Top 10 tight ends in the 2017 NFL draft

Former Alabama tight end O.J. Howard on the move against LSU. (Associated Press)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Here are the top 10 tight end prospects (with projected draft round) for the 2017 NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia:

  1. O.J. Howard, 6-feet, 6-inches and 251 pounds, Alabama (first round): He passed on the NFL and returned to Tuscaloosa for his senior year. He set career-highs in 2016 with 45 catches and three touchdowns as he earned second-team All-SEC honors. “He’s the best tight end in this draft,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “What makes him unique, he not only can survive in the run game, but he’s pretty darn good at it. You look at somebody that can create big plays down the field with his speed, height, weight and speed.”
  2. David Njoku, 6-4, 246, Miami (first-second): A fluid runners, who’s also willing do the dirty work as a blocker. He was lined up in-line and flexed in the slot for the Hurricanes over the past two seasons as a starter. He made five starts in 2016 and finished third on the team with 43 catches for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.
  3. Evan Engram, 6-3 234, Mississippi (first-second): He is from Powder Springs and played at Hillgrove High School. He was a three-star tight end recruit . He received only two scholarship offers from power-five programs, committing to Ole Miss over Wake Forest.  In 2016, Engram was the Rebels’ featured receiving threat as he led the team with 65 receptions for 926 yards and eight touchdowns.
  4. Jake Butt, 6-5, 246, Michigan (second-third): Tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the Orange Bowl. He had 46 catches for 546 yards and four touchdowns last season and was won the the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten tight end of the year award and was named first-team All-Big Ten.
  5. Gerald Everett, 6-3, 239, South Alabama (third): The Lithonia native played at Columbia High. He caught 49 passes for 717 yards and four touchdowns last season. He did not play football at Columbia until his senior year, but was a three-year varsity basketball player in high school and also was member of track and field team.
  6. Adam Sheehan, 6-6, 278, Ashland (third-fourth): A late-bloomer who was a 190-pound wide receiver in high school. Started out as a basketball player in college. In 2016, he started all 11 games and set a new Division-II record for touchdown receptions by a tight end  with 16. He had 57 catches for 867 yards.
  7. Jordan Leggett, 6-5, 258, Clemson(third-fourth): In 2016, he had his most productive season with 46 catches for 736 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named first-team all-ACC.
  8. Jonnu Smith, 6-3, 248, Florida International (third-fourth):  Played 43 games over his college career and caught 178 passes for 2,011 yards and 18 touchdowns.
  9. Cole Hikutini, 6-4, 247, Louisville (fourth): After playing in junior college, he committed to Louisville over Purdue. He started three games for the Cardinals in 2015 and had 19 receptions for 348 yards and three touchdowns. In 2016, he made 10 starters and had a team-best 50 catches for 668 yards and eight touchdowns. He earned second-team All-ACC honors.
  10. Jeremy Sprinkle, 6-5, 252, Arkansas (fourth-fifth): He was a two-year starter for the Razorbacks. He caught 60 passes and 10 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons. Could develop into a NFL starter.

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