2021 NFL Draft: The top 10 tight end rankings

After an abysmal tight end class in 2020, the 2021 tight end group looks to be one of the best in years. Matt Valdovinos, PFN draft analyst, is breaking down his top 10 rankings.

The tight end group is one of the 2021 NFL Draft class’ strongest units. It’s currently a three-way race in the rankings for TE1. Three very different players, all with the ability to be first-round selections. After that trio, there are some quality depth players that should be productive rookies.

Only one tight end went in the first 50 selections in 2020, but we should expect at least four to be gone at that point in 2021. These rankings are liable to change considering that the 2021 Draft is still 11 months away. However, I believe the top three players in this class will be the consensus for nearly all evaluators come next April.

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The top 10 tight ends in the 2021 NFL Draft class

10) Quintin Morris, Bowling Green

Quintin Morris is another underrated prospect, but perhaps the lack of attention stems more from where he plays than how he’s played. At Bowling Green, Morris has been one of the MAC’s top receiving weapons over the past two seasons. With a good blend of size and athletic ability, Morris’ concentration at the catch point is arguably the best in the class. Playing at a smaller school, it’s good to see him dominate the competition.

9) Peyton Hendershot, Indiana

After showing impressive chemistry with Peyton Ramsey last season, Hendershot was one of the most productive tight ends in the Big 10. He has soft hands, is a willing blocker, and requisite athletic ability to bust up the seam. A well-rounded player who profiles as a quality TE2.

8) Nick Muse, South Carolina

Former stand-out at William and Mary, Nick Muse transferred to South Carolina this past season. His production was modest last year and his season was cut short due to injury, but he showed some things I really liked on film. Muse has a strong size at 6’4″, 250 pounds, and is a powerful athlete. With good hands and a threat after the catch, I think Muse has a very strong chance to be a big riser during the 2020 season.

7) Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State

A former four-star prospect, Jeremy Ruckert’s production has been underwhelming since suiting up for the Buckeyes. However, his talent is undeniable. A number of flash plays show you the type of player Ruckert could be if he was given consistent opportunities. Ohio State has been loaded in the receiver room, causing the tight ends to function as hot reads and emergency options. However, with multiple receivers leaving for the NFL over the past two seasons, Ruckert may finally be able to break through as a top option in the OSU offense.

6) Kylen Granson, SMU

Kylen Granson transferred to SMU after two seasons at Rice University. After sitting the 2018 season, his 2019 season was a true coming-out party. Posting over 700 yards and nine touchdowns, Granson should have another strong season for the Mustangs this season. An elite athlete, Granson separates at will and is best suited as a big slot. He lacks size, which may limit his versatility, but his receiving upside is undeniable.

5) Matt Bushman, BYU

Matt Bushman returned to BYU for his senior season after a very productive junior year. Bushman is a well-rounded player who, despite lacking strong physical abilities, has become one of the nation’s most consistent weapons. Bushman has produced over 500 yards in each of his first three seasons. His ability to run crisp routes, find the opening in zone defenses and make a play after the catch-all make him a high floor prospect. He’ll likely never be one of the leagues elite tight ends but you know what you get when drafting him.

4) Charlie Kolar, Iowa State

One of the most productive tight ends in the country last season, Charlie Kolar should continue to grow with a very young and talented Iowa State offense. His rapport with Cyclones QB Brock Purdy is already strong, and they should continue to grow together as they both are expected to be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Kolar is a well-rounded player who operates best off the line of scrimmage. He lacks elite athletic ability but has the ability to separate over the middle of the field.

3) Brevin Jordan, Miami

The most well rounded of the top three, Brevin Jordan is a better blocker than Pitts, yet a superior receiving threat than Freiermuth. He’s not elite in either facet, but above average in both. Jordan’s well-rounded talents could be the driving force for a team to make him the first tight end selected in 2021. Jordan started the 2019 season strongly, but the Miami offense struggled to move the ball to do a poor rushing attack and even poorer quarterback play.

2) Kyle Pitts, Florida

My current guess is that Florida’s Kyle Pitts will be the consensus TE1 come draft time. He possesses the highest receiving upside in the class and is a true vertical threat. However, of the top three tight ends in the class, Pitts is the worst blocker. His receiving abilities are undeniable and are reminiscent of players like O.J. Howard and Evan Engram in college. Pitts has the upside to be a 1,000-yard receiver in the NFL if utilized in the right offense. I’d expect Pitts to lead all tight ends in receiving yards this season.

1) Pat Freiermuth, Penn State

Pat Freiermuth was dubbed “Baby Gronk” after his dominant season at Penn State last year. Freiermuth was technically eligible to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore and would have been the obvious TE1. However, he chose to return to school for the 2020 season and will look to improve on his strong end to the 2019 year.

Freiermuth is your prototypical, in-line tight end. He is a dominant blocker, has strong hands, and is devastating to try and tackle. He’s not an elite athlete but has more than enough speed to break the big play. Freiermuth comes in as my top-rated tight end because of his versatility. His dominant blocking lets him play both on the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. Meanwhile, his athletic ability and receiving skills make him a weapon lined up as a big slot or even out wide.

Honorable Mentions: Brant Kuithe, Utah. Pro Wells, TCU. Nick Eubanks, Michigan.

The 2021 tight end class is head and shoulders better than the 2020 class, and it may be even more impressive than the 2019 class. The class’ top-end talent is driven by the top three players: Freiermuth, Pitts, and Jordan. All three are first-round talents, and there is no wrong order when ranking the three. After them, there’s a slight drop off in talent but quality depth still remains.

If players like Ruckert and Muse can take the next step in their careers, the 2021 tight end class could be one that produces a massive amount of quality starters. Something the NFL desperately needs, as the talent at the position is the worst it’s been in some time. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in three years, three of the league’s top five tight ends hailed from this class.

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