Bills’ Best Bets at TE in 2019 NFL Draft

Let me preface this by saying 2019 is a weaker year for tight end in the draft. Some are too light for NFL blocking, and almost all are slower than who the Bills have currently:

Charles Clay= 6-3, 245, 4.69
Nick O’Leary= 6-3 1/4, 252, 4.69 (4.93 at Combine (hammy)
Logan Thomas=6-6, 250, 4.61
Jason Croom= 6-5, 223, 4.69

What this tight end class lacks in weight and speed, it could provide depth guys who are great team players. Some also offer skill sets that a creative OC like Daboll could dabble with. Which TEs score high on my McBeane-O-Meter, and why?

 

Kaden Smith, Stanford
6-6, 242, 4.70
Watch    Stats    Read
Smith is the earliest TE I could see the Bills taking. First and foremost, Smith is a mauling, in-line TE who blocks in a run-first offense at Stanford like the Dabol-Bills run. This junior checks the height box, which combined with his excellent hand/arm strength, wins when he boxes out defenders to catch the ball. I see Smith as having the height of Logan Thomas (but not the athleticism), and the skillset (and injuries) of Greg Olsen. Smith has played only 11 games over 1 year, not something the Bills’ brain trust has coveted among past draftees. Smith needs to improve his route running to be an all-around tight end in the NFL. Smith enjoyed a nice 2017 where he showed some big-play potential: 23 catches for 414 yds (18.0 avg) and 5 TD (21.7% of catches). Many of his catches will make you say, “Wow”. He can be a Day-Two prospect if he posts another year like that.

Irv Smith, Jr., Alabama
6-4, 245, 4.59
Watch    Stats    Read
The fastest TE in his class, Irv Smith’s height-speed ratio is impressive, offering basketball-player athleticism and route-running aplomb. At 245, he’s a hybrid type H-back in the NFL, often used for blocking but who can surprise you with his receiving.  McBeane seems to like physical attributes, versatility and character/football smarts. He’s all that. Because he’s In a run -first offense like “Bama, Smith only has made 14 college catches for 128 yards (9.1 avg) and 3 TDs (21.4% of catches). Like KAden Smith, Irv hasn’t played in many games yet, just 9 games over 1 year. He has the DNA; his father, Irvin Smith Sr., was the RD1#20 draft pick by the Saints. He wasn’t allowed to play football until the 6th grade, so he played basketball. Both were great decisions.

Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
6-4, 255, 4.71
Watch    Stats    Read
If I had to bet on a drafted TE in this class, it’d have to be Sweeney. The pure grit-and-perseverance team player that Beane and McD are drawn to, Sweeney went from freshman walk-on to Male Athlete of the Year and the All-ACC squad. He led BC Eagles in receptions (36), receiving yards (512) and receiving TDs (4) in 2017. If you watch one game of Sweeney’s, watch the Pinstripe Bowl (7 receptions for 137 yards and a 48-yard TD off a deflection showing impressive hand-eye coordination). Sweeney and Tyler Petite of USC will have the most games played by a TE in the draft class with 27 so far, always a check box of McBeane’s.

Brandon Fritts,  North Carolina
 6-4, 250, 4.75
Watch    Stats    Read
Despite his posted 40-time, Fritts’s 98.2 Speed Score is impressive, and his game play is even more impressive. Watch him catch this rocket, then remember the QB that could be throwing it to him. Besides quick hands, Fritts possesses very good YAC ability, a quality sorely lacking on the Bills in 2017. Fritts has the toughness the Bills seek; it takes two defenders to bring him down. In 11 games in 2017, Fritts hauled in 25 catches at a 7.1 yards-per-catch pace, for 4 touchdowns. An ACL injury this past April will be a factor in how many games Fritts will play in this fall, likely affecting the Fritts-Butts race for 2nd-most games played in this class; they both had 24 behind Sweeney and Petite.

Foster Moreau, LSU 
6-6, 255, 4.83
Watch     Stats     Read
Work ethic, competitor, instinctive. These descriptors of Moreau certainly fit the Bills’ archetype. Pro Football Focus’s 81.4 run-blocking grade was number one among all FBS tight ends in 2017, and I hear the Bills like to run the ball. Moreau’s 476 run blocks is also number one, so his experience may help him get a look by McBeane. Moreau isn’t too shabby as a pass blocker, either. He’s been dependable, and teammates say he’s a team guy. That forty time is offputting, but the new regime in Buffalo has 4 LSU Tigers already on its squad.

Isaac Nauta,  Georgia 
6-4, 246, 4.74
Watch     Stats     Read
When he was recruited out of high school, Isaac “NAW-ta” was the top TE in nation. So far, despite being named Freshman All-American after the 2016 season, Georgia has under-utilized Nauta, except as a blocker for Chubb and Michel. With those Bulldog RBs out of Athens, expect Nauta and Eason to connect more often in 2018. Nauta is a junior with one year of eligibility left, and you get the feeling Eason-to-Nauta will take advantage. Think back to the last TE to succeed out of the gate in the SEC. It was Aaron Hernandez. Well, Isaac Nauta has better numbers. I’ve heard comps to Jeremy Shockey. Read the article about Nauta’s visits to Camp Sunshine, a sleep-away camp for children battling cancer, and why this cause drives him to support it. That’s why he’s on the Bills’ radar.

Also Consider:

Tyler Mabry, Buffalo
 6-4, 245, –
Watch     Stats     Read
Local kid with athleticism, a natural hands catcher, can block downfield and is easy to scout. Looks like a fit with what Daboll wants to do. Redshirted in 2015 as freshman.

Caleb Wilson, UCLA
6-4, 235, 4.69
Wilson was a favorite target of Rosen’s before injuring his foot, able blocker and receiver, watch 2017 game vs Texas A&M …Rosen often made him look good.

Mavin Saunders, Kansas
6-4, 257, —
Only 11 games in college since he was a transfer from Florida State. High character: named to AFCA Good Works team. Played 1 game in 2014, then took a medical redshirt, then started 2 games in 2015, then only 10 catches in 2016. Saunders just wasn’t used in Seminoles’ offense like his predecessor Nick O’Leary, which explains the transfer.

Want to read more? Check out this early ranking of TEs.