This recruiting season there are some exceptionally talented tight ends, especially from the Northeast region. Aaron Hernandez leads the way and he, along with Rob Gronkowski and Chris Izbicki, are all considered among the top 50 prospects in the nation. And a healthy Mike Ragone would fall into the top 50 as well. Lets take a closer look at the country's top five tight ends.
Bristol (Ct.) Central
Committed to Florida
When it comes to recruiting and talking about prospects you always hear clichés like he’s “athletic” or a “freak”. These two superlatives certainly describe Mr. Hernandez. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, we label him as a future tight end prospect but in high school he actually plays wide receiver. You don’t see him at the line of scrimmage and blocking at the point of attack or releasing for a route. But folks from the state of Connecticut think he can block just fine. And what he can’t do in that regard will come with time and hard work.
What he can do is beat you in a few different ways and pose some serious match up problems for a defense because of his size, speed and athleticism. To be honest with you, he kind of reminds you of a talented tight end prospect from a few season’s ago that was just recently a first round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, Vernon Davis. Hernandez is the same type of player and athlete. People will claim that he doesn’t play against the greatest competition in the world but when you watch him and see the things he does on the field, competition really doesn’t matter because he does things a 6-4 and 235 pounder just shouldn’t do.
First of all Hernandez has terrific, soft hands. He can catch in traffic, he can go get the ball and he uses his hands and body exceptionally well. Even better is the way he can just run right by you, through you and make a move that you would normally see a smaller wide receiver make in the open field. What I am talking about here his quickness and shake and bake. He is quite amazing to watch.
Hernandez will be a valuable weapon at the next level because he can be a flex-tight end in college, meaning he can line up in the slot. He will need to learn to play at the line of scrimmage. Strength is not a problem as he can bench press close to 400 pounds.
I am not a big stats guy when it comes to recruiting, but his numbers last season are off the charts - 67 receptions for 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns. On defense he recorded 72 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks.
Arizona, B.C., Clemson, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse
Gronkowski is a big tight end prospect that possesses very good athletic ability for a prospect of his size playing the tight end position. The first thing that jumps out at me is his hands. Gronkowski has sofft hands and great concentration and makes catches with great coverage from the defense. Although he may not have the same speed and quickness as Aaron Hernandez, he still shows good wheels for 250 or so pounds. As a blocker, Gronkowski is dominating at this level, especially when it comes to drive blocking. Defensively, he is a terror as well.
Gronkowski caught 36 passes for 648 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.
Kirkland (Wa.) Lake Washington
Committed to Washington
Izbicki can be dominant in the running and passing game. He is a very good blocker that just manhandles the defender at the point of attack. Izbicki is a great drive blocker and is really like an extra offensive tackle out on the field. As a receiver, he shows good, soft hands and once he has the ball is a load to bring down. And for a tight end of his size he has very good speed.
Izbicki caught 25 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Cherry Hill (N.J.) Camden Catholic
Committed to Notre Dame
Ragone is one of the dominant tight end prospects (Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski) from the Northeast. Like the other two Ragone possesses all the skills you look for in a tight end. He is a very good receiver, showing good hands and concentration. He has excellent size and speed. Ragone has the ability to create on his own and get some yards after the catch. As a blocker, he is very strong at the point of attack. Ragone can be used as a flex-tight end, H-back or line up next to the offensive tackle.
He is coming off a knee injury or else he would likely be rated even higher. As a junior, he caught 46 passes for 560 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
LSU, Arizona, K-State, Miami, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas
Chavis is quite athletic, having played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and linebacker for his high school team. He's got good size and a great frame. With that he should get much bigger and stronger at the next level. Along with his frame he has good speed and quickness. He runs well, even displaying a 360 move. Chavis has good hands. He will have to become physical at the line of scrimmage and learn how to block and play from a three point stance. But he's certainly athletic enough to play H-back and or flex tight end in college. Certainly his best attribute is his versatility and athletic ability.
Last season he rushed for 995 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 60 yards.