The New York Giants seem to be undergoing a bit of a paradigm shift with regards the tight end and fullback positions. Rather than having separate positions, Ben McAdoo is lumping the two into a single one -- which for ease of use, I'll call the "H-Back".
"Move" and "Hybrid" tight ends, players who are bigger than a wide receiver, but more athletic than classic tight ends, have been seeing greater and greater use in the NFL. It was a trend that has generally been credited to the New England Patriots' use of Aaron Hernandez. With those personnel groupings a "hybrid" tight end was often on the field in the place of a fullback, giving the offense a size and athleticism mismatch. However, those players rarely have the same blocking ability as a classic tight end or a fullback.
The Giants seem to be tackling that dilemma by using athletic players who are bigger than classic fullbacks and shorter than normal tight ends, and moving them freely between the backfield, the in-line tight end position, and the slot. So that is the lens through which we will be looking.
Ben Braunecker (Harvard) -- Listed as a tight end, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Braunecker looks more like the Giants' H-Backs. Braunecker was arguably the most athletic "tight end" at the combine, landing in the top five (three in most cases) of every single measurable event. He was a man among boys playing at Harvard and was able to easily overwhelm his competition as both a blocker and receiver, but showed a mean streak and willingness to block and soft hands that should translate to the next level. He'll face a serious jump in competition in the NFL, but he has the tools to make the leap.
Dan Vitale (Northwestern) -- Used as a "Superback" in college, Vitale was used as a lead blocker, pass catcher, and rusher. He has surprising athleticism for a 6-1, 240-pound player, leading all running backs in the short shuttle and was third in vertical. Vitale is actually one of the sharpest route runners in this draft class, has good instincts as a blocker, and reportedly has high character and football IQ.
Glenn Gronkowski (Kansas State) -- Thanks to his older brother Rob, Glenn gets a certain amount of name recognition., however, some view him as "just another fullback". At Kansas State he showed the versatility -- and athleticism at the combine -- that he could have a future as an H-Back if he were to land on the right team. He left college early, so he could still stand to improve as both a pass catcher and blocker.
Hunter Henry (Arkansas) -- Henry is generally considered to be the top tight end in the draft. He does everything a classic NFL tight end is asked to do. He blocks well, runs solid routes, is a dependable hands catcher, and can threaten all over the field.
Jerell Adams (South Craolina) -- Adams is almost the prototype for a "move" or "hybrid" tight end. Built more like an industrial-sized receiver than a small tackle, he is lean, with long arms, big hands, and the athleticism to threaten every level of a defense. Doesn't look like he would be much of a blocker, but he has the "want". Also has the reputation of a good teammate.
Nick Vannett (Ohio State) -- Vannett just looks like an NFL tight end. Tall, broad, lean, and athletic, he has the frame and strength to be an in-line blocker -- Which was how he was primarily used at Ohio State. He caught the ball well when it was thrown to him, but Ohio State's scheme and glut of weapons limited his opportunities. He should blossom in the NFL.
Austin Hooper (Stanford) -- Stanford is getting the reputation of putting some very good tight ends into the NFL. Hooper is undersized to be a classic tight end, but at 6-4, 254, with solid athleticism, a creative offense can move him all over the formation. He has good hands and is determined with the ball in his hands. He probably needs to improve his technique as a blocker, especially if called upon to do so from the backfield, but he will be able to threaten seams from the start.