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The 2020 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and with that, prop season has geared up with a wide variety to choose from. This is expected to be the first year since 2016 that zero tight ends get selected in the first round. It’s normal to expect at least one to hear their name called in the first, but past drafts have shown that teams are willing to wait for value rather than reach on this position with a valuable Day 1 pick.
Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
There was some confusion as to why Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam decided to return to school for the 2019 season. He was widely viewed as a first-round talent ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, but the NFL’s draft advisory committee may have given him a second to third-round projection due to the other elite tight end prospects in the class. While he improved in yards per reception, touchdowns per reception, and touchdown market share in 2019, he failed to improve in the more technical aspects of his game. He is still more potential than polish when it comes to blocking, and he failed to make a leap in the route-running department.
As he showed at the NFL Combine, he has high-end athleticism and could become an impact player in the passing game for whatever team ends up drafting him. It is hard to envision Albert O. going in the first round, but stranger things have happened. With that said, Okwuegbunam is still more of a Day 2 prospect with Day 1 talent and upside. It is highly unlikely that he ends up getting drafted in the first round, but he is an interesting play for the first tight end drafted prop, so much so that BetMGM has removed him from the board after listing him at +1400.
Cole Kmet (Notre Dame)
Before Okwuegbunam impressed at the 2020 NFL Combine by running an official 4.49 40-yard dash at 258 pounds, Cole Kmet was the consensus top tight end in this draft class. That sentiment was far from unanimous, but he is still the betting favorite to be the first tight end selected later this month (-182). Kmet is starter-ready as a receiver, but still has work to do as a blocker. While he has a rock-solid Day 2 grade, he will need some luck to garner any serious looks in the first round of such a talented draft class.
Physical, and strong after the catch, Kmet may very likely be the first tight end drafted. However, the chances of him going in the first round are slim. His draft position over/under is not available at BetMGM, but it’s listed at 44.5 at FanDuel with the juice currently even.
Teams Potentially Interested in a Tight End
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have been searching for an answer at tight end since Rob Gronkowski’s abrupt retirement at the end of the 2018 season. Last season, they scrambled for answers and found none, ostensibly hoping that Gronk would return in time for their eventual playoff run. Unfortunately, he was more interested in promoting CBDs and signing with WWE. While there is no Gronkowski in this class, the Patriots would be wise to think about taking a tight end on Day 2. There is little to no chance New England spends its first-round pick on the position.
It is doubtful that the Cincinnati Bengals spend a first-round or even a second-round pick on a tight end. After letting the often-injured Tyler Eifert leave in free agency, they still need a starter-level talent at the position. They have C.J. Uzomah and 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample on the roster, but Uzomah is not a starting-caliber tight end, and Sample is more of a blocker than receiving threat. The Bengals should look to address the position on Day 3. Thaddeus Moss would be an interesting third or fourth-round pick, as he would likely get to reunite with expected first overall pick Joe Burrow.
The Dallas Cowboys need to bring in some competition for Blake Jarwin. The former undrafted free agent tight end had an efficient season, but that was arguably more a product of the offense than his own talent. Jarwin went undrafted for a reason. Still reeling from the Philadelphia Eagles leapfrogging them for Dallas Goedert in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cowboys should look to find someone to compete with and hopefully supplant Jarwin in the near future. Their offseason free-agent losses, however, dictate that they will not take a tight end in the first round.
The Jacksonville Jaguars made it a priority to upgrade the tight end position this offseason by bringing in Eifert. They took a third-round flier on Josh Oliver last season, and there is a chance that he could still pan out, but the Jaguars would be wise to consider someone like Kmet or Okwuegbunam if either one is still available when their third-round pick comes around at 73rd overall.
Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are no longer with Washington, which means they will likely be in the market for an upgrade. They have last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Caleb Wilson, on the roster and signed former Green Bay Packer Richard Rodgers as a depth piece. Washington will very likely select a tight end later this month, but it will not be in the first round.
The Trey Burton experiment has been a failure. Of course, some of it can be blamed on injuries, while another significant portion can be blamed on Mitchell Trubisky, but the Chicago Bears need an upgrade at tight end. Chicago currently does not own a first-round pick and likely would not go for a tight end even if it did. Jimmy Graham is a solid two to three-year stopgap who will give Trubisky or Nick Foles a big-bodied former Pro Bowler to throw to.
If there is any position that the 2020 NFL Draft is short on high-end talent in, it’s tight end. While we could see a number of them drafted on Day 2, and as early as even the second round, the first round still seems a little far fetched. As discussed above, there are a number of quality prospects, but none is a good enough bet to draft in the opening round. The odds at BetMGM heavily reflect this, as the -909 line implies a 90.1 percent chance that a tight end will not be selected on the first day. There may be some value in the line since the odds should likely be well north of -1000, but it will take low-risk aversion individuals to part with the nine units required to win just one. If your bankroll is healthy enough to afford the tremendous juice and you are chasing income, this is one of the safest bets of the weekend.
The pick: Under 0.5 tight ends drafted in the first round (-909)