Falcons 2020 roster outlook: 3 things to know about the tight ends

RosterTEs

Editor's note: This is No. 4 in a series detailing each position group on the Falcons' 90-man roster.

FALCONS ROSTER PREVIEWS

For the better part of the past four seasons Austin Hooper has been the Falcons' primary tight end, but after he departed in free agency, Atlanta traded for a player it believes can thrive in that role. Hayden Hurst, a former first-round pick who was in a crowded position group in Baltimore, now has the chance to break out in an offense that has been a great spot for tight ends.

2019 returning production

Table inside Article
Player Games started Catches Receiving yards Touchdowns Yards/catch Catch rate
Jaeden Graham 0 9 149 1 16.6 90.0%

2019 incoming production

Table inside Article
Player Games started Catches Receiving yards Touchdowns Yards/catch Catch rate
Hayden Hurst 4 30 349 2 11.6 76.9%
Khari Lee* N/A 8 91 2 11.4 N/A

*Stats from 2020 XFL season

Here are three things to know about the Falcons' tight ends heading into 2020:

1. What exactly are the Falcons getting in Hurst?

Hurst was one of the top tight end prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he got lost in the shuffle a bit during his first two years in Baltimore. By all accounts, though, Hurst has all of the physical tools to replace Hooper in this offense. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds at the NFL combine, which was faster than Hooper's time of 4.72 seconds.

Hurst also received some major praise from quarterback Matt Ryan this offseason. The two have worked together on the field some already, and Ryan called Hurst "one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I've ever played with." As a reminder, Ryan played with Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Now, nobody is saying Hurst is ready to fill those shoes, but he might be a welcome addition in Atlanta in 2020.

2. Can anyone further down the depth chart emerge?

Tight end depth isn't exactly like depth at other offensive positions. Some teams prefer to have more players who can help in run blocking on their depth chart, which makes the group look a little less productive as a whole. Still, is there a player on the roster who can emerge as a capable threat alongside Hurst? Right now, the player with the most returning production is Jaeden Graham, who enters his third year with Atlanta. Graham came on strong while Hooper was injured last season, catching seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in Weeks 11-13, but he wasn't much of a factor outside of those games.

There are a few newcomers on the roster, including former Bills tight end Khari Lee, who was last seen playing in the XFL and catching a pair of touchdowns. The Falcons also added a pair of college free agents in Jared Pinkney and Caleb Repp, and they have Carson Meier on the roster, who spent the majority of the 2020 season on the practice squad.

3. Pinkney and Repp are intriguing for different reasons

In many ways, Pinkney and Repp took very different paths to the NFL. Pinkney was a four-year contributor at Vanderbilt and had a standout season as a junior in 2018, when he caught 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. He never matched that success during his other three seasons, failing to top 280 yards or three touchdowns in any other year, but he comes to Atlanta with plenty of experience and a 6-foot-4, 257-pound frame.

Repp spent the first three seasons at Utah, playing tight end as a freshman before switching to defensive end for his sophomore and junior seasons. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Repp had the necessary athleticism to make his coaches consider the change to defense, but he transferred to Utah State for his final college season and once again played tight end. In his lone season with the Aggies, Repp caught 36 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns. Repp is much more of an unknown at tight end, but his 2019 season suggests upside is there.

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