Hunter Bryant is one of the best young tight ends in the nation. His 2019 success in concert with his athletic gifts no doubt played a part in his deciding to enter the draft in 2020. Bryant’s skills and pedigree will make him one of the top prospects at his position.
Bryant was born in Issaquah, Washington and attended Eastside Catholic High School in his home town. During his time with the Crusaders, Bryant caught 138 passes for 2,483 yards. Thirty-five of his receptions were for touchdowns. Bryant also played basketball in high school.
Bryant was a four-star recruit in 2017 according to 247sports.com, who had him ranked as the No. 5 TE prospect in the nation. A host of top colleges programs across the nation were interested in Bryant. Despite interest from teams like Oklahoma, Washington State, and Oregon, Bryant only made one campus visit. That visit was to Washington. He committed to the Huskies shortly afterward.
Bryant missed the last four games of his freshman season and the first nine of his sophomore campaign with injuries. He also sat out the Huskies Bowl Game this season to concentrate on his draft prep. Bryant still has the fourth-most receptions and second-most receiving yards by a TE in school history, despite these missed games. These numbers were due in large part to his excellent 2019 season. Bryant finished just 25 yards short of the school record for single-season receiving yards by a TE.
Bryant ended the season on an absolute tear with 28 receptions and 483 yards in his last six games. This included six for 105 against Utah, with two of his receptions ending in touchdowns.
Bryant’s 2019 deeds saw him named first-team All-Pac 12, as well as one of the three finalists for the John Mackey Award. He lost out to another H. Bryant, namely Harrison Bryant of Florida Atlantic. Despite an extra year of eligibility available to him, Bryant decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
Bryant’s early declaration has not yet been picked up by a host of draft services, meaning that his ranking is still somewhat of a mystery at the time of writing. Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network has him ranked as the No. 2 in this class, trailing only Brycen Hopkins. Crabbs makes special mention of Bryant’s ability to make contested catches, noting that :
his hand strength in contested situations is good and he’s done well to catch tough balls with significant body adjustment at the catch point.
Bryant is not built like an old school TE. He is only 6 feet 2 inches. This makes him a player who will likely operate as a move TE in the Evan Engram mold, and not a player who will be tasked with too much blocking. Crabbs believes that Bryant’s best hope of success in the NFL will be as a receiving threat out of the slot as :
Plugging him into a traditional inline role will water down his receiving skills.
WHAT HISTORY TELLS US
In his seminal work on the NFL Scouting Combine Drills that matter for TEs, Kevin Cole produced the tree you can see below.
Speed is the first node that TEs would negotiate. A strong showing at the 40-yard dash opens up all the other possibilities. This could see a prospect fall into the ever-important node 15. As I have previously mentioned, Bryant is on what you would class as a smaller TE, and as a result, may have access to speed denied most players at his position.
While not on the 2020 ranks as yet, DraftScout.com have Bryant on their 2021 books. In his profile, they place his estimated 40-yard dash time between 4.47 and 4.68. A score in this range would be excellent for Bryant’s hopes of future fantasy success, assuming he can reach the bench press and vertical marks on Kevin’s tree.
Another crucial factor in predicting future fantasy success for TEs is age. Blair Andrews researched all player seasons since 2000 looking for some relationship between career fantasy production and age of rookie season, or draft age. Here we can see his findings.
According to the Draft Network, Bryant was born on August 20th, 1998. This would make his draft age — his age on December 31st of the year he was drafted — 22. Blair also looked at how many players went on to produce at least one TE1 season in their career. The sample is not very large (14 players), but nearly 60% of 21-year-old rookie TEs went on to have at least one top-12 season in their careers. By comparison, less than 25% of 22-year-old rookies went on to have a top-12 season.
Bryant’s age is not an immediate dagger to his hopes of NFL success, especially when one considers his physical profile. His receiving skills, plus his speed, make him a player who could very easily become a key part of whatever offense he lands on. He does have certain attributes that set him against the likes of Brycen Hopkins, namely his age. You could certainly make a case for his being the first player at his position to be taken.