With TE Hayden Hurst having been shipped off to the Atlanta Falcons in the wake of Austin Hooper’s departure, the Ravens are left with a tight end room that is still one of the league’s best - but one that also has questions to answer. For a team that last year used a two-tight end set on 29% of all offensive plays and a three-tight end set on an additional 7% of all offensive plays, these questions are ones the front office is certainly asking as they evaluate talent going into the draft.
Chief among these questions is this: should Mark Andrews or Nick Boyle miss time due to injury, who will replace them? And who will replace Hurst’s 30 receptions (16 for first downs) for 349 yards as the third tight end? Who can the Ravens run out confidently to both make difficult catches and clear a path on run plays?
The answers may come from the likes of Pat Ricard and Charles Scarff, but it is unlikely the Ravens will solely rely on these two players alone to replace Hurst.
In Ricard’s case, he’s shown that he not only can be utilized as a formidable defensive lineman, he can also line up as a pseudo tight end as needed for the Ravens. That being said, Ricard has a dramatic impact in his role as fullback and they’ll want to reserve him for that, as well as any potential defensive reps they plan to use him for.
That leads us to Charles Scarff, who is a second-year tight end from Delaware. He spent last season on the practice squad and was signed to a futures contract, which puts him on the 90-man roster but not necessarily the 53-man squad. There are many who have applauded Scarff for his initial play in training camp and the pre-season last year, but that by no means suggests that he’s ready to fill the role that Hurst, a first-round talent, leaves behind. He is a big unknown in this situation, and the front office will be analyzing his strengths, weaknesses, and upside to inform any decisions about a potential prospect.
The truth is that filling Hurst’s role may be unreasonable to do with a single player without using a top draft pick. It’s entirely possible that the Ravens return to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster, using two tight ends to replace the void left by the dynamic Hurst, while adding depth in the event of injury. The upcoming draft is undoubtedly somewhere the Ravens will look to fill out their tight end room.
With reinforcements needed at edge, interior offensive line, linebacker and wide receiver, the Ravens would have to value a tight end quite highly to take one with any one of their five picks in rounds one through three. Realistically, they could find impressive talents like TE Adam Trautman (Dayton) and and TE Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) with either of their two third round picks.
It’s also plausible that the Ravens will value a tight end talent in the fourth round or later, allowing them to potentially double dip early in a strong wide receiver class or take a second linebacker before addressing tight end. It’s doubtful that Trautman or Hopkins will be available by the time pick No. 129 comes around, but there should still be good value in the fourth round and beyond.
Here are a few prospects that could contribute in the third tight end position, potentially develop into being a regular in the rotation and be available in the mid/late rounds of the draft.
Devin Asiasi, UCLA
All of these tight ends are on this list for a reason: they can block. If Boyle goes down, the Ravens will want to be confident that they can put someone in with Andrews who can do a solid job blocking (no disrespect to Andrews’s much improved blocking game over the year). Asiasi blocks well and is comfortable on the line and flexed. He has work to do to consistently bring in contested balls, but other than that, he has a lot of upside for a pick in the fourth round or later.
Also of note is that before his time at UCLA, Asiasi was on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan. There’s no doubt that John Harbaugh will mine his brother Jim for information about this prospect’s skillset and work ethic.
Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt
Pinkney is a high-ceiling, high-floor prospect. His speed is not terribly impressive but he does well enough in both the receiving and blocking game to be looked at in the middle rounds. This past season was almost the opposite of Moss’s, in which Pinkney’s production suffered excessively from poor quarterback play. Had he left after his junior season, he may have been off the board by the end of the second round, which tells you about the potential he has.
Thaddeus Moss, LSU
Moss won’t wow anyone with his separation or speed, but he has strong hands and he can block. He is comfortable both in-line and flexed. In that sense, he would provide a similar level of versatility as Hurst, meaning he could spell Andrews or Boyle in a two-tight end set without teeing up a run or a pass to the defense. This would be immensely beneficial, even if his skills are not as formidable as those of Hurst. He had his best year in a prolific LSU offense with Joe Burrow at the helm, so the sample size of his play is limited.
Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati
If Deguara is available in the 5th round, the Ravens may be enticed to take him. He doesn’t have the same upside as the prior prospects mentioned, but he’s a strong blocker, and dependable receiver. His profile is similar to Boyle’s in fact where he can be relied on to do the dirty work on the line and catch passes. Playing behind Andrews and Boyle, he could flourish.