Earlier we dove into the North team tight ends, and now it’s time to take a look at their South team counterparts. The North squad came into Mobile with most of the firepower at the position with the likes of Troy Fumagalli, Mike Gesicki, and Durham Smythe. The South squad was supposed to have firepower of its own with small-school standouts Dallas Goedert and Adam Breneman, but that’s sadly not going to be the case.
Both Goedert and Breneman were forced to leave the festivities in Mobile early, both succumbing to hamstring injuries in the first day of practice. While neither injury should be serious enough to have any real impact on either player’s draft status, missing the practices hurts Breneman in particular. Breneman is in that second tier at the position behind Goedert, Fumagalli, Gesicki, and Mark Andrews (who is not in Mobile, as he’s an underclassmen). A strong performance could have helped Breneman make the case he belongs in the same sentence as those guys.
To their credit, the guys who the Senior Bowl committee brought in to take the place of Goedert and Breneman stepped into a tight spot and showed that they do belong on this stage. Let’s take a look at the three guys left for the South team and how they looked this week.
Ian Thomas, the tight end from Indiana University, has been probably the most frustrating player for me to watch during the week in Mobile. He’s done a lot of really good things in the one-on-ones, and has had a good week overall. He’s shown consistently that he’s the best athlete of the diminished group, and has been winning consistently in head-to-head drills.
However, he’s had a lot of trouble finishing once he’s beaten the safety or linebacker covering him. He’s had a couple really frustrating drops, and has slipped a time or two coming out of his breaks when he would have been wide open. It’s the little things like this that keep Thomas from being talked about as one of the better tight ends in the group. He has all the athletic talent to be one of the top guys, he just needs to be able to put it all together.
Jordan Akins from Central Florida was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, so I wasn’t able to really dig into his tape. I didn’t know what to expect from the kid coming into the week, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw from him. I didn’t see enough for me to say that he was one of the top performers at the position for the week, but he’s definitely someone who improved his draft stock by coming to Mobile, especially after making one of the plays of the session on Wednesday, coming down with a nice one-handed grab over Virginia’s Quin Blanding.
Akins flashed some athletic ability and made some really nice moves on linebackers and safeties to get open. He has some surprising athletic ability for someone who is going to be predominantly an in-line tight end at the next level. He has the blocking ability you want from that type of player, but is going to be a solid safety valve for a quarterback over the middle and in red zone situations. Look for some team to take a flyer on Akins in the late portions of Day 3.
Arguably the top performer at the position was Deon Yelder from Western Kentucky. “Who?!?”, I can hear you asking. That was my reaction too. I came into Mobile never hearing the name before, so I had no idea what to expect from the guy. What I saw really impressed me. Yelder flashed some nice athletic ability, was consistent in beating safeties and linebacker to get open. And, unlike a lot of the other tight ends in Mobile, I didn’t see many issues from Yelder once he got open. I don’t think I noticed a single drop from Yelder all week.
Much like Akins before him, I don’t think that Yelder is a guy who is going to be taken before the late portions of Day 3. But I do think that he’s put a lot of teams on notice this week, and probably gets taken a little earlier than Akins. For a guy who was likely an undrafted free agent coming into the week, Yelder probably gained the most from his performance and the exposure he got with the Senior Bowl.