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NFL Draft

NFL Draft: What To Look For In TE Prospects

Brian Martin



Cowboys Headlines - NFL Draft: What To Look For In TE Prospects

If you have been keeping track of this 10 part series about what to look for when scouting different positions, then you know we've covered the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions.

Today, we will examine what I look for when scouting the tight end position.

As a reminder, the best tool that we have at our disposal for scouting potential prospects is game film. I firmly believe that came film is still the best way to ascertain whether or not that individual players skill set can translate to the NFL. Then, character background checks and pre-draft workouts should help complete the scouting report on individual prospects.

So, without further ado let's dive in to the tight end position and I'll try to share with you what I personally look for when scouting these NFL hopefuls.

Scheme Fit

The tight end position in the NFL has become one of the more versatile of all of the positions, and because of that you have to make sure that you are focusing on the type of player that will fit in the scheme that is being run.

For instance, when the Dallas Cowboys drafted Gavin Escobar they planned on running a two tight end set offensive scheme, but for some reason or another used the 11 personnel instead. Escobar never really was able to find a role on offense because he ended up being a bad scheme fit.

That is why determining what type of tight end your evaluating and what system they fit best in.

Are they a receiving tight end or an in-line blocking tight end? Are they an all-around tight end?

These are important questions you want to keep in mind when scouting individual players.


I may be in the minority here, but I like a tight end that can contribute in the running game and that means blocking the man that lines up in front of him.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In TE Prospects

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Otherwise, you're missing a dimension to your offense and might as well just add another big receiver.

NFL teams have kind of shifted more towards the athletic receiving type of tight end in recent years to try and create mismatches against smaller defensive backs. These types of tight ends are usually asked to block less and are usually split out more like a receiver.

Blocking can be coached up in the NFL, but at the collegiate level you still want to see if a tight end has the willingness to contribute in this area. That usually requires playing with toughness, something I really like to see in a tight end prospect.

I also like to look for whether or not a prospect is on his toes when blocking and if his knees are bent so that he can give that maximum pop when engaging a defender.

Again, scheme fit is important because it will help determine how much blocking you need the tight end to do.


Scouting a tight end prospects hands also depends on the scheme fit that you want that player to play in. If you're offensive scheme is geared more towards a receiving type tight end, then their hands and how they catch the ball are going to be a little bit more important.

Like the wide receiver position, I like to analyze whether or not they have strong natural hands when catching the ball, or if they fight the ball when it's thrown their way.

A lot of times, tight ends are going to have to catch contested passes because of the types of routes they run and that requires them to need strong hands to catch the ball and secure it.

Usually, I don't like players using their bodies to catch passes, but the tight end position is an exception. As long as they can secure it away when catching it with their body, I usually don't have a problem with it.

Also, like I do when scouting the receiver position, I like to keep track of the types of routes they run and chart them down where they are receiving the majority of their catches.

Are the passes across the middle the field? Are they out in the flats? Are they down the seam?

This will give you a better understanding of where that particular prospect feels most comfortable catching passes.


I mentioned toughness earlier when referring to a tight ends blocking ability, but I will explain it in a little more detail here.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In TE Prospects 1There is a physical aspect to the tight end position that often times gets overlooked. When playing in line, tight ends are asked to block players that usually have a size and strength advantage. This means the tight end has to be willing to tough it out till the whistle is blown, despite their disadvantage.

Toughness also comes in play when they are running the routes across the middle the field and can expect a big hit from a defensive back at any time. NFL rules have kind of helped out in this area, but big hits against defenseless receivers catching passes across the middle of the field still happen.

I really like a player that can fight through nagging injuries, because I believe that helps motivate everyone around them.

I personally think that's one of Jason Witten's best assets.

Mental toughness is also as important as physical toughness in my opinion.

Route Running

Route running is a trait I try to pay particularly close attention to, just like I try to do when analyzing wide receivers at the collegiate level.

Tight ends really make their living running three basic routes in the NFL--a quick out route, the curl route, and the post route. That is unless the offensive scheme that the team uses tends to split their tight end out wide and have them run more receiver routes.

When watching game film I like to draw diagrams that display each route that is run during the game from the X, Y, and Z positions. I think it gives me a better feel for the types of routes they run out of each of these positions and how precise their running ends up being.

Speed/Athletic Ability

I personally don't put too much stock in a tight in speed. I like them to run between a 4.5 and a 4.8 40 yard dash, especially if they are a tight end that will be split out wide the majority of their playing careers.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In TE Prospects 2

Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO

I put much more stock in their athletic ability.

When analyzing a players athletic ability I try to analyze a player's game speed using game film, his agility when breaking in and out of his cuts when running routes, and his strength/explosiveness coming off on a scrimmage.

For tight ends, the NFL Scouting Combine can actually give you a really good idea of their athletic ability, probably more than any other position.

I don't remember where or how I can across this information, but I find it really helpful for finding out a tight ends athletic ability.

Bench Reps + Broad Jump + Vertical Jump = Explosive Number

The Explosive Number will give you a pretty good indication of these players athleticism and will help you see how each individual tight end stacks up against the others in the draft class.

Just remember that game film is still the most important tool for scouting, but the explosive number helps out as well.


The tight end position is one of the more difficult to scout because of all of the different variables that have to be considered to become successful in the NFL.

A tight end in the NFL has to wear many hats. They have to be a part-time fullback, wide receiver, and sometimes a part-time offensive tackle.

One tight end that has really caught my eye that I think would be a great addition to the Dallas Cowboys is Nick Vannett, the former Ohio State Buckeye. Vannett checks just about all of the boxes and could possibly be the heir apparent for Jason Witten that the Cowboys have been looking for.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • GiOjeda

    I don't know, Brian…I just can't seem to trust the Cowboys drafting a TE yet again. Beside the obvious to replace Romo eventually not much has been focused on who'll replace Witten. They have 3 TEs to back up Witten but one is on IR (wasted 2nd Rd pick?) another is primarily used as a blocking TE though he was drafted for his pass-catching skills & 4.49 speed…the 3rd is on his 2nd year. They need to focus on a all around TE like Witten. Can you trust they find that ONE?

    • Brian Martin

      I really like Nick Vannett as an all-around tight end. At Ohio State he was mostly used as a blocker but he has the ability to be a really good receiving threat as well. I don't think the tight end position is a high draft need, but if Vannett is sitting there in the fourth round I would write his name down on a draft card. Would you feel comfortable if Hanna has to be the #1 tight end if something happens to Jason Witten?

NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott

Sean Martin



2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire)

With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.

Josh Norris on Twitter

It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today

With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.

Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.

If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.

Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.

Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.

Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”

Kevin Brady



Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.

The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.

That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.

First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.

DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.

An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.

With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.

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NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions

"Tier two" of NFL Free Agency is here, meaning the Dallas Cowboys can set their sights on adding depth and filling the holes left by departed FAs Anthony Hitchens and Jonathan Cooper.

It may take another week for mock drafts to reflect the losses of both starters by the Cowboys, but the ongoing draft process does not slow down at any point. A few of the names the Cowboys will bring in for pre-draft 30 visits have already been released, and this week's roundup of national mock drafts continues to address the overall needs on this Dallas roster.

CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama

CBS Sports' R.J. White:

"Ridley's stock is down after an unimpressive combine, but the Cowboys decided to use one of their predraft visits on the talented wideout, who might not fall any further than this pick. Considering wide receiver is one of the team's biggest needs, they could jump at the chance to draft Ridley, who could eventually take over the No. 1 role if the Cowboys move on from Dez Bryant next offseason, which would save them more than $12 million on the cap."


The Dallas Cowboys will be meeting with free agent WR Allen Hurns today, a tangible second receiver that could immediately upgrade Terrance Williams' position. Hurns, unlike the lesser-known pass catchers the Cowboys looked at previously in free agency, may have enough talent entering his fifth season to take Calvin Ridley out of consideration in the first round.

For now, Ridley should absolutely remain in the conversation as this draft's top receiver. Frequently finding his way to the Cowboys in many post-Combine mock drafts, the Alabama star is just getting started in reaching his football potential and becoming an option for Dak Prescott on the outside.

Draft Wire: Vita Vea, DT - Washington

USA Today Draft Wire's Jacob Infante:

"Vea could realistically go higher than No. 19, but there may not be a ton of teams willing to draft a nose tackle early on in the draft. Vea’s much different from the average nose tackle, though, which is something the Cowboys would see firsthand if they were to pick him."


The hype for Vita Vea as a prospective Dallas Cowboys target has died down ever since Stephen Jones mentioned the team's preference to find 1T DTs with the traits to also rush the passer as a 3T. Simply being "different from the average nose tackle," as Infante writes here, may not be enough for Vea to be selected at 19th overall by the Cowboys.

Should the Cowboys be surprisingly wiped out at both guard and linebacker on their board, considering a rare prospect like Vea and the impact he could make in Rod Marinelli's scheme could become much more realistic though.

An investment like Vea at nose tackle feels like the safest way for the Cowboys to protect their franchise tag investment on DE DeMarcus Lawrence - while also potentially boosting the play of Maliek Collins and David Irving inside at DT.

Drafttek: Isaiah Wynn, G - Georgia

Drafttek's Long Ball:

"... Isaiah Wynn played LOT for the SEC Champion and National Champion runner-up Georgia Bulldogs. Bill O'Brien's South coaching staff moved Wynn inside and he was easily the most impressive interior OL prospect during practice sessions..."


This would be one of the highest value picks the Dallas Cowboys could make at 19th overall. As it stands today, this team is in need of a starting left guard they can trust, which Isaiah Wynn can be from day one at the next level.

Despite their clear need up front, using another first round pick on an offensive lineman will surely generate some eyes rolls around Dallas on draft night. As if his mauling style of play and NFL-ready build aren't enough for the Cowboys to sell their fans on Wynn, his flexibility to provide needed depth at OT puts this Georgia product over the top.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Recent trades by the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills to shake up the draft order may just be scratching the surface for the run of quarterbacks that takes place annually atop each draft. With as many as five QBs coming off the board prior to the Cowboys' first pick, their ability to add a quality starter at a position of need looks good.

Exactly what these positions of need will be by the end of free agency, and which prospects fill needs in Dallas, will update weekly as we continue to prepare you for the 2018 NFL Draft here at Inside The Star.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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