BOSTON (CBS) — Tight end is one of the biggest needs on the Patriots roster, and one the team is expected to address at this week’s NFL Draft. It was a position they should have addressed last year, when the draft featured several top-tier tight ends, but neglected to do so.
The 2020 crop of tight ends aren’t as appetizing as those who went in 2019, so the Patriots will be at a bit of a disadvantage. Mix in their lack of a second-round pick, and they may need to get creative if there is an early run at the position.
In their Sunday night appearance on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final, ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss and WEEI’s Christian Fauria — who knows a thing of two about playing tight end for Bill Belichick — shared their thoughts on which prospects at the position would fit in New England’s offense. Reiss doesn’t think highly rated tight end Cole Kmet, who had six touchdowns for Notre Dame last season, is worth a first-round pick. But he could be an intriguing option if the Patriots trade down from the No. 23 overall selection.
And Kmet isn’t the only one who would make sense in the second round, should the Patriots trade out of the first round.
“If the Patriots do choose to move back, and they’re focusing on tight end, [Kmet] is one name to keep an eye on. Adam Trautman of Dayton is a small school prospect who people look at and say he could be the tight end with the highest upside in the second-to-third-round range,” said Reiss. “I know the Patriots took a real close look at him down at the Senior Bowl.”
Trautman has had a fascinating pre-draft process, ranging anywhere from a Day 3 pick to being the top-rated tight end in the draft. He had a monster season for the Flyers in FCS play, hauling in 70 receptions and 14 touchdowns in 2019.
There’s a chance that if Belichick really wants to address tight end and doesn’t feel comfortable waiting, he could take either Kmet or Trautman in the first round. But Fauria, who won a pair of Super Bowls in his four years catching passes from Tom Brady, has another small-school option that the Patriots may be able to land with a Day 3 pick: Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant.
“[Draft experts] call him ‘Baby Gronk.’ I’ve watched a bunch of his games and he’s 100 percent a flex tight end; he’s not an in-line tight end. If you look at Bill’s criteria for tight ends, [Bryant] fits the bill,” said Fauria. “He’s not soft. He’s lean, not nearly as thick and strong as Gronk, but he’s real feisty. He’s a good blocker on the second level. On the first level with defensive ends, he’ll need some help with those guys. But that second level, he’ll fight with those guys.
“And he catches everything. Everything,” Fauria emphasized. “He’s not really fast, but as far as a possession, situational tight end/receiver, he’s a good option.”
Bryant put up big numbers over his four years with the Owls, hauling in 148 catches for 2,137 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The 2020 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night with the first round, the second and third rounds will be held on Friday night, and the final four rounds will be held on Saturday. The Patriots have 12 selections in this year’s draft.