It’s ok to admit it: we were spoiled by the 2019 NFL Draft’s tight end class. From T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant to Foster Moreau and Trevon Wesco, 2019’s tight end class was phenomenal and deep. The 2020 NFL Draft group? Not so much. Many viewed Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet and Penn State’s Pat Friermuth as the top tight ends in this class, but both elected to return to school for one more season. With no clear name at the top, several prospects have the chance to stake their claim as the top tight end prospect in the 2020 draft class. These are the tight ends who have the most to gain during bowl season.
Note: Washington’s Hunter Bryant has decided to sit for the bowl game against Boise State, making him ineligible for this list.
Wisconsin Jake Ferguson vs. Oregon, Rose Bowl
Jake Ferguson is an oft-forgotten name due to the style of offense that Wisconsin plays. They aren’t known for their passing attack, and so Ferguson doesn’t put up eye-catching numbers and statistics. Only a redshirt sophomore, Ferguson is just scratching the surface of his potential. He has shown solid athletic ability in the open field to be an effective receiver at the next level and blocks reasonably well, but is better off as a receiver at the moment. With all eyes on the Rose Bowl and facing a talented Oregon defense, Ferguson could catch serious momentum to become a top NFL Draft selection in April.
Iowa State Charlie Kolar vs. Notre Dame, Camping World Bowl
Another redshirt sophomore, Kolar is another dynamic receiving option for teams to consider. Standing at 6’6 and 252 pounds, Kolar is a fluid athlete who has top-notch hands, and he uses his frame well when attacking the ball and plucking it out of the air. Kolar has a knack for making clutch play after clutch play, with 32 of his 48 catches on the season going for first downs. His tape against Oklahoma and Kansas was top-notch. He’ll be squaring off against a Notre Dame defense that allows the third-fewest passing yards this season. A big game against this defense would give Kolar serious momentum going into the NFL Draft.
FAU Harrison Bryant vs. SMU, Boca Raton Bowl
Finally, a senior prospect on this list. Harrison Bryant has been a well-known name for a few seasons now and just recently won the John Mackey Award for the best tight end in the country. The Owls use Bryant in a variety of roles, and I’ve been particularly impressed with his blocking ability. He isn’t the most physically gifted player in terms of size or speed, but he displays great hands and good open-field ability with 11 broken tackles. SMU is a high-octane offense, and the Owls will need Bryant’s playmaking ability to keep up. With a great showing in the bowl season, Bryant can emerge as a top tight end prospect in the offseason.
BYU Matt Bushman vs. Hawaii, Hawaii Bowl
I’ve been a fan of Bushman this season since I saw him go up against the stacked Utah defense at the beginning of this season. He lines up in different spots in the formation but is at his best when used downfield, where he uses his size and length to box out defenders and secure catches. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline says that Bushman is expected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, and if he works out well at the Combine, Bushman could see his stock rise.
WMU Giovanni Ricci vs. Western Kentucky, First Responder Bowl
A Western Michigan tight end squaring off against Western Kentucky doesn’t seem like a top-tier matchup, but this is a matchup I have a feeling scouts will keep an eye on. Ricci was a Mackey Award semi-finalist who is on his way to the Shrine Game. He isn’t a huge target at 6’3 and 240 pounds, but he’s one of the most dynamic athletes in this tight end class. Western Kentucky ranks 33rd in passing yards allowed, and Ricci will be key for the Broncos if they want to win this game. A big performance here and a great offseason could shoot Ricci into the top four rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.