The tight end position is a bit of an enigma. They are deployed in a plethora of different ways and come in all shapes and sizes. But, most importantly, there is only a handful of TEs that feel all that relevant in the NFL. Outside of that group (Kelce, Kittle, Waller, Andrews), most are just names that fit a specific role within an offense. Virginia’s NFL Draft prospect, tight end Tony Poljan, fits a role at the next level, but he may need a strong week in Mobile to be drafted come April.
Going undrafted is not a career death sentence — and not being a high pick at tight end certainly isn’t. Kittle was a fifth-round pick. Kelce was a third-round pick. Waller was a sixth-round pick (who had character concerns coming out but would not have gone in the first round regardless).
Poljan is none of these fellows and never will be. The point is, tight end specifically is a position where teams can find NFL starters on Day 3. Who is the NFL Draft prospect Tony Poljan, and where does he go in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Tony Poljan NFL Draft Profile
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Weight: 265 pounds
- Position: Tight End
- School: Virginia
- Current Year: Senior
Like so many tight ends and wide receivers, Poljan played quarterback in high school. He amassed 6,090 yards passing, 3,118 yards rushing, and 58 passing and 58 rushing touchdowns. The Detroit Free Press ranked him as the 17th-best recruit in Michigan.
He was the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015. However, unlike other tight end prospects, Poljan did not immediately make the transition to the position. No, in fact, Tony Poljan has only been a full-time TE for two years, which makes his NFL Draft evaluation tricky. For two years at Central Michigan, he played quarterback. Thus, the Virginia tight end’s production is split between two schools.
Poljan was productive in his one year at Virginia
Poljan’s 38 receptions by a TE ranked seventh in the nation during this topsy-turvy college season. His 6 receiving touchdowns put him eighth in the program’s history for career touchdown receptions by a Virginia tight end. If you aren’t painting the picture yourself, tight ends in college don’t really produce all that much, historically.
His usage was quite traditional for the most part. He positioned in-line on most occasions, only widening out to the slot or numbers in obvious passing downs or when they got a mismatch with him outside the numbers for a jump ball. Poljan was even featured on NFL Live’s famous “You Got Mossed” segment for his touchdown grab against Miami. He will be hoping to showcase those skills at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Analyzing Poljan’s draft profile
Tony Poljan is an admirable NFL Draft project player who could very well round into a good second tight end on an NFL team. And there is a chance with some fine-tuning that he could end up as a starter. He’s the ideal candidate to be that traditional player who can stretch the seam on occasion and be a menace on third downs running option routes.
As a run blocker, he displays a calm and cool attitude getting to the point of attack and then good leg drive after that. He stops his feet too often upon contact, but his ability to anchor and drive given his elevated frame is impressive.
For a former quarterback, it is refreshing to see his attitude as a pass protector. The Virginia tight end survives physically against speedier left defensive ends and uses his length well to run defenders up the arc and away from his quarterback. When a defender is lined up directly his opposite, he displays a nice strike that’s surprisingly accurate and an impressive anchor for someone so new to the position.
As a receiver, he uses his length to his advantage against smaller receivers. Tony Poljan’s catch radius is unbelievable for an NFL Draft prospect, given his wingspan and height. He will be a tough cover if he learns to better shield the ball inside his frame and away from defensive backs. He flashes a decent “dead leg” as a route runner that gains him separation against man coverage on square route breaks. Poljan also uses his frame well to create small gaps of separation.
What are the potential issues with Poljan?
Unfortunately, for all of Poljan’s production in 2020, he should have had quite a bit more. Catching the football is an important piece of the tight end puzzle — and it’s his biggest struggle.
He makes some extraordinary plays on the football. However, his consistency both in open and contested situations leaves everybody wanting more. If he cannot improve his consistency at the catch point, he does not stand a chance at playing any real role at the next level. His hands aren’t natural to the position, and it shows when he goes to tuck passes after completion or attempting to shield his body from an upcoming blow.
The Virginia tight end also isn’t necessarily what one could call explosive. Imagine if the Eiffel Tower were on legs. You can imagine it would look quite lumbering and top-heavy. His lack of athleticism almost assures he will never be an elite playmaker at the position, but it shouldn’t stop him from finding the field as a pro altogether.
Tony Poljan’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Blocking tight ends fit anywhere and everywhere. There aren’t many at his size excelling as a blocker, so he should have added value there. If he can develop into a seam stretcher, he might round into a starter if his hands improve. But for playing time’s sake, a team that runs a heavy dose of 12 personnel would best fit him.
Additionally, for a team like the Las Vegas Raiders, whose tight end is a receiver, using Poljan for in-line work could be a beneficial landing spot as well. He should also get a chance to play on punt and kick blocking teams given his length. If Poljan improves technically as a blocker and adds a bit more strength to his frame, he could round into a fine blocking tight end.