Small-school Giants: The Rookie Tight Ends In The NFL Draft No One Knows…Yet

by Zach Krueger ·

The tight end position has turned into an ever-evolving, dynamic position that is now used in multiple ways among NFL offenses. Long gone are the days of tight ends exclusively lining up on the line next to the tackle, as we now see tight ends lined up all over the field, dominating the passing game like a top wide receiver.

This year’s NFL draft classes features what may be one of the best classes in recent memory. Guys like O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram have caught the attention of scouts and NFL fans with their explosive collegiate play, and impressive workout metrics at the NFL Scouting Combine. These tight ends also hail from prestigious universities, and are accustomed to the spotlight heading into this season. While the hype for the aforementioned players is well deserved, as usual, the small-school players are once again overlooked or seldom mentioned. That trend will come to an end here, as looks to discover the talent that many will overlook.

Here are a few small-school tight ends who are also looking to become viable NFL pros and fantasy producers in 2017 and years to come.

Jonnu Smith, Florida International University

For Florida International University, the road to offensive success was paved by Jonnu Smith, who posted a 33-percent College Dominator Rating (91st-percentile) while being a perennial playmaker for the Panthers over four seasons. Smith closed out his collegiate career with 178 receptions for 2,001 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns, notching one of the more impressive offensive resumes for players in this year’s class. His best year came in 2014, as the 6-foot-3, 248-pound tight end hauled in 61 receptions for 710 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith has been dominating the game since he set food on a college campus, with an 18.0 Breakout Age (100th-percentile), and will now look to continue his dominance as an NFL tight end.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Jonnu Smith proved to be no slouch, notching a 4.62 40-yard dash (83rd-percentile), 106.9 Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) (78th-percentile) and 130.0 Burst Score (93rd-percentile). His SPARQ-x Score of 127.0 (92nd-percentile) also makes him one of the most athletic tight ends in the league already as he enters this year’s draft.

Jonnu Smith Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

With the 2017 NFL Draft still in the wake, it’s hard to completely predict Jonnu Smith‘s value from a fantasy standpoint. That being said, if he lands in a favorable scheme, his athleticism alone is reason enough to make him a late round flier on a taxi squad, with the hopes of his coaches soon realizing his athletic prowess and knack for productivity.

Billy Brown, Sheperd University

During his collegiate days, Billy Brown was a wide receiver for Sheperd university who dominated opposing quarterbacks with his 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame. Despite his history as a wide receiver, Brown is looking to convert to tight end at the NFL level, which makes sense given his size and 4.70 40-yard dash time (68th-percentile). Billy Brown boasts a 47-percent College Dominator Rating (99th-percentile), and has 16.0 College Yards Per Reception (84th-percentile) to round out his college productivity.

Billy Brown Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Billy Brown will need a lot of coaching to turn his raw talent into NFL caliber play, but he has the size and ability to do so. His lack of Division I experience will be exploited early, but as a project player he has favorable upside.

Adam Shaheen, Ashland University

It wouldn’t be shocking if you’ve already heard of Adam Shaheen given his thunderous performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-6, 278-pound tight end had one of the best showings among players at his position, and outperformed some of the wide receivers and running backs who were thought to be some of the most agile at their position. A giant of a man, Shaheen posted a 4.79 40-yard dash time (43rd-percentile), but possesses a far more impressive HaSS of 107.8 (79th-percentile). Shaheen’s 11.47 Agility Score (63rd-percentile), while not overly impressive in a vacuum, is impressive considering his incredible bulk.

Adam Shaheen Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Adam Shaheen‘s 116.3 SPARQ-x Score (74th-percentile) makes him one of the more athletic tight ends of this year’s class, and fantasy owners are already licking their chops to get him on their dynasty taxi squads. Shaheen is a basketball convert, which has come to be the norm for tight ends entering the NFL, and dominated once he made the official switch. During his time at Ashland, Shaheen posted a 36.4-percent College Dominator Rating (95th-percentile) and 15.2 College Yards Per Reception (76th-percentile). He finished his collegiate career with 129 receptions for 1,755 yards and 26 touchdowns, and has created some noise as a potential second or third round pick.

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