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Question of the week: Is tight end a smart choice for the Cowboys first-round selection?

The Cowboys have been linked to tight end prospects all offseason, but we dig in to see if it’s the right move.

Syndication: Times Record News Torin Halsey / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL draft starts next Thursday and mock drafts see the Cowboys going a variety of different ways at pick 26. One of the more popular positions being mocked to the Cowboys in the first round is tight end, which is controversial among Cowboys fans and draft gurus alike. In the last six NFL drafts, there have been just seven tight ends taken in the first round. Let’s take a look at who they are, a brief overview of their stats, and if they were worth the pick.

2021: Pick 4- Kyle Pitts

Pitts is entering his third year in the NFL, which equates to the same number of touchdowns he has caught across his first two seasons. Although he did catch 68 balls for over 1,000 yards his rookie season, he was rather inefficient last season. Playing in just 10 games and not eclipsing 400 yards, it was a tough sophomore season for the former fourth overall pick. As for if he was worth that selection, it’s too early to tell. If he were picked a bit later, maybe there would be some shreds of optimism, but being a top five pick usually shouldn’t lead to a 356-yard outing in year two.

2019: Pick 8- T.J. Hockenson

Hockenson, like most of the other tight ends that were picked in the first round from 2017 to now, isn’t on his original team. His fifth-year option was picked up, but was traded before he could get a second contract from the team that drafted him. He had his best season last year, amassing 914 yards and six touchdowns, clinching his second Pro Bowl appearance. That marked a career high in yards and tied his career high in touchdowns. Similar to Pitts, he shows great upside, but if we were to go back to 2019 and re-draft the top-10, is he apart of that? Probably not.

2019: Pick 20- Noah Fant

Fant, like Hockenson, is on his second team. His career high in receiving yards is 673, which was back in 2020. He has 14 total touchdowns over four years and has yet to make a Pro Bowl. Is he a fine player? Sure, but was he worth the first-round pick? Absolutely not.

2018: Pick 25- Hayden Hurst

Hurst has been with as many teams as anyone on this list, signing with his fourth team this offseason. He has yet to catch more than 600 yards in a single season and has 14 touchdowns across five NFL seasons. He’ll be 30 years old entering next season and with no Pro Bowl appearances under his belt, Hurst was definitely not the worth the first-round selection.

2017: Pick 19- O.J. Howard

Similar to Hurst, Howard just signed a contract with his fourth NFL team. He made it through the full five years of his rookie contract, although his career has somewhat derailed after his third season. In the last three seasons, he hasn’t caught for more than 200 yards or two touchdowns. Think this one goes without saying, Howard probably wouldn’t even be a day two pick if the 2017 draft was revisited.

2017: Pick 23- Evan Engram

Engram is probably the hardest one on this list to assess on a “was it worth it” basis. He struggled to stay on the field with New York, although he did make one Pro Bowl in 2020, but he was excellent with Jacksonville last season. He’s logged 60 or more receptions in three of six seasons and when on the field, is one of the better tight ends in the NFL. Since he wasn’t picked early in the first round, Engram was probably worth the selection at 23.

2017: Pick 29- David Njoku

Other than Pitts, Njoku is the only player on this list to be with the team that selected him. He’s just 26 years old and signed a massive extension with the Browns last offseason. Betting on his youth is an idea, but the statistics surely don’t back it up. Through six NFL seasons, he has caught for over 600 yards just twice and has yet to surpass more than four touchdowns in a single season. With no Prol Bowl’s under his belt and having missed good chunks of time throughout his career, Njoku was not worth the first-round selection.

The Verdict

All things considered, tight ends in the first round are a scary investment. In the last handful of drafts, first-round tight ends have a really substandard track record, which may scare teams into looking there early. Similar to buying a boat, it’s fun and fresh when first done, but after some time, it’s probably not worth the investment. Tight end is a risky position to spend a premium pick on. Very, very risky. Are you comfortable with the Cowboys assuming that risk?


Should the Cowboys select a tight end in round 1?

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