the position unfortunately. Anthony Firkser is a weapon in the passing game, but he’s a glorified receiver that the team likes using as their “big slot.” They’ve virtually never asked him to block, and they probably shouldn’t start now. Behind him is veteran tight end Geoff Swaim, who the team re-signed to a one-year deal. Swaim is the anti-Firkser. He’s an excellent run blocker, but doesn’t offer much as a pass catcher.

As things stand, I expect Firkser and Swaim to both play quite a bit. They don’t have anything proven behind them. It’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Todd Downing utilizes his tight ends. He could take a different approach than Arthur Smith did.

There’s only one tight end worth taking in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he’ll be long gone by the time the Titans come on the clock at 22. Behind Kyle Pitts, there are two or three tight ends that could get selected in the second round. Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble is one of those guys, and I reported that the Titans met with Tremble virtually back in February.

Tremble isn’t on this list because he’s far from an “Under-the-Radar” guy. If the Titans bypass the likes of Tremble, Pat Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan in the early to mid rounds, they could wait until Round 4 or later to address the position. This class isn’t very deep at the tight end position, but there are some intriguing options that aren’t being talked about much.

With that said, let’s take a look at a couple of players that would make sense for the Titans to target on Day 3.

Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss

Yeboah is an intriguing prospect. Yeboah originally went to Temple as a wide receiver. It’s easy to spot that receiver background on tape. He’s such a natural hands catcher. After playing in multiple offenses for multiple coaches, Yeboah decided to enter the transfer portal. He was in search of something a bit more stable. Yeboah learned valuable lessons at Temple, though. Temple doesn’t feature their tight ends much in the passing game, but they sharpened him as a blocker. It’s going to help him at the next level.

Yeboah took his talents to the SEC. He transferred to Ole Miss and became a big time weapon in the passing game. Yeboah caught six touchdowns in just eight games this past season. He has the speed and route running ability to make something happen up the seam. After securing the catch, Yeboah quickly looks to create for himself. He had an impressive 244 yards after the catch this past season.

He’s a fun sleeper on Day 3.

Kylen Granson, TE, SMU

Granson is pretty much as small as they make them when it comes to tight ends. He checked in at 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds at his Pro Day. He’s a compact player that took a ton of his reps in the slot. He may lack great size, but his athletic profile is exciting. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and the three-cone in 6.93 seconds. His 36.5-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump were also elite results. Granson can really move. He has some wiggle to his game.

Like the first name on this list, Granson attended two different colleges. He began his career at Rice and finished at SMU. He became a big weapon for the Mustangs from the moment he arrived. Granson totaled 78 catches for 1,1057 yards and 14 touchdowns across his two seasons at SMU.

Granson could thrive in a hybrid role at the next level.

Noah Gray, TE, Duke

Gray is a bit of a similar player to Granson. He lacks ideal size at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He also leaped 35-inches in the vertical. His three-cone was a 6.90. All three of these results are excellent.

Gray caught 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Gray has been following the exact same training program that George Kittle and Robert Tonyan did leading up their draft years.

Gray is a polished route runner that is a safe and secure hands catcher. He won’t fit every team, but there’s a chance to get good value here.

Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

I know, I know. Hunter Long isn’t a true “Under-the-Radar” guy. He probably isn’t a Day 3 guy, either.

I decided to switch things up and break my own rules here. I feel like I have good reasons to do so. I keep seeing the same names on here and on Titans Twitter when it comes to tight end prospects for the Titans. There’s lots of buzz on Tommy Tremble and Brevin Jordan. I don’t have an issue with that. I’m a fan of both prospects and the Titans would be lucky to have either one of those guys.

But I think Long belongs in the same conversation. I’m surprised that Titans fans aren’t discussing him more. I’m not a fan of dot connecting, but there are some connections here. Long played alongside Mike Vrabel’s son Tyler. Current Titans strength and conditioning coach Frank Piriano came to Tennessee from Boston College, where he worked with, you guessed it, Long. The Titans will know Long well. Very well.

Enough of my testimonials and lazy connections. Long is FUN on tape. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds. He especially plays to every bit of his size in the red zone where he’s a nightmare of an assignment. He can win above the rim. He has great hands. He understands how to use his body at the catch point. He’s a smooth route runner.

Long was a pretty good blocker in college. He showed great growth in this area this past season. There are so many encouraging reps on tape. He has the strength to play in-line. At worst, he should be a very decent blocker at the next level. I wouldn’t be surprised if he developed into a very good blocker.

When it comes to tight ends, Long has the dual threat skill set that the Titans should be looking for in this draft.