Although Kyle Pitts was one of the top players in this year’s draft, the tight end position has been relatively disappointing for two consecutive seasons. With a new draft cycle comes new hope, and the 2022 class has promising players at the position. Who are the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft?
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These are my very early rankings of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft class. The rankings are compiled from observations made while watching players in the 2021 class and early adventures into 2022 summer scouting. As such, they’ll be subject to change throughout the summer and 2021 college football season. However, it presents an early look at the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.
1) Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
Considered by some to be “just” a big wide receiver when he arrived at College Station, the Texas A&M tight end has developed into easily one of the best in college football. After a successful freshman season in 2019, Wydermyer was dominant in 2020. He snagged 46 receptions, 506 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns, with his play earning recognition as a Mackey Award finalist.
Wydermyer is possibly the most well put together of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing in at 265 pounds, he is an absolute physical specimen. Last season, he demonstrated that he could put that frame to use as a physical blocker, which hadn’t been apparent as a freshman.
What had been clear early on was his ability as a pass catcher. Wydermyer has excellent hands, displays excellent route running, and can put his height to exceptional use as a threat in the back of the end zone.
2) Cade Otton, Washington
There’s an old expression that goes, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” and it may as well have been written for Washington Huskies tight end Cade Otton. Although 6’5″ and 240 pounds is hardly small, Otton isn’t the biggest tight end in the class, but you wouldn’t know that by watching him play.
He’s as physical as they come as a blocker and isn’t afraid to put himself in the thick of it down in the trenches. Additionally, he flashes solid blocking technique — something you would expect from the son of a coach.
His game is more than just blocking, however. Otton showcases impressive route-running ability and a reliable pair of hands. His numbers from 2020 — 18 receptions, 258 yards, 3 touchdowns — may not be spectacular, but they all lead the team. Furthermore, his 14.3 yards per catch were amongst the highest of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
3) Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft, Charlie Kolar could have been lining up for an NFL team this summer. Instead, he’s returned to Iowa State for his fifth season with the Cyclones. According to a story in USA Today, he made his decision to return on the flip of a coin. Ironically, putting his faith in a coin may lead to Kolar making himself a little more money as one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Despite having surgery prior to the most disrupted college football season in recent memory, Kolar was one of the most productive tight ends in the class last season. He secured 44 receptions for 591 yards and 7 touchdowns. His 17 career touchdowns are more than any other tight end in the class.
Meanwhile, he has amassed 1,425 total receiving yards. His strong hands and ability to win in contested-catch situations help overcome a lack of top-end speed. Moreover, he has demonstrated he can be proficient as a blocker.
Playing for an ascending Iowa State team, there’s every reason to believe that this could be Kolar’s best season yet.
4) Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
Coastal Carolina was one of the most entertaining teams to watch in college football last season. Their spread-option offense took the football world by storm, and one of the key components of it was Isaiah Likely.
The 6’4″, 245-pound tight end led the team with an astonishing 20 yards per reception. He also tallied 601 receiving yards and snagged 5 touchdowns. During his career, the athletic pass catcher has totaled 74 receptions, 1,138 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns. He has surprising pace for his size, exhibiting the ability to take the top off of a defense. One of his greatest assets is his route-running prowess.
Furthermore, Likely has proven he can be physical both as a blocker and when breaking tackles. If he delivers another season similar to his 2020 campaign, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
5) Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
Although former Wisconsin head coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez departs from the Badgers later this year, his grandson — tight end Jake Ferguson — will continue the family tradition at the program. That isn’t the only tradition Ferguson is set to continue. He’s the latest Wisconsin player at the tight end position to excel at run blocking. If you want to succeed as a tight end for the Badgers, you have to be able to impact the ground game, and this is Ferguson’s calling card.
That’s not to say that the 6’5″, 246-pound tight end can’t make an impact in the passing game, too. Although he only registered 305 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2020, he was the second-best receiver on the team. Over his career, he has totaled 1,168 yards and 10 touchdowns. His return for the 2021 college football season is a huge boost for Wisconsin football. It could also propel him into the top 100 players of the 2022 NFL Draft.
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What other tight ends could improve their draft stock?
6) Brant Kuithe, Utah
Another tight end who opted to return for another go-around rather than head to the NFL is Utah’s Brant Kuithe. Amongst the disruption of the 2020 college football season, he recorded a disappointing season compared to his previous outings. He struggled to log 160 yards off of 17 receptions without finding the end zone.
That was in stark contrast to his 2019 season, where he emerged as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the nation. Kuithe tallied 602 receiving yards at an incredible 17.7 yards per catch while also securing 6 touchdowns. In addition, he rushed for 3 scores and 102 yards on just 6 carries.
In many respects, Kuithe is an outlier as one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft. At 6’2″ and 230 pounds, he is one of the smaller players at the position. Still, few possess his rare athleticism. He’s got enough speed to create a mismatch against linebackers while being strong enough to win in contested-catch battles in the secondary.
7) Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
On an Ohio State team beaming with talent, tight end Jeremy Ruckert has flown under the radar. Underutilized and underrated, Ruckert revealed his talent towards the end of last season. With fellow tight end Luke Farrell departed to the NFL, Ruckert has the opportunity to parlay that late-season performance into a bigger role in the year ahead. In the process, he can cement himself as one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.
That late-season performance came on the biggest stage. Against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs, Ruckert averaged 18.3 yards per reception on his way to 2 touchdowns and 55 yards. Even in the championship defeat to Alabama, his one-handed 36-yard catch was a highlight.
Ruckert should see a significant uptick in snaps this coming season, giving him ample opportunity to show off his pass-catching skill set. He will also look to put his 6’5″, 253-pound frame to good use as a blocker.
8) Trey McBride, Colorado State
A two-year starter for Colorado State, Trey McBride has all the attributes to be a successful pass catcher in the NFL. Additionally, his strength allows him to be a solid blocker. At 260 pounds, he is one of the sturdiest tight ends in the class, although his technique as a blocker is still a work in progress.
With impressive athleticism and the strength to make plays after the catch, McBride was a big-play threat in a small window of opportunity last season. In just four games, he secured 330 receiving yards at 15 yards per catch while also contributing 4 touchdowns. With a full season to display his body of work, McBride should be receiving attention as one of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
9) Josh Whyle, Cincinnati
Having made just two catches as a freshman, Cincinnati’s tight end enjoyed a breakout year last season. The 6’6″ pass catcher secured 353 yards at 12.6 yards per catch while adding 6 touchdowns to his résumé. One of those touchdown grabs came against Georgia — an insane diving catch coming back to the ball, giving the Bearcats a lead going into the half.
With Desmond Ridder returning to Cincinnati, Whyle has a great opportunity to build on last season’s success. He owns incredible upside as a receiver, with quality hands and unexpected speed. There are multiple examples on film where you presume the play will come to an end, but he just hits the burners, often resulting in huge gains.
At present, his frame is too slight to offer much as a blocker, but the upside as a receiving threat is just too great to ignore.
10) Will Mallory, Miami (FL)
The Miami Hurricanes have a reputation of being “Tight End U,” with 14 players at the position drafted to the NFL since the turn of the century. Moreover, five of those selections have been in the first round. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to see Miami featured in this list of the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft.
With Brevin Jordan departed to the NFL, Will Mallory is set to be the next man off the tight end conveyor belt. Even playing second string to Jordan, he proved to be a big-play receiving threat. Last year alone, he averaged 15 yards per catch and found the end zone 4 times. During his career, he has tallied 659 yards at 15.3 yards per catch and 7 total touchdowns.
A solid all-around tight end prospect, Mallory is physical as a blocker in addition to his pass-catching ability.
Honorable mention for the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft
Braden Golloway, Clemson; Austin Stogner, Oklahoma; Trae Barry, Jacksonville State; Peyton Hendershot, Indiana; James Mitchell, Virginia Tech, Teagan Quitoriano, Oregon State; Nick Muse, South Carolina; Cole Turner, Nevada; Chase Allen, Iowa State; Greg Dulcich, UCLA.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.