After the selection of Kyle Pitts at #4 in last year’s draft by the Atlanta Falcons, attention turns to the top tight ends in the 2022 NFL Draft. The last two tight end draft classes have been volatile. Cole Kmet was the best of a thin position group in 2020. This April, Pat Freiermuth and Brevin Jordan followed Pitts into the NFL on Day Two of the Draft.
A lot can change in a season of college football, but right now they are the premier talents in the 2022 NFL Draft tight end class.
Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M (Junior, 6′ 5″, 265 lbs)
Aggies playmaker Jalen Wydermyer is the frontrunner in the 2022 NFL Draft tight end class. In 2020, he was runner-up to Kyle Pitts in the Mackey Award, given to the best tight end in college football. He was also named second team All-SEC behind the unicorn from Florida.
Rightly so, Pitts swept the accolades at the tight end position last year. And although Wydermyer is expected to be TE1 in the 2021 college football season, don’t expect Pitts levels of production.
Wydermyer is an all-round talent, and had over 300 run-blocking snaps last season. He saw considerable time on the field due to his abilities in receiving and offensive line support.
He ended 2020 with 506 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers alone hardly jump off the page. However, combine that with Wydermyer’s contributions to the uglier side of the game, and you’ve got a promising all-round talent. Expect his name to be banded about by fans and analysts in the build up to the 2022 NFL Draft.
Charlie Kolar, Iowa State (Redshirt Senior, 6′ 6″, 257 lbs)
Charlie Kolar was alongside Jalen Wydermyer as fellow runner-up to Kyle Pitts in last year’s Mackey Award.
Many expected him to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, but he shocked Cyclones fans with his decision to return to school for his Senior year. Kolar famously flipped a coin to help him make his decision – when it landed on Iowa State, he was content with the outcome.
Since joining from high school, he has gained almost 30 lbs in weight. This has helped his transition from a top high school athlete to dominant college football tight end.
The Cyclones had a great year in 2020, despite the apparent regression of quarterback Brock Purdy. Purdy relied on Kolar, with the latter ending the year with 591 receiving yards and 7 TDs. He shone in the Fiesta Bowl defeat to Oklahoma. Kolar ended that disappointing defeat for The Cyclones with 92 yards and a touchdown off just six receptions.
With another year of production under his belt, expect Kolar to be one of the top 2022 NFL Draft tight ends. He will be 23 upon entering the NFL. Some may see this as a late start. Charlie Kolar will be hoping that he will be a polished talent ready to hit the ground running in the NFL.
Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin (Redshirt Senior, 6′ 5″, 246 lbs)
Jake Ferguson was another tight end that many expected to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. He is returning for his fifth year of college football after taking the decision to delay his move into professional football.
Ferguson developed a tremendous understanding with freshman quarterback Graham Mertz. He was outstanding in the first game of the 2020 season against Illinois. In Mertz’s first game under centre, Ferguson hauled in 7 catches for 72 yards and 3 touchdowns. He followed that performance up with three consecutive games with 50+ receiving yards, although never quite replicated his performance in the season opener.
Jake Ferguson is like many members of the 2022 NFL Draft tight end class. He is not the polished blocker that NFL franchises will hope for. In this modern age of the tight end position, teams will be well versed in developing a young player’s blocking abilities. That, or utilise them on passing plays only.
Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina (Senior, 6′ 4″, 245 lbs)
Coastal Carolina was college football’s surprise package in 2020. Their incredible run saw The Chanticleers ranked as high a #9 in 2020, and #14 in the country at the season’s conclusion.
A player that caught the eye above all others was tight end Isaiah Likely. He amassed 601 yards and 5 touchdowns on his way to helping Coastal enjoy an historic season for the program. Incredibly, these numbers were gathered from just 30 receptions. Likely can be used on intermediate routes, but also has the speed to gain significant yards after the catch.
Likely played hurt during the 2020 season, but only missed one fixture. He could undergo a corrective procedure this off-season to his lower body to address the issue. A full recovery is expected before the start of the 2021 college football season. If Isaiah Likely can continue to put up the sort of numbers he did in his Junior year, then the sky is the limit.
Isaiah Likely was eligible for, and would have been drafted to, the NFL in 2021. In returning for his Senior year, he could give himself the opportunity to be one of the first names called of the 2022 NFL Draft tight end group.