2019 Preseason All-American Projections: Tight Ends

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2019 college football season WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2020 NFL Draft.

First-Team Tight End: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

The Iowa tight end tandem of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were top-20 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but if Albert Okwuegbunam had decided to skip his senior year, he could have gone in that same region, and some teams could have had Okwuegbunam as their top graded tight end. Since getting on the field at Missouri, Okwuegbunam has been one of the most dangerous and productive receiving tight ends in college football while taking on the best competition in the nation.

Okwuegbunam was a dangerous red-zone weapon in 2017, hauling in 11 touchdowns from Drew Lock. Missouri opened up its offense with Lock in the back half of that season, using Okwuegbunam as one of is steady receiving threats. The redshirt freshman, hauled in 29 receptions for 415 yards on the year. In 2018, he had 43 receptions for 466 yards with six touchdowns before missing the final four games with a shoulder injury.

As a receiver, Okwuegbunam is dynamic. He has the speed to get down the seam and his size lets him wall off defenders or make catches over them when they were able to keep him from getting separation. Thus, Okwuegbunam is very difficult to cover as safeties will struggle with his size while linebackers will have a hard time running with him. Okwuegbunam runs quality routes and is adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage. He tracks the ball well and shows impressive hands to snatch passes out of the air. With his soft hands, Okwuegbunam does not have to body catch and is very calm to make receptions with defenders closing in on him. Even with breaking in a new quarterback, I think Okwuegbunam could be the best tight end in college football in 2019 and earn a lot of postseason honors.

Second-Team Tight End: Grant Calcaterra, Oklahoma

The Sooners have been a point-machine offense, and tight ends generate solid receiving production in Lincoln Riley’s offensive scheme. Calcaterra caught 26 passes for 396 yards and six touchdowns last season, which was a solid debut as a replacement for Mark Andrews. Calcaterra could definitely produce more now that he has a year of experience, plus Oklahoma will have to use other players with the loss of Marquise Brown to the NFL. It would be surprising if Calcaterra did not produce good receiving totals in 2019 and earn some awards at the end of the season.

Third-Team Tight End: Mitchel Wilcox, South Florida

In 2018, Wilcox totaled 43 catches for 540 yards and two touchdowns. He made some big plays as a freshman in 2016, averaging a ridiculous 23.2 yards per reception. Wilcox could take on a bigger role in 2019 since the Bulls lost some receivers to the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder is athletic with mismatch receiving potential.

Honorable Mentions: BYU’s Matt Bushman, Oregon’s Jacob Breeland, Arkansas’ Cheyenne O’Grady, Georgia’s Charlie Woerner and Fresno State’s Jared Rice.

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