The Atlanta Falcons have been quiet this offseason in addressing their need at tight end, suggesting that they could be planning to upgrade the position in the 2016 NFL Draft.
It’s likely that the Falcons at the very least want to supplement this position due to the fact that the top three tight ends currently on the depth chart consist of starter Jacob Tamme and backups Levine Toilolo and D.J. Tialavea. Former undrafted rookie Beau Gardner is fourth after missing his entire rookie season with an injury.
While Tamme was solid for the most part as a starter last year, his ceiling is firmly established as not much higher than an above-average starter on a “good day.” Unfortunately, Tamme only saw a handful of “good days” last season. While an effective pass-catcher, Tamme’s blocking also left a lot to be desired. Thus the Falcons would be smart to bring in someone that has the potential to be better in both areas.
That is not going to be either Toilolo or Tialavea. Toilolo served primarily as a blocker last season, a skill that he is at least competent at. But the Falcons barely made use of the 6’8″ tight end in the red zone last year, an area where the team struggled to produce in, suggesting that they see little upside in his meager contributions to the passing game.
Tialavea flashed blocking ability and special-teams ability before getting hurt last preseason, but is more akin to the caliber of player you bring in to compete for a third tight end spot rather than someone who is just handed the gig.
With Tamme also entering a contract year, it makes sense for the Falcons to target a tight end relatively early with starting potential. Tamme is good enough to handle starting duties in 2016, but ideally any rookie added can immediately slide into a potentially vacated starting spot come 2017.
It’s not a particularly adept tight-end class, so if the Falcons will only increase the chances they land someone with starting potential by targeting someone relatively early in the draft. Otherwise they may find themselves missing the boat for another year at tight end.
While the Falcons can have a certain level of confidence in Tamme to handle the starting duties for one more year, the reality is that without added a draft pick, this group immediately because the weakest position group on the offensive roster. The Falcons can avoid that distinction by using an early or middle-round pick on another pass-catcher at tight end that can be a potential upgrade as early as 2017.