It wasn’t all that long ago that tight end were valued for their blocking potential first and as check-down options second. It was rare that a tight end was a featured weapon in the offense and only a select few tight ends could make that claim.
Now, however, tight ends are being valued for their versatility and ability to create and exploit match-ups in the passing game with their size and athleticism.
UCLA’s Greg Dulcich made a name for himself with a breakout 2021 season and has almost certainly caught teams’ attention for his receiving ability. He’s a great example of this new breed of tight end.
The New York Giants could be looking at the tight end position in the 2022 NFL Draft, and we don’t know what kind of tight end they want to employ. Could Dulcich fit the bill?
Prospect: Greg Dulcich (85)
Games Watched: vs. Hawaii (2021), vs. LSU (2021), vs. Arizona State (2021), vs. Cal (2021)
Games Played: 24
Yards (YPC): 1,353 (17.6 per catch)
Games Played: 11
Yards (YPC): 725 (17.3)
Best: Receiving, athleticism, versatility, body control, competitive toughness
Worst: Blocking technique, leverage
Projection: An important rotational tight end with starting upside and scheme diversity.
(Dulcich is UCLA TE number 85)
UCLA’s Greg Dulcich is an athletic, versatile, and competitive receiving tight end.
Dulcich has solid size for a hybrid tight end at the NFL level, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 243 pounds, with 33 ⅞ inch arms and 9 ⅞ inch hands. Dulcich has experience playing out of a number of different alignments in UCLA’s offense. He frequently lined up as an in-line “Y” tight end, and played from a detached alignment as well. Dulcich also lined up as an H-back, slot receiver, and wide receiver depending on the offensive playcall. He was also used as a “move” player on occasion, both changing alignment before the snap and being used in jet motion at the snap.
Dulcich ran a fairly varied route tree, executing both short and vertical routes from each position. He has a solid release against zone coverage, with good suddenness off the line of scrimmage. Dulcich also shows an understanding of how to use his hands to clear man coverage without being slowed or having his route disrupted. He has a solid understanding of his role in the route concepts, and does a good job of using his size to create traffic for defenders to maximize receiving windows for his teammates.
Likewise, he has a good feel for slipping to the second level and finding voids in coverage. Dulcich does a good job of positioning himself to maximize his receiving windows and set himself up for run-after-catch opportunities. He also has reliable hands in tight quarters, with good grip strength to secure passes as he goes to the ground. Dulcich does a very good job of locating the ball in the air, tracking it, making adjustments, and catching the ball with his hands. He also has impressive body control to make difficult catches along the sideline and come down inbounds.
Dulcich is a surprisingly capable runner after the catch. He has impressive grace for a bigger player and is very competitive. He routinely fights to break tackles, keeping his feet and picking up yards after the catch. His long speed shows itself when he’s able to catch the ball instride and with space to run.
Dulcich is also a very competitive blocker and shows solid play strength. Unfortunately, his blocking is compromised with flawed technique and some uncertainty.
Dulcich is a high-cut player and often lets his hips (and pads) rise early in reps, losing leverage and negating his play strength. He is fairly easily moved by defenders, and can struggle to sustain his blocks. Likewise, Dulcich can appear both slow and mechanical when firing his hands into defenders. He rarely initiates contact, and frequently allows defenders to win his chest plate. Dulcich uses his athleticism well to get into position when blocking at the second level, however he often needs to chop his feet before engaging defenders, giving them valuable time to prepare. He can also show some hesitation before engaging defenders.
Overall Grade: 7.1
As it stands now, Greg Dulcich projects best as a second tight end in a spread offense, and might be best in an offense that uses a high rate of 12-personnel packages.
Dulcich’s athleticism and receiving ability will make him a valuable contributor very early in his rookie year. He has a knack for finding open space in the defense slipping into coverage voids unnoticed by defenders. Likewise, Dulcich presents a tough match-up for man coverage schemes as well. His size, speed, athleticism, and hand usage allow him to create separation almost at will.
Those traits also make him a useful piece for 3rd down and Red Zone packages. He locates the ball quickly, has reliable hands, and great body control.
He’s a natural catcher of the ball, and his yards-after-catch potential makes him a big-play threat for any offense that looks to spread the field. Dulcich is also selfless enough – and a good-enough route runner – to be useful as a distraction or obstacle in route concepts.
All of that gives him significant upside to almost every modern offense and will get him on the field early and often as a rookie.
However, Dulcich is more of an annoyance than anything else as a blocker at this stage in his development. He isn’t a weak player, and he shows the play strength elsewhere in his game to suggest upside as a blocker. His problem is much more of a technical one – Dulcich just isn’t good at the finer points of blocking. He’s slow, mechanical, with poor leverage and very inconsistent hand usage. Dulcich is capable of laying some impressive blocks when it all comes together for him. Unfortunately, that only happens occasionally and more often he’s best described as an obstacle for the defense.
Dulcich has the potential to be a starter and an every-down tight end for just about any offense in the NFL. But he will need to improve his blocking (both as a pass protector and run blocker) to get to that point. He has the tools, with good play strength, great competitive toughness, and body control. He just needs to learn the technique.