So would the Bills draft a TE in 2021?
They’ve done it before. Beane signed Lee Smith to a 3-year deal despite a crowded TE room. He signed Tyler Kroft to a 3-year deal in March 2019, yet drafted 2 more, athletic Dawson Knox and the draft’s top blocker, Tommy Sweeney, a month later. When Croom and Kroft were subsequently injured last year, it looked like a prescient move by the Bills’ GM. There’s certainly a possibility that Brandon Beane would add a star TE should one become available via Free Agency or the draft, as each tight end has flaws. Knox? Ten Drops in 2019, the NFL’s worst. Smith? Aging; he turns 33 on November 21. Kroft? Injuries. Despite his above-average Bengals performance in 2017 (16 games, 42 catches, 404 yards, 7 TD), Kroft hasn’t contributed to the Bills yet except blocking and special teams. Tommy Sweeney hasn’t seen much action, but impressed as a pass-catcher when given targets.
For the most part, the Bills have been terrible at drafting TEs. The possible exception is Jay Reimersma (RD7#244 of the 1996 NFL Draft, 8 surgeries, beneficiary of playing with Moulds). The 6’8″ Pete Metzelaars, voted as the best TE in Bills’ history by Ranker, was actually drafted by the Seahawks. Number three on that list was Scott Chandler (drafted by Chargers). You’d have to include #4 on Ranker’s list, Keith McKellar, as a draft win. The namesake of the “K-Gun” was a RD9#227 in the 1987 NFL Draft. But that’s it, in my opinion. There are some Metzelaars-sized tight ends in this draft (I like 6’7″ Cary Angeline of NC State a lot, as well as 6’6″ Luke Farrell), and there are some adept receiver-blocker McKellars, too.
For comparison’s sake, here’s the likely TE room to begin the season. Only Pitts would vie with Knox for the fastest TE.
Knox 6-4, 254, 4.54
Croom 6-5, 223, 4.59
Kroft 6-6, 240, 4.67
Sweeney 6-5, 260, 4.77
L.Smith 6-6, 265, 5.01
As of this writing, 3 DraftTek Analysts (Washington, Arizona, Tennessee) listed TE as one of their top 3 needs, and 2 others (Pittsburgh, Indy) listed TE fourth. No analyst listed the positional need first or second. This suggests no TEs in RD1 for sure, and some RD3 values. You could talk me into Cincy and the Giants before Day 3. An average of 14.3 TEs have been drafted over last 3 years, and I’d expect lots of Day 3 action.
What does the 2021 draft hold in terms of fits for the Bills? I’ve put each TE’s current position on my personal draft board in front of their names. If you can’t get enough of this draft stuff, follow and message me on Twitter.
29 Kyle Pitts TE Florida
6’5″, 246, 4.5 est. forty time, Junior
14.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
54 catches in 2019
5 TDs in 2019
[Watch This] — the suddenness into his break
Beane would likely “go big or go home” at the TE spot, as the Bills have above-average talent at the position. RD1 possibilities are likely Pitts and Brevin Jordan, and maybe Freiermuth. The 6-foot-6 Junior Kyle Pitts has added 11 pounds of weight in the form of muscle since last year.
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Pitts would be a receiving nightmare, especially with our WRs and Knox on the field. He boasts the draft class’s highest number of receptions (54 for 649 yards) and the third-highest TDs with five. You’ll see him used effectively this year for the Gators, as he’s a favorite target of a Day 1-2 QB, Kyle Trask. Pitts’ ceiling could be the next Travis Kelce.
Why He Won’t: Pitts, like Croom, is not a great inline blocker. You’re likely splitting him out wide each time, which telegraphs the TE’s role on a play. Daboll seems to prefer blocker-pass-catcher TEs who could block you or school you at any point –the McKellar type.
37 Brevin Jordan TE Miami
6’3″ 245, 4.57 est. forty time, Junior
19.4 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
35 catches in 2019
2 TDs in 2019
[Watch This] — See why he’s a YAC monster
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Top-3 production against AP-ranked teams, along with Angeline and Imatorbhebhe. Experience. Jordan was named a starter for his true freshman year in 2018 (32 catches, 287 yds, 4 receiving TD (9.0 ypc) in 9 starts; and a successful 2019 (35 catches, 495 yards, 2 TD (14 ypc). Still 9 starts but a late-season injury caused him to miss the final four games. Mackey Award candidate for sure this year. The Bills scouted Miami in 2019 when they took Jaquan Johnson.
Why He Won’t: The 5% of his catches for touchdowns stat is the lowest of my top 10 TEs. Beane and McDermott have waxed on about playmakers in the red zone. Jordan will have a lot to prove in that department this season.
60 Pat Freiermuth TE Penn State
6’5″ 250, 4.64 est. forty time, Junior
12 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
43 catches in 2019
7 TDs in 2019
[Watch This] — This could’ve ended badly
Why He’ll Be a Bill: He’s nicknamed ”Baby Gronk” –’nuff said?? Frieiermuth lined up everywhere –out wide, inline, and even in the backfield sometimes, and blocks well. His 12.7 yards per reception for 875 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns should also impress Beane. That is a touchdown catch every 4.6 receptions and 1.67 games. The Bills have already been to Penn State, likely looking at the trifecta of OLB-ILB Micah Parsons, EDGE Jayson Oweh, and Freiermuth as Day 1-2 targets.
Why He Won’t: He reportedly wants to play for the Patriots. That’s a non-negotiable, and will require plenty of back-pedaling for me to circle his wagon.
66 Cary Angeline TE NC State
6’7″ 254, 4.62 est. forty time, Redshirt Senior
19.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
25 catches in 2019
5 TDs in 2019
[Watch This] — See the basketball background here
Angeline (pronounced with a long I) is a USC transfer who wanted to play closer to home. He redshirted his first year with the Trojans and played only 2 games in 2017. After catching just nine passes overall in 2018 (for a total of 169 yards and the single score), he burst out in 2019 with 25 grabs for 379 yards and 5 TDs. Cary is a multi-sport athlete, having received a basketball offer from Davidson (scoring over 1300 pts in 3 seasons in HS will do that).
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Angeline seems to match what Beane and McDermott have been speaking about: impressive blocker with a big wingspan who can catch the ball, especially in the end zone (20% of his catches were for TDs). His catches seem effortless, and he has the make-ya-miss gene. The red-zone size mismatch just jumps off the tape. He sets up shop and owns you. Angeline’s imposing height will remind some older Bills fans of Pete Metzelaars. Angeline’s success vs AP-ranked teams (19.8 ypc) is the best in Tiers 1-4.
Why He Won’t: I got nothing. It won’t surprise me to see Angeline in the Tier I, RD1 conversation by April, or even be the first TE taken.
98 Luke Farrell TE Ohio State
6’6″ 250, 4.72 est. forty time, Redshirt Senior
16.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
7 catches in 2019
2 TDs in 2019
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Top-shelf red-zone production: a staggering 28% of his catches were for touchdowns. He’s coming on strong; he caught a pass in eight of his last nine games. Watch his career-best games of four receptions each vs. Purdue and Maryland. Farrell speaks with his play and keeps his yap shut. Per his coach, he’s “quiet, extremely coachable, driven, hard worker, but not somebody who would brag or be boisterous.” Looks like he could be a brother of Josh Allen.
Why He Won’t: Not fast, greatly benefits from team around him. Not a breakaway. Personal best is only 44 receiving yards.
114 Jeremy Ruckert TE Ohio State
6’5″ 250, 4.62 est. forty time, Junior
7.2 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
14 catches in 2019
4 TDs in 2019
[Watch This] –That’s a pretty break, and DBs respect the speed
Ruckert and Farrell at Ohio State is the nation’s top TE duo, with Iowa State close behind.
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Top-shelf red-zone production. 28% of his catches were for touchdowns, tied for the draft class lead with Farrell. Watch this catch. It’s artful. A mismatch-type TE who is dangerous in the red zone is a necessity.
Why He Won’t: Ruckert has been the least productive against AP-ranked teams in Tier 1, 2, and 3. Over half of Ruckert’s 2019 yards came against 1-8 Maryland, Florida Atlantic, and Miami OH.
151 Noah Gray TE Duke
6’4″ 240, 4.57 est. forty time, Senior
51 catches in 2019
3 TDs in 2019
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Some Travis Kelce in him, and his speed and receptions are top 3.
Why He Won’t: If you have 51 catches and you have only 3 TDs to show for it, fire your Offensive Coordinator. As of now, they’ve kept Zac Roper, so it might be more of the same. Duke hasn’t been scouted by Beane since he arrived at 1 Bills Drive. We’ll be watching his scouts’ moves this year.
164 Miller Forristall TE Alabama
6’6″ 242, 4.7 est. forty time, Senior
11.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
15 catches in 2019
4 TDs in 2019
Why He’ll Be a Bill: 26% of Forristall’s receptions went for TDs, good for second on the TE prospect list. He’s versatile; can be used as a FB or H-back. He’s from a big-time program, as is Daboll. He’s an All-Process guy; he honors Christ, family, and the team name in this interview. He has the height and red-zone effectiveness for a Day 3 value pick, which is what I’d expect from the Bills at the position.
Why He Won’t: Forristall missed from Halloween on in 2019 and had unexpected surgery, missing the rest of the regular season. It can be argued that the Bills have this versatile guy already. His name is Reggie Gilliam, and he’s a demon on special teams: 6 blocked kicks for Toledo.
226 Daniel Imatorbhebhe TE ??? (NCAA transfer portal, reportedly leaving USC)
6’3″ 235, 4.7 est. forty time, Redshirt Senior
19.6 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
8 catches in 2019
0 TDs in 2019
He’s the brother of Illinois WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, also in this draft. Has highest AP’19 and ’19 Avg
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Imatorbhebhe had the highest yards per catch against AP ranked teams in 2019.
Why He Won’t: 8 receptions and 0 touchdowns really drops him off the Bills radar. Out of the red zone is a no-no. He’s currently in the NCAA transfer portal, and leaving USC.
235 Brant Kuithe TE Utah
6’2″ 235, 4.76 est. forty time, Junior
12.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
34 catches in 2019
6 TDs in 2019
6-foot-2 (generously listed) ;
Why He’ll Be a Bill: “KEETH-ee” seems to beat linebackers despite the 4.76 time, he added 3 rushing scores last season. His playmaker role.is attractive.
Why He Won’t: Shorter and slower than Croom, and I like the Bills in-house versatile FB/TE/RB type, Reggie Gilliam, more.
250 Tre’ McKitty TE Florida State
6’5″ 241, 4.76 est. forty time, Senior
14.8 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
23 catches in 2019
0 TDs in 2019
Why He’ll Be a Bill: Physicality. He contributes this grit on special teams, as well. He’s versatile, too, as McKitty played the traditional inline tight end, played in the slot, and was even asked to play as the outside receiver in formations.
Why He Won’t: No touchdowns out of 23 catches drops him for Beane. Besides, Beane has shied away from Florida State since 2018. The lure for this TE on the feline-named teams is palpable: in fact, they should draft both defensive end Big Kat Bryant and McKitty while they’re at it. They could line up against each other for cat fights.
256 Dylan Soehner TE Iowa State
6’6″ 271, 4.78 est. forty time, Redshirt Senior
14.5 YPC vs AP-ranked teams
7 catches in 2019
1 TDs in 2019
[Highlights] –Fakes a block and slips through the seam for a TD
Why He’ll Be a Bill: He’s huuuuge. That 271 pounds isn’t a misprint. “Dylan has some freakish tendencies,” Iowa State tight ends coach Alex Golesh admits. He isn’t all muscle and meanness on the field; either; he adds finesse and smarts.
Why He Won’t: He’s likely the slowest of the draftable TEs. Besides, teammates Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen will be taking work away from Soehner at Iowa State. But that might make him an attractive dark horse.
Editor’s babble: Great summary and write up by our ‘Dean of the Draft’, Dean Kindig. Thanks to Dean for all his detailed contributions to our blog. You can find Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro.