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Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Tight End Rankings

Taking a deep dive at the potential tight end targets preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re back! The BTSC Big Board crew has returned for a second consecutive season! Between now and April, numerous BTSC draft analysts will give you stats, grades, and in-depth scouting reports for over 300 prospects in this year’s class. Just like last year, we will be doing these rankings by position until the week of the draft, when we finalize the overall rankings and release our all-positions-combined big board.

This week, we are taking a look at the tight ends, a position group that the Steelers do not have a dire need at but lack depth at. There are unlikely to be any first-round tight ends this year, but I see as many as eight to ten guys that could logistically be taken in rounds two through four.

The analysis is a collaborative effort of Ryland, myself, K.T. Smith, Jeremy Betz, skyfire322, Itz JustNoah, and NecksNation, while the stats are compiled by SNW via Sports Reference. Proofreading was done by our newest big board contributor, DoomzoneFF.

If you have any thoughts on these tight end prospects and their potential fit with the Steelers, be sure to share them in the comment section below.

Let’s get to the Big Board!

1. Trey McBride | Colorado State | 6‘-4“, 260 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 43
2021 Stats: GP 12, Rec 90, Yds 1121, TD 1

Necksnation: McBride projects to be the top tight end in a class that is weak at the top but generally pretty deep. He isn’t fantastic in any one area, but he has a solid all-around skill set that should translate nicely to the next level. The 22 year old had a great statistical season in 2021, doubling his previous career high in yards and receptions while boosting his stock considerably. His hands are good, and he is able to make some more difficult catches. Additionally, he has made some nice plays after the catch and has established himself as a big play threat. As a blocker, he isn’t a mauler but usually gets the job done when called upon. He moves well and is a good but not exceptional athlete, and has a solid combination of size and athleticism. McBride should be a mid second round pick with a safe floor but a lower ceiling who could be a capable TE1 for an NFL team.

2. Jalen Wydermyer | Texas A&M | 6‘-5“, 255 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 52
2021 Stats: GP 12, Rec 40, Yds 515, TD 4

Ryland B.: Wydermyer is a big-bodied, lanky, tight end in the mold of Kyle Pitts. He has good speed and is an incredibly smooth-athlete for his size. His burst and change of direction aren’t anything to write home about but more than adequate for the position. Wydermyer has good hands and should be a natural fit as a receiving tight end at the next level. As a blocker, Wydermyer isn’t exactly a natural, but he shows top-notch effort. Wydermyer shows that he wants to be a factor in the run game, so his blocking is something that could likely be improved at the next level, fully rounding out his game.

3. Isaiah Likely | Coastal Carolina | 6‘-4“, 240 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 58
2021 Stats: GP 13, Rec 59, Yds 912, TD 12

Jeremy Betz: Likely is the the epitome of today’s hybrid players at the TE position. He moves well, relying on speed, size, and fluidity to win down the field. Comps favorably to Noah Fant when he came out of Iowa, although Likely is a tad slower. Teams looking for a mismatch in the passing game could look to Likely on Day 2 of the Draft. He’s too big for corners and too fast for LBs, but he will likely (had to do it) struggle as a blocker at the next level and will need development in that area. Get him in an NFL weight room while maximizing his receiving talent early, and Likely could become a high-end playmaker relatively early in his career.

4. Jeremy Ruckert | Ohio State | 6‘-5“, 252 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 81
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 26, Yds 309, TD 3

Noah: When it comes to blocking, Ruckert is the best there is. He plays a big impact in the run game and consistently gets downfield to create space for whoever has the ball. Despite the lack of production that he had while at Ohio State, he is a solid receiver. He’s a very smart player that has a knack for finding soft spots in the defense. He is good in contested catch situations and gives whoever is throwing to him a vertical threat. Ruckert won’t wow you with his athleticism and isn’t gonna fly past guys for 70 yard touchdowns but he’s a reliable target that can make a big impact as a blocker.

5. Greg Dulcich | UCLA | 6‘-3“, 245 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 92
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 42, Yds 725, TD 5

Ryland B.: The first thing that stands out about Dulcich is his great football demeanor. He isn’t the greatest athlete but he’s a tough catcher, a feisty route-runner, and a willing blocker. This can backfire, as Dulcich can often be too eager to make a block and miss badly. He’s fairly explosive but not overly fast, and his change of direction isn’t great, making him a below-average separator. However, he has good hands and can make physical catches, and his full-speed route running can still make him a difficult player to cover for less physical defenders. His lack of above-average size and athleticism limit his ceiling, but Dulcich has what it takes to be a solid TE2 at the NFL level.

6. Jake Ferguson | Wisconsin | 6‘-5“, 244 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 101
2021 Stats: GP 13, Rec 46, Yds 450, TD 3

Ryland B.: Want a high-floor tight end prospect who can block and be an impact in the red zone? Look no further than Ferguson. He’s not exactly the biggest tight end, and not the most athletic, but he carved out a nice career at Wisconsin for simply being good at football. He’s a great blocker who plays with aggression and excellent drive, even being deployed as a fullback at times. If I had one complaint it would be that he could improve in holding onto blocks a little bit longer, but Ferguson is one of the best blockers in this year’s tight end class. In the passing game he’s not a separator, but Ferguson has reliable hands and can make contested circus grabs. His primary usage as a blocker also made him find a lot of success catching roll-out passes out of play-action. Ferguson may never be a star at the NFL level, but he’ll be a rock-solid contributor, especially in the right offense.

7. Derrick Deese, Jr. | San Jose State | 6‘-4“, 235 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 113
2021 Stats: GP 12, Rec 47, Yds 730, TD 4

Andrew Wilbar: Deese was surprisingly nixed from the combine, but nonetheless, his athleticism is evident on tape. He has great awareness as a route-runner and the speed to separate late in the route, and he has impressive quickness out of his stance. While he has shown willingness when it comes to blocking, he lacks the technique and power to do so effectively. He will also need to add weight if he is going to improve in that area. One thing intriguing to me about Deese is his ability after the catch, as he displays good vision in the open field and the start-and-stop quickness to make defenders miss. If he can add weight to his frame and improve his technique as a blocker, he could become a starting-caliber tight end.

8. Cade Otton | Washington | 6‘-5“, 250 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 114
2021 Stats: GP 8, Rec 28, Yds 250, TD 1

Ryland B.: Otton doesn’t have any overly flashy attributes, but he’s quite solid across the board. He has NFL size, adequate athleticism, and plenty of versatility. In the run game he’s a solid blocker who uses his size and strength well. As a pass-catcher he’s not much of a route-runner but has good hands and can make some more difficult catches. He could have some solid value in the middle to late rounds.

9. Charlie Kolar | Iowa State | 6‘-6“, 260 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 126
2021 Stats: GP 12, Rec 62, Yds 756, TD 6

Necksnation: The first thing that jumps out about Kolar is his size. At 6’6’’ and 260 pounds, he certainly has the frame to succeed in the NFL. He had consistent production as a receiver at Iowa State from his sophomore to senior seasons, and is a capable blocker when he’s not catching passes. His hands are outstanding, and although he isn’t a great athlete, he has value as a red zone threat that he showcased throughout college. His drop rate of 3% makes him a very reliable option to a QB. Kolar is a pretty good blocker, but his height can cause him to lose leverage, which is something that could use work between now and when he makes his pro debut. He isn’t much of a threat after the catch, and he doesn’t create separation so easily, so he functions best when playing against zone and when he doesn’t have to gain many yards after the catch. Kolar projects as a day three pick who can be a decent red zone threat and reliable TE2 in the NFL.

10. Daniel Bellinger | San Diego State | 6‘-6“, 255 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 154
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 31, Yds 357, TD 2

Andrew Wilbar: Bellinger is an intriguing day three option with two-way upside. However, there are a lot of minor details in his game that need to be refined. Although he displays natural hands and good awareness as a pass catcher, he doesn’t create great separation late in the route. His routes are far from crisp at the cut, but he seems to have the awareness and understanding to know when his quarterback needs to get rid of the ball, as he generally gets his head around in time to make an attempt to bring in a pass headed in his direction. As a blocker, Bellinger is patient but smart. He waits for the defender to get close enough to him to make contact without lunging, and he has proven to play with a consistent pad level. With solid athletic testing, he could be a late riser.

11. Cole Turner | Nevada | 6‘-6“, 240 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 179
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 62, Yds 677, TD 10

Andrew Wilbar: Turner’s large catch radius combined with his reliable hands makes him an intriguing mid-round option as a ‘move’ tight end. Over the past two seasons, Turner has hauled in 19 touchdowns in only 20 games, making evident his lethality in the red zone. At this point, Turner plays more like an oversized receiver than a tight end, as he has a slender frame for the tight end position. As a blocker, he lacks ideal strength at the point of attack, and he plays too tall when playing in-line or as an H-back, making it difficult for him to out-leverage an edge defender. Nonetheless, he is a player who, in the right scheme, can make a major impact in the modern-day NFL.

12. Josh Babicz | North Dakota State | 6‘-6“, 255 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 188
2021 Stats: GP 15, Rec 12, Yds 254, TD 4

Andrew Wilbar: Babicz is a transfer from Jacksonville State who grew up not too far from where I currently attend college. As a prospect, Babicz does a nice job finding the soft spots against zone defenses, and his impressive size makes it extremely difficult for a defensive back to cover him one-on-one. He was not used heavily in North Dakota State’s passing game in 2021, but he has displayed some receiving ability since his transfer. Perhaps he is one of those players who never get many opportunities at the collegiate level but shine in the pros. North Dakota State has certainly had past success when it comes to developing NFL-caliber tight ends. However, all we can go by are the flashes of ability he has displayed both as a receiver and as a blocker, but being such a small sample size, it is hard to get a real feel for what his NFL outlook is.

13. Connor Heyward (FB/TE) / Michigan State / 6’-0”, 230 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 204
2021 Stats: GP 12, Att 1, Yds 7, Ave 7.0, TD 0, Rec 35, Yds 326, Ave 9.3, TD 2.

Andrew Wilbar: The brother of Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Connor is a fairly athletic fullback who can be used as a runner, blocker, and receiver. Heyward was used as a running back his first four seasons at Michigan State, but he willingly changed positions and played the role of an H-back. He is listed as a tight end on the Spartans’ website, but he will most definitely be considered a fullback headed into the NFL. Heyward is a good blocker who, much like his brother, displays great effort and toughness on every down. Just to give insight as to how versatile he is, Michigan State used him as a kick returner his first two seasons in Lansing as well as making him a rotational running back. As a blocker, Heyward plays to the whistle and beats his opponents with physicality. I wanted Ben Mason in last year’s draft, but if the Steelers decide to part ways with Derek Watt, perhaps Cam Heyward will be the next Steeler to have a family member join him on the team.

14. Trae Barry | Boston College | 6‘-6“, 244 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 215
2021 Stats: GP 8, Rec 21, Yds 362, TD 4

Andrew Wilbar: Barry is a long-framed tight end who may have been in the day two discussion if not for past knee injuries. He lacks the bulk to be an effective blocker, although he has shown a willingness to improve in that area. His impressive catch radius and body control makes him a legitimate red-zone threat. Barry’s route-running could use some refinement, but he has the tough hands needed to haul in contested catches and the ball awareness needed to adjust to inaccurate passes. If he can test well both physically and athletically at his pro day, he could go as soon as early day three.

15. Jelani Woods | Virginia | 6‘-7“, 275 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 228
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 44, Yds 598, TD 8

Andrew Wilbar: Woods has a similar, but slightly more impressive, profile to Steelers tight end Zach Gentry when he was coming out of Michigan. Like Gentry, Woods is a former quarterback who changed positions and is still learning the position. His big frame allows him to box defenders out and haul in contested catches in the red zone. Unfortunately, he also shares similarities with Gentry when it comes to consistency. There are too many easy catches that he fails to bring in, and his technique is poor as a blocker, although he has shown improvement in that area. There is definitely some upside here, but considering his low floor, I would not consider him any earlier than the fifth or sixth round.

16. James Mitchell | Virginia Tech | 6‘-3“, 255 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 238
2021 Stats: GP 2, Rec 5, Yds 42, TD 1.
2020 Stats: GP 9, Rec 26, Yds 435, TD 4

Andrew Wilbar: Mitchell may not be the tallest tight end in this class, but he is a solid athlete who provides a lot of versatility. Virginia Tech moved him all over the place, aligning him as an H-back, putting him in the slot, and even bringing him in motion on jet sweeps. His ball skills and focus as a receiver can be evidenced by the large number of inaccurate or tipped passes he hauled in while at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, Mitchell’s 2021 campaign was brought to a sudden halt when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 against Middle Tennessee State. If his medicals come back clean, perhaps he sneaks into the late fourth or early fifth round, but I do not see him as anything more than a gadget guy.

17. Chigoziem Okonkwo | Maryland | 6‘-2“, 244 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 242
2021 Stats: GP 13, Rec 52, Yds 447, TD 5

Noah: After a season where he played in just one game and didn’t catch a single pass, Okonkwo had somewhat of a breakout year where he was a vital part to Maryland’s offense. He’s an uber-athletic prospect that can win up the seam or create yards after the catch. He may not be a great route runner but he’s solid and gets open enough for the quarterback to get the ball there. He also has great hands, making him a red zone threat despite his smaller frame. Okonkwo got to show off his athleticism as a freshman when he took two jet sweeps to the house. From a Steelers perspective, this is something that I think Matt Canada would have fun with which makes him an enticing late round prospect. I know there are other needs, but it could be worth it to add another tight end that can be effective in the passing game, along with Freiermuth.

18. Lucas Krull | Pittsburgh | 6‘-6“, 260 lbs

Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 311
2021 Stats: GP 13, Rec 38, Yds 451, TD 6

Jeremy Betz: After a solid 2021 season, Krull joins a list of mid-level TE talents with plenty of room to grow. Krull’s best attribute is the usage of his size to box out defenders and highpoint the football. Not a speed guy, so NFL teams will probably want to see him develop as a Red Zone threat and blocking specialist in 2 TE formations. Krull’s lack of bend and general stiffness at the point of attack hurt his stock, but if a coach can help him convert his size into power at the line of scrimmage, he may become a solid 2nd TE for a team with an entrenched starter.

Best of the Rest

19. Grant Calcaterra | SMU | 6‘-4“, 242 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 335
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 38, Yds 465, TD 4
Ryland B.: Calcaterra is an athletic receiving tight end who has had good college production. However, he has some injury issues and he lacks strength and form when it comes to blocking.

20. Peyton Hendershot | Indiana | 6‘-4“, 254 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 337
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 46, Yds 543, TD 4
Ryland B.: Hendershot is fairly athletic with some big play potential, although he offers little as a blocker. His past arrest, related to domestic violence, presents a red flag of massive proportions and should likely be the bigger story here.

21. Gerrit Prince | UAB | 6‘-5“, 240 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 362
2021 Stats: GP 13, Rec 36, Yds 699, TD 10
Jeremy Betz: A true project, the small-school standout was a big-play threat and solid route runner from the TE position. Needs to improve more as a physical presence, but he has athletic upside and could be an interesting UDFA or late rounder.

22. Nick Muse | South Carolina | 6‘-5“, 249 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 375
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 20, Yds 222, TD 2.
Ryland B.: Muse has decent size and is a solid pass-catcher with average, but not particularly explosive, athleticism. Like most of the tight ends this low on the list, he has a ways to go in terms of blocking.

23. Teagan Quitoriano | Oregon State | 6‘-6“, 259 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 383
2021 Stats: GP 11, Rec 19, Yds 214, TD 3.
Ryland B.: Quitoriano has great NFL size and was primarily used as a blocker in OSU’s run-heavy offense. When used as a receiver Quitoriano showed potential, but his lack of great strength or speed limits his ceiling.

24. Chase Allen | Iowa State | 6‘-7“, 250 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 399
2021 Stats: GP 10, Rec 26, Yds 284, TD 2.
Ryland B.: Allen has good measurables but a fairly slim frame, and he’s not very strong at the point of attack when blocking. He isn’t a particularly dynamic receiver but can be a reliable contributor in the passing game.

Which tight ends intrigue you the most in the 2022 NFL Draft? Which tight end do you think makes the most sense for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!