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NFC North Grades and Needs: Tight End

Tight ends are the next stop on the 2016 grades and 2017 needs adventure. Let’s take a look at the stats, grades and needs.

Minnesota Vikings: B

Kyle Rudolph had his best season with Minnesota in 2016. Rudolph caught 83 of 132 targets for 840 yards and 7 TDs. Rudolph had a 10.1 YPC average and notched 11 gains over 20 yards. This is what the Vikings expected out of a first round pick.

Rhett Ellison was more of blocker but did have 15 targets and 1 rushing TD. Mycolle Pruitt only had 1 target on the season and a knee injury in 2016. He was waived during the season.

Minnesota had some pass protection and run blocking issues but Rudolph had a nice season. Ellison is a free agent. The Vikings need to add two backup tight ends this offseason.

Detroit Lions: B-

Eric Ebron had a good season in 13 games for Detroit. Ebron missed 3 games due to an injury. The 10th pick from 2014 had 711 yards and 1 passing TD (1 rushing TD as well) on 86 targets (4th most on team). Ebron was terrible as blocker in both the run game and the rare times he was asked for pass protection. However, Ebron showed his explosiveness in the passing game and was a big time threat in 2016. He only had 23 yards and two big drops in the wild card game. He must step up more in his 4th season in 2017. Detroit must decide whether to exercise his fifth year option for 2018 this offseason.

Matthew Mulligan only had 1 target and Clay Harbor and undrafted rookie Cole Wick had 3 targets a piece. Mulligan was an average blocker but had zero threat in the passing game. Brandon Pettigrew never was activated from PUP and was waived during the season to add cap space. Pettigrew was worth the first but was a bad re-sign by Mayhew. Wick was injured early in the season as well despite showing promise in the pre-season with the starters. Tim Wright was injured in OTAs and missed the entire season. The Lions need to add one backup tight end that can both a receiving threat and block well. Cole Wick will get a shot as the 3rd tight end again among other young players. Harbor and Mulligan are free agents.

Green Bay Packers: C+

Jared Cook struggled in the regular season due to injury and a slow start. However, Cook came on strong late in the season and in the post season. Cook had 377 yards on 57 targets and 1 TD in the regular season Cook had 229 yards and 2 TDs in three post season games including two big games in the divisional round and NFC championship game.

Richard Rodgers added 271 yards on 46 targets and 2 TDs. Justin Perillo had 5 targets for 35 yards. Green Bay’s blocking was average to below average at tight end.

Cook is a free agent and Green Bay should try to re-sign him. He was a boon for their offense late in the season and postseason.

Chicago Bears: D

Zach Miller had 484 yards and 4 TDs on 65 targets in 10 games. Miller missed 6 games during the season and had three different QBS this season in Chicago. Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker and Logan Paulsen did not do much as the 2nd and 3rd tight ends. Mycole Pruitt was added after the Vikings cut him in October. The Bears ranged from solid to below average in blocking but Howard still flourished at RB. Chicago still needs to upgrade their 2nd and 3rd TE.

Free Agency

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/tight-end/

Jordan Cameron, Jared Cook, Jermaine Gresham, and Martellus Bennett are the top tight ends available. Green Bay should try to re-sign Cook. Bennett would actually be a great pickup even as a second TE as he was a top 10 TE in 2016. Bennett is a blocking and passing threat.

Draft

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2017/TE

OJ Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram are the top tight end prospects this year.

Summary

Green Bay needs a starter and Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit need to upgrade their second and third tight ends. Detroit really needs to add better blocking tight ends to help the run game.