Matt Waldman’s RSP 2020 Senior Bowl Tight End Preview

Matt Waldman shares his thoughts on the 2020 Senior Bowl wide receivers. 

Here are the tight ends participating on each roster, some essential thoughts on their play, and in some cases, what I’d like to see from them this week in Mobile. Practices will reveal route refinement with footwork, hard breaks, framing the football at the catch point, and hand and footwork usage against press coverage.

We won’t see significant nuance against zone coverage where the receiver and quarterback read the defense and work together during the late pre-snap and early post-snap phases of the play. We also won’t see massive improvement with a player’s route running if they display flaws with specific routes or releases this week.

When framing the position from the perspective of everything a complete tight end does on the field, the position is one of the most difficult to successfully make a quick transition with immediate impact. Rookies that experience significant success rarely do it as complete players at the position with fully-formed skills as blockers and route runners.

Many of the players below have the potential to develop into versatile talents. This week will offer another glimpse into that best-case future.

North Roster

Bryce Hopkins (Purdue): The son of former Titans tackle Brad Hopkins, Bryce reminds me a little of Purdue alum Dustin Keller although when eye-balling Hopkins, I don’t believe he’s at athletic as Keller. He’s a dangerous flat receiver who slides outside quickly as a perimeter blocker, which makes him a good play-action option because he earns position fast and he’s explosive off the line on flare-outs and crossers. Hopkins is a fluid receiver who can make difficult adjustments to targets that arrive at awkward spots away from his frame and still transition efficiently into a downhill runner. He drops his weight well into hard breaks on shorter routes. This week, I want to see Hopkins targeted one-on-one up the seam and along the sideline to determine how good he could be as a primary target in a passing game when he is split outside the formation. He already has some success on these rail shots in his film portfolio as well as a variety of release moves from the line. However, I also want to see if he can work the boundary without pinning himself too tight to it. Hopkins is one of the players I want to see at the weigh-in because I’m not convinced that he has the frame to add muscle and I wonder if he’s truly 6’5″. I expect a good week with a fair bit of praise as a downfield option.

Charlie Taumoepeau (Portland State): A versatile tight end at Portland State, Taumoepeau shows some skills to work off the line as both a blocker and receiver. I want to see him use better placement with his hand position than he’s shown on tape as a blocker and more effective work in contested situations as a receiver. He performs well against tight coverage but can he win the ball when it requires a dynamic adjustment? I think his hands often too low when exiting his breaks or running stems. He needs to think of his hands as weapons to fend off contact or to win the ball early.

Adam Trautman (Dayton): I’ve only seen a little bit of his game and decided to hold off watching more until I’ve seen him in this environment so I have a point of comparison in order to calibrate it with what I’ll see from his past efforts.

Sean McKeon (Michigan): A decent blocker who can hook edge defenders and earn good leverage so he’s chest-to-chest with defensive linemen, McKeon also flashes some ability to use his hands against physical coverage off the line and at the top of his stems. He displays some skill to change direction as a blocker to set up misdirection plays as well as route running. However, I didn’t see him execute effective hard breaks and speed cuts. He’s better using angular moves to set up seam routes. His lead blocking was up-and-down, especially when working across the formation to shield an opponent.  I’m concerned he lacks the mass to become a top in-line player.

South Roster

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt):  One of the best prospects at the position in this class, Pinkney has the versatility to play H-Back, in-line tight end, and wide receiver. He has powerful hands as a blocker and enough speed to force safeties to turn and run with him up the seam. I love his work in traffic and after the catch—the former may show up this week but not expecting as much of the latter. A well-rounded receiver, Pinkney’s punch, and footwork as a blocker are the skills I want to see him perform this week because his efforts on film were in need of improvement.

Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic): A fluid receiver who works back to the ball and has an above-average catch radius, Bryant sells short routes well to set up intermediate patterns. He displays enough balance to pose a threat against the secondary once he transitions downhill—often working through multiple tackle attempts. I think Bryant will perform well against press coverage if exposed to these drills during the week. Although a tackle-breaker I want to see better pad level and improved ball security.

Josiah Deguara (Cincinnati): A former receiver, Deguara runs excellent vertical routes that can turn safeties and linebackers in the wrong direction. He can also break hard and work back to the quarterback on underneath routes. He also displays real promise as a blocker, using the uppercut punch, rolling his hips through his punches, and driving edge defenders to the ground. .A good finisher after the catch, Deguara is physical and sound with his pad level. He moves well laterally. blocks to the whistle, and aggressive–even against defensive ends.  Deguara can sometimes play too much on his toes as a blocker and can get baited into overextending. He can have difficulty gauging angles with linebackers or defensive backs as they’re coming downhill. He’ll set too early and tip-off blocks but recovers fast to work laterally and work the opponent around the ballcarrier. This is one of the players I’m most interested in watching during the week.

Go to this page for Matt’s coverage of the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

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