Early on: This year’s tight end class is considered to be one of the strongest in recent years, with two projected first-round picks leading the way. In nearly every mock draft available, Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Miami’s David Njoku are both considered first-round picks. If the current mock drafts hold true, Howard will be the first tight end off the board, potentially going in the top ten. Njoku will likely be selected near the end of the first round. In their latest mock drafts, ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper both believe the Bucs will select Njoku with the No. 19 pick, while CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin projects Howard to Tampa Bay.
Mid-round picks: There will be a handful of quality tight ends available outside the first round, including Michigan’s Jake Butt, South Alabama’s Gerald Everett and Mississippi’s Evan Engram. Butt’s strength is in the passing game; he caught 138 passes for 1,646 yards and 11 touchdowns during his college career. Although a smaller tight end, Engram is also a strong contributor in the passing game. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end caught 65 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. Everett played for a junior college before enrolling in South Alabama, but may be the most athletic of the bunch, according to NFL.com’s scouting report. There’s a chance that all three of the aforementioned players are gone by the start of the third round.
Late-round steals: Anthony Auclair, a product of Laval (Canada), was one of the most impressive players competing at this year’s East-West Shrine Game and has the physical traits to be successful in the NFL. He’s 6-foot-6, 254 pounds and ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Oregon’s Pharaoh Brown is another big-bodied prospect who could be available later in the draft. Brown caught 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns, but was on a roster with two other tight ends who could be playing at the next level. Auclair and Brown could be available as late as the seventh round.