Could Hunter Bryant Be the First Tight End Off the Board? A 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile
Image Credit: Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Hunter Bryant.

The original version of this article published on January 6. We now have combine numbers. Did Hunter Bryant’s athletic measurements do enough to cement his place as one of the top tight ends in the draft?

Hunter Bryant is one of the best young TEs 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.

BACKGROUND

Bryant was born in Issaquah, Washington and attended Eastside Catholic High School in his hometown. 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.

COLLEGE PRODUCTION

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.

DRAFT PROSPECTS

Bryant is currently the TE3 over at CBS. Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network has Bryant ranked as the No. 4 in this class. 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.

COMBINE PERFORMANCE

Not a terrible showing at all, just not a particularly memorable one. Bryant was at or around the 50th percentile in most of the categories. The only notable exceptions are the shuttle and arm length. His performance in the shuttle, not to mention the vertical jump, put him in some particularly disappointing company. The good news is his hand size puts him in rarified air.1

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 forty-yard dash opens up many other possibilities. Bryant falls to the left of this node with his 4.74 forty (which is too bad because he managed 23 reps on the bench). His broad jump of 115 did him a power of good, though, landing him in the third most successful node for TEs while avoiding Node 4 and its 0% success rate.

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.

OUTLOOK

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.

  1. The linked article doesn’t look specifically at TE hand size, but considering TEs use their hands in a lot of the same ways as wide receivers, the advantages of hand size ought to translate.  (back)

Neil Dutton

Lead Writer, soft spot for the tight end position. Will never stop loving Duke Johnson.
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