2022 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Tight Ends

Trey McBride, Colorado State

Colorado State’s Trey McBride is 2022’s top tight end on most boards, and that’s a claim that I can’t argue with all that much. McBride has a great frame for the position, and all his physical measurable check out at the NFL level. Colorado State had McBride doing quite a lot for them during his time there, which made him a polished product both as an in-line blocker and as a pass-catcher. McBride is explosive for a tight end when the ball is in his hands, and he has the ability to turn upfield and get those extra yards. All in all, I’m quite impressed with his game.

Where I see downsides for McBride are with things that he simply can’t help. For starters, McBride’s just not that fast, running a 4.90 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. McBride also isn’t helping himself in that regard, as one of the common complains in his game is that he tends to slow himself down while tracking the ball. I still like McBride a lot, but I’m not sure that he’d be my top choice at the tight end position in this class, simply on personal preference.

Pro Comparison: NFL scouts seem to see a lot of Austin Hooper in McBride, and I agree. That being said, I think he can be just a bit better as a pass-catcher than Hooper is right now.

Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

Isaiah Likely is a prospect that I can really get behind, even more so than McBride. I think Likely is a lot more… likely, to succeed at the NFL level, due to both stellar intangibles and his gamebreaking ability. Perhaps Likely’s greatest asset is his ability after the catch. As a tight end, Likely’s five career 50+ yard touchdowns are eye-popping. Likely is extremely smooth for 6’4 245, and he’s slippery enough to get away from defenders while staying strong enough to put them in the ground if they try to take him down. His intangibles are off the charts, with reports calling him a high achiever both in class and on the field.

My biggest problems with Likely lie mostly in his body type. Where prospects like McBride and Virginia’s Jelani Woods are practically built like Greek gods, Likely’s body doesn’t have quite as much defined muscle, at least not yet. I think that’s something that can be fixed with NFL strength and conditioning coaching. Additionally, I’d enjoy if Likely could strengthen his blocking technique as a whole. He’s a fantastic pass-catcher already, but learning to block correctly and diversely could send him to a higher level.

Pro Comparison: He’s not quite as fast or silky smooth, but Likely’s quickness reads on tape like a poor man’s Kyle Pitts. His blocking isn’t there yet, but I think it can be.

Greg Dulcich, UCLA

UCLA’s Greg Dulcich is a really interesting case at the tight end position. His time at UCLA resulted in him gaining 40 pounds of muscle, which also resulted in him getting quicker, tougher, and faster. Dulcich feels very “classic tight end” in that he’s strong and nasty with quick feet. The former Bruin is a physical route-runner above all else, and even if his routes might lack polish, he’s willing to just bump defenders off of him both before and after the catch.

I worry about Dulcich’s polish both as a pass-catcher and an in-line blocker. I don’t think he’s horrible at either of those things, and his quickness can make up for some of it, but it’s definitely an area that needs improvement. Dulcich’s turns in routes aren’t as snappy as I’d like them to be, and he’s not particularly great at downfield routes right now either. He can be his own worst enemy at times, getting a bit sloppy throughout the course of games. But that being said, if he can clean all this up, I see an exceptional prospect here in Dulcich.

Pro Comparison: There’s maybe a little bit of young Jared Cook in Dulcich’s game, but he’s a bit harder for me to pin down than most prospects.

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