Cade Otton, Washington TE | NFL Draft Scouting Report

The Washington Huskies have sneakily become a quasi-factory at the tight end position, and 2022 NFL Draft TE prospect Cade Otton might be next in line. Their success developing tight ends began at the turn of the century, when Ernie Conwell, Cam Cleeland, and Jerramy Stevens all served as starters for their respective teams. Decades later, the Huskies’ TE legacy continues with players like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Will Dissly, and Drew Sample. How does Otton’s scouting report compare?

Cade Otton NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Tight End
  • School: Washington
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 240 pounds

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Cade Otton Scouting Report

Washington hasn’t developed enough top-end TE talent to be dubbed “TE U,” but there’s a definite trend in Seattle. Since 2014, three Washington tight ends have been drafted in the top four rounds, and several others have garnered traction as undrafted free agents. None have been uber-productive as starters to this point. However, with the right opportunity, Otton might be able to change that.

Otton could have entered the 2021 NFL Draft but instead chose to return for his redshirt-senior season, aiming to claim a Pac-12 title and more with his teammates. What makes Otton such an intriguing player? Let’s dive in.

Otton’s athletic profile

Athleticism is incredibly important for tight ends — more so than most other positions. There’s an athletic threshold below which tight ends consistently struggle to produce at the NFL level. Luckily for Otton, while he’s not an elite athlete, he seems to clear this threshold comfortably.

The Washington TE stands out with a reasonably long 6’5″, 240-pound frame. He possesses strong short-area burst for his size, and he has the natural quickness necessary to make sharp direction changes with relative ease. Additionally, he can use this short-area burst to stack blocks and build momentum as a utility player. He’s also able to build speed quickly after changing directions with above-average explosiveness.

Otton’s athletic traits are most evident in the route-running phase. The Washington TE has definite lateral twitch as a route runner, and he’s a smooth, natural mover who combines motions easily, sinking his hips in and out of breaks. With this mobility, Otton can also be an effective lead blocker, and his speed and length provide adequate conduits.

Among other things, Otton has nice closing burst at the catch point. He also flashes quick footwork at his route stems to effectively channel his athletic traits and shift directions quickly.

Execution beyond the physical traits

Otton’s athletic floor is more than serviceable. However, even if it weren’t, he’d still have plenty of suitors thanks to his operational traits. Otton shows a lot of promise mentally, both as a receiver and as a blocker.

In the receiving game, he actively utilizes head fakes to open spaces as a route runner. He also uses his footwork to halt his momentum and sit in open areas. He employs varying stride lengths at different stages of routes, and he understands how to use his physicality and leverage to fight through contact at the stem.

Otton’s prowess as a receiver doesn’t stop there. The Washington TE has the spatial awareness to stay open in the flats, and he’s willing to lower his shoulder and grind out extra yards. Otton is tough at the catch point. He uses his length and smooth contortion ability to corral passes safely, and he’s unfazed in tight spaces. He catches passes while anticipating contact. Rarely is he skittish or unfocused.

Even in clutch situations, Otton’s hands are supremely reliable. He guides the ball in and secures it quickly, and his hands are strong in 50-50 territory. On top of his receiving ability, Otton also shows off surprising blocking utility for his size. He brings an intense, combative attitude as a blocker, exuding effort and urgency. Furthermore, he stays true to his assignments and flashes the torso flexibility necessary to absorb power.

It also must be noted that Otton is versatile. He can line up in-line, in the slot, or outside. That flexibility only compounds his value.

Areas for improvement

As good as Otton is, the Washington TE can improve in several areas. Most notably, his blocking ability is somewhat diluted by his size. At 240 pounds, he’s relatively slight compared to most defensive linemen. Thus, he doesn’t offer a ton of power as a blocker, and he can sometimes lack control due to strength mismatches. His extensions aren’t incredibly forceful, and he can get outmuscled easily. Additionally, his balance is also inconsistent. His lacking frame density hurts him here as well.

As a receiver, Otton is strong but is not immune to criticism. He sometimes rounds off his breaks, minimizing separation potential. Additionally, he can make his footwork more consistently sudden and abrupt. Otton can stand to refine his route tree a bit more, even if it’s already relatively advanced.

Going further into Otton’s receiving ability, the Washington TE can get better depth when sneaking behind linebackers. He can also cut down on wasted motion at times. While many of his qualms are operational, however, there’s also the issue of Otton’s upside. While he’s a good athlete, he doesn’t have elite long speed or sheer explosiveness. He isn’t a very dynamic run-after-catch threat, and his vertical athleticism remains ambiguous as well.

Otton’s NFL Draft scouting report overview

Ideally, Otton will weigh a bit more heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. However, as it stands, he’s already a strong tight end prospect with a scouting report that boasts plenty of positives. Otton is a good athlete with exceptional awareness and urgency, and he’s also an exceptional route runner given his experience level. He can still improve, but he has the tools to get open all across the field, and he can also convert in contested situations.

On the surface, the biggest issue with Otton might revolve around his blocking. That said, even though Otton is a bit light physically, he still did enough as a blocker on tape to warrant confidence. He has the attitude and athleticism to be serviceable in that phase. And as a receiver, Otton boasts many of the necessary traits to be a solid starter at the NFL level.

Cade Otton’s Player Profile

Watching Otton’s tape, the Washington TE simply exudes “football guy.” He’s big and reasonably athletic but also tirelessly competitive and energetic. His blocking attitude emanates team-first energy, an energy instilled in Otton in his high school days.

Otton played high school football at Turnwater High School in Washington, coached by his grandfather, Sid Otton. There, he played tight end, linebacker, and long snapper, providing value wherever his team needed it. Ultimately, Otton’s highest value came at tight end. There, he was a historic producer for his school. As a senior, he put up 39 catches for 733 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Otton’s production put him on the radar of Power Five schools, but the 6’5″, 220-pound player’s range was largely limited to the western United States. Rated as a three-star recruit, Otton had offers from BYU, Nevada, Nebraska, Oregon State, and Wyoming. Ultimately, the chance to play in-state for the Washington Huskies was too enticing to pass up.

Cade Otton’s career at Washington

Otton redshirted his freshman year, remaining on the bench during that time. The Washington TE worked hard in the weight room and managed to earn starting reps as a redshirt freshman in 2018. That year, Otton started 10 of 14 games played, logging 13 catches for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In 2019, Otton started all 13 games for the Huskies. The Washington TE saw an uptick in production, amassing 344 yards and 2 touchdowns on 32 catches. Expectations were sky-high for the productive playmaker in 2020, but COVID-19 clouded the season’s outlook, particularly for the Pac-12.

Luckily for Otton, the Pac-12 ended up instituting a shortened season, in which Washington played four games. The Huskies went 3-1, and Otton put up his most efficient season yet. In those four games, Otton had 18 catches for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 catches and 64.5 yards per game. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a result.

Cade Otton’s NFL Draft ascension

Looking at the per-game metrics from last season, Otton very well could have entered the 2021 NFL Draft. He would have saved a year of wear and tear on his body, and he would have potentially commanded a mid-round billing. But Otton chose to return to Washington. In Otton’s own words, via his Twitter account:

“I’m declaring … That the Dawgs are coming for it ALL in 2021, and I can’t wait to be apart of it. GO DAWGS.”

Otton is already an NFL-ready prospect. He’s reasonably athletic, tough, and incredibly versatile. He can get open, make contested catches, and block on both passing and running downs. The ability is all there, and if Otton can put together one dominant full season with those traits, he could potentially crack the top 50.

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Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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