With no 2021 NFL Combine, at least in the format we’ve become accustomed to, the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl may well be the most important event for this crop of NFL Draft prospects. As players, NFL personnel, and media prepare to descend on Mobile, Alabama, we examine how the Senior Bowl tight ends stack up against each other.
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Senior Bowl context
Before ranking the 2021 Senior Bowl tight ends, it’s worth highlighting the impact the event can have on a player’s stock. The importance of the event was well demonstrated by the 2020 Senior Bowl tight end class. Dayton’s Adam Trautman parlayed an impressive performance in Mobile to be drafted by the New Orleans Saints.
Furthermore, Josiah Deguara, Brycen Hopkins, Harrison Bryant, and Stephen Sullivan were all drafted following their appearance at the Senior Bowl. Deguara was the third tight end drafted behind Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet and UCLA’s Devin Asiasi.
It is also worth understanding what scouts are looking for at the tight end position. A successful NFL tight end must possess suddenness, pass-catching ability, and blocking ability. Even in this excellent tight end class, it’s rare to find a player that possesses all three.
Ranking the top tight ends at the Senior Bowl
1) Hunter Long, Boston College
There can be no doubt at all about Hunter Long’s pass-catching ability. The former Boston College tight end snagged the sixth most receptions in the ACC in 2020. Over the course of his career for the Eagles, Long has amassed 1,297 receiving yards on 89 receptions. Additionally, he has 9 career touchdowns, including 5 TDs in his last season.
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Long also possesses the best blocking ability of the Senior Bowl tight ends. At 6’5″ and 253 pounds, Long uses his frame and physicality to good effect as a blocker. In addition to his physicality, he flashes solid technique. As a result, Long is probably the best all-around prospect of the Senior Bowl tight ends.
The one area of concern for scouts when assessing Long will be his suddenness. He isn’t the most athletic tight end of the group. Therefore he relies more on his size to win rather than using athleticism to create separation. That will be a consideration when he is being evaluated by the NFL personnel in Mobile.
2) Quintin Morris, Bowling Green
As executive director Jim Nagy mentioned when announcing the Senior Bowl tight ends roster alignment, Quintin Morris is a player who can see his NFL Draft stock soar from his performance in Mobile. The Bowling Green product is unheralded due to where he plays his football but should prove to be the ultimate example of the “scout the player, not the helmet” mantra.
His statistical production in 2020 isn’t going to blow you away. Morris has just 20 receptions for 248 yards and didn’t find the end zone once. However, last season was the first that he played the tight end position. Prior to that, Morris had three years of experience at wide receiver, racking up 516 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns in 2018.
Morris is athletic, reliable, and — importantly for a small school prospect — proven against top competition. Despite Bowling Green suffering a heavy loss, Morris still put up 92 yards against a tough Notre Dame defense in 2019.
Given his relative inexperience at the position, the blocking aspect of the tight end position requires work. However, at 248 pounds, he is better built for that work than some of the other 6’4″ Senior Bowl tight ends.
3) Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
After three years at Temple, Kenny Yeboah came to life and into the national consciousness with his transfer to Ole Miss. During his four years in Philadelphia, Yeboah secured 538 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. In just one year in Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense, he equaled that touchdown total and nearly surpassed his receiving yards total.
His pass-catching ability was clearly on show in 2020. Yeboah helped Ole Miss destroy the Alabama defense with a career-high 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. His impressive 19.4 yards per catch ranked second in the SEC. Yeboah showed this year that he can be a red zone threat and win in contested catch situations.
However, Yeboah is lacking in blocking ability. He doesn’t show much strength when blocking, and there are question marks over his technique.
4) Noah Gray, Duke
Duke’s Noah Gray has been receiving some buzz since the announcement of the Senior Bowl tight ends, and it’s easy to see why. The former high school quarterback displays excellent route running and a strong, reliable pair of hands. He has the experience, too, playing 35 games for Duke while amassing 948 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns for the Blue Devils.
Gray also has familiarity lining up in multiple positions from his time at Duke. He is set to build on that experience at the Senior Bowl, with Jim Nagy saying he will see reps at fullback. Hopefully, that will allow Gray to show he can bring physicality in blocking. Although he has shown a willingness in this area at Duke, he has lacked the physicality to be effective in this area of the tight end position.
5) Kylen Granson, SMU
The most productive of the Senior Bowl tight ends, Kylen Granson is also the shortest and slightest of the group. At 6’3″ and 235 pounds, there are obvious concerns over his ability to be physical as an inline blocker. He also has little experience of this from his time at Rice or SMU.
Granson excels as a receiver, almost inevitably having spent two years of his collegiate career as a WR for Rice. In SMU’s pass-happy system, Granson has become a productive, reliable, and athletic pass-catching weapon. He has snagged 14 touchdowns and 1,257 receiving yards in the last two years.
If he can showcase physicality beyond his slight frame, Granson could be a riser in this tight end class.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network, focusing on NFL Draft, general NFL, and NFL fantasy football. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.