Under no circumstance should the Ravens select a tight end with their 16th overall pick, says ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
There are several quality pass-catching options in the 2018 NFL Draft, but most of them are expected to still be available once the Ravens are on the clock in the second round at No. 52.
“I do think 16 is a little too high for a tight end,” Kiper said. “[Hayden] Hurst or [Dallas] Goedert would be the two. Hurst and Goedert are pretty much 1 and 1A at the tight end spot … but I wouldn’t take them at 16.”
Instead, Kiper thinks Baltimore should further solidify its offense by drafting Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round. Pairing McGlinchey with Ronnie Stanley would give the Ravens two Fighting Irish bookends for the offensive line. If not McGlinchey, Kiper recommends UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
Either way, no tight end at 16. It’s just too early.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has targeted tight ends with 1,090 passes over his career, which is the fourth most of any quarterback since he entered the league in 2008. Only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have thrown more to tight ends.
Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are the only two tight ends currently on the Ravens roster, but neither are known for their pass-catching ability and are better suited for blocking. Perhaps the biggest remaining need on the roster, it’s highly likely Baltimore will use the draft to bolster the group.
By the time Ravens are on the clock in Round 2, there will still be plenty of options to choose from even if Hurst and Goedert are gone. Kiper named three others (see below) that should be available and could become a reliable target for Flacco.
“I think any one of these three in the second round would be a good pick,” Kiper said.
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma 6-foot-5, 256 pounds; 62 catches, 958 yards, 8 touchdowns in 2017
The redshirt junior won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end last season. The three-time All-Big 12 selection has a unique ability to run routes that will get him open despite a massive frame. His 15 touchdowns over the last two years illustrate his nose for the end zone. He would give the Ravens a much-needed red-zone threat. Andrews was so good at catching the ball that the Sooners also played him out of the slot as a receiver. To become an all-around tight end, Andrews needs to increase his strength and blocking tenacity. His ability to mismatch and produce in the passing game makes him stand out and is exactly what the Ravens lack in their tight end corps.
Kiper: “Mark Andrews was a great pass-catching tight end for Baker Mayfield. Basically, a glorified tight end/wide receiver down the field (averaged 15.8 yards per catch over his college career). Real good in the red zone.”
Mike Gesicki, Penn State*
*6-foot-5, 242 pounds; 57 passes, 563 yards, 9 touchdowns
The Ravens would get proven production with Gesicki, who became the Nittany Lions’ all-time leader in receptions (129), receiving yards (1,481) and receiving touchdowns (15) among tight ends. Gesicki played basketball in high school and was first recruited by Penn State’s volleyball team. He chose the football route and excelled. His athleticism and leaping ability are noticeable when he runs routes and goes up to make a catch. He stood out at the Senior Bowl against the nation’s top senior competition, and performed very well at the combine. Like Andrews, Gesicki isn’t a great in-line blocker with his thinner frame.
Kiper: “Tested great. Great pass-catching tight end. Not much of a blocker.”
Jordan Akins, Central Florida *6-foot-3, 237 pounds; *32 catches, 515 yards, 4 touchdowns
*Akins is already 25 years old because he tried professional baseball when he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2010. He struggled to break out of the amateur league for four years, so Akins finally enrolled at UCF as a wide receiver. He suffered a torn ACL in his second year, but returned stronger and transitioned to tight end where he found more success. Fast, tough and a natural pass catcher, Akins has a way of getting open and producing yards after the catch. Kiper’s second-round grade for Akins is higher than other draft analysts who consider him a Day 3 candidate.
*Kiper: “[The Knights] moved him around a lot. He’s a little over-age. He’s a baseball player.”