In this article, we break down two TE Prospects that will be drafted on Day 3 but could block or catch their way onto the field.
With the draft less than a week away, analyses and opinions on the top NFL Draft prospects have been largely staked. Day 3 is for the scouts. Players are usually selected on traits that coaches could develop down the line.
We’ve all heard about Michael Mayer, but what about some Day Three prospects who could make a fantasy splash one day?
Below are breakdowns of two Tight Ends who will hear their names called on Day 3 of the Draft. They may not start right away, but they will contribute on the field through their proficiency in their blocking and catching abilities, respectively. However, their long-term prospects will rely on developing the other skill.
Purdue TE Payne Durham
Career Numbers: 126 recs, 1,275 yards, 21 TDs (45 games)
I have been pounding the table for Durham this whole cycle. From being the only prospect with a country song as their hype jam to only playing a single year of high school football, Durham marches to the beat of his own drum, or more accurately, Taco Annino’s. He has good size for the Tight End position with plus height and average weight. His lean frame was a good fit for Jeff Brohm’s open-spread passing system at Purdue as a big, short-yardage target to create vertical spacing further downfield. His 21 receiving Touchdowns are second only to Dalton Kincaid in the class.
The man with two last names comes from a lacrosse background, and it shows on the field. He has a good initial burst to create windows of separation, as shown by his 89th percentile 10-yard split, but his long speed is pedestrian at best (41st percentile 40-yard time). His long speed is mitigated by his ability to make cuts without losing momentum, similar to a split dodge in lacrosse. While his Combine numbers might have been uninspiring, with a RAS of 8.21, he has shown the ability to contribute in a college spread system in limited usage. In spot duty during his Redshirt Freshman year, he caught four touchdowns on only nine catches. Durham won’t gain any separation from a fancy release, but he will get to his spots efficiently. Notably, he seems to have a good sense of windows as he accelerates between windows while elongating his routes and between defenders.
The drawback with NFL teams drafting Tight Ends, generally, is that they take some time to develop into a weapon in the passing game. This is true of even the most explosive athletes at the position. The more translatable skill is blocking. Durham will find his way onto the field in the NFL, similar to many B1G TE prospects, through his ability to be a plus blocker on the edge. His wingspan of over 80 inches, combined with his gritty corn-fed strength, makes for an effective seal and even a good lead block on occasion. Though Durham has to work to keep his pad level low due to his height, he understands leverage and is an asset in the run game. He is tenacious in slowing down bigger defenders at the point of attack. Durham’s aforementioned speed is good for quickly getting into a route and reaching landmarks at the second level in sealing off defenders. He primarily lined up in the slot during his time in West Lafayette; whichever NFL team drafts him will want to play him in line, thanks to his blocking.
Durham’s stock rose from a projected UDFA to a mid-Day 3 prospect after his performance at the Senior Bowl. Whether it was crushing JL Skinner on a block or catching a Jake Haener pass with Quan Martin draped on his back, Durham’s performance elicited positive responses in each practice. His blocking will immediately get him on the field at the next level. But, if an Offensive Coordinator can find a way to utilize his short bursts and strong hands, he could be a long-term TE2 in the league. Expect him to hear his name called in the front half of Day 3, possibly as soon as Round 4.
Miami TE Will Mallory
Career Numbers: 115 recs, 1,544 yards, 14 TDs (58 games)
Hindsight is 20/20, but Mallory was a great addition to Miami’s 2018 recruiting class, even though he was the second-best TE to join the Hurricanes that year (behind Brevin Jordan). He was ranked higher than future NFL draft picks and standouts in the class, such as Chig Okonkwo, Pat Freiermuth, and Cole Turner. Mallory has always been a standout athlete and an asset in the passing game. With an NFL coaching bloodline, he’s a heady player who has handled himself well throughout a tumultuous period in Miami football history.
Despite a poor size grade in his Relative Athletic Score, Mallory finished with a 9.44 RAS thanks to his 95th percentile 40-yard time and 91st percentile vertical. He utilized this athleticism to the tune of double-digit yards per catch every season he started. In fact, he was only under 12 YPC in his Redshirt Junior year at 11.6. Mallory is the epitome of a seam-buster. He is quick to get into his route and puts his defender on their heels before snapping off his stems at sharp angles. He was clearly coached early in his development to attack a defender’s leverage as he easily transitions between leverages. Mallory is a weapon whether running into green grass or high-pointing errant throws. However, his lack of size shows up on contested catches, struggling to come down with catches when jammed or jostled at the stem. His transition to the NFL should be quicker than some of his peers, thanks to his father’s coaching background and an easily translatable receiving tool.
The clear downside to Mallory is his frame, which is no more apparent than in his blocking. At best, he can get in the way of defenders. But he will never be a true asset in springing longer runs at the point of attack or on the second level. One might think he could establish angles against Linebackers by beating them to a spot, but he is too easily driven off that spot. This may also be attributed to poor balance. Just as Mallory can be derailed by a good hard shove at the stem, he struggles to maintain even horizontal positioning on defenders. Seeing him thrown to the side like a rag doll is common. With an 88th percentile broad jump, the explosion trait might suggest the possibility of developing a passable blocking tool. But that is a distant hope as of right now.
Mallory’s contributions to an NFL offense are limited but clear. As with any Tight End prospect, his transition will take a little time. He is unlikely to land with a team that values blocking over receiving ability in their Tight Ends. However, thanks to his good understanding of professionalism and how to utilize his speed, Mallory should be utilized in select packages in an open spacing-based offense. The hope is that he can put up better numbers than he did in college with competent QB play and a play caller willing to maximize his athletic traits. Expect Mallory to be selected towards the midpoint of Day 3, around the end of Round 5.