The 2022 NFL draft is flush with talent at a number of positions, but the tight end position hasn’t been talked about nearly as highly as some others in this year’s draft class.
Nevada tight end Cole Turner blossomed into one of the most important weapons for his teams’ offense last year. He had a break-out season with 62 receptions and 20 touchdowns — both by far career highs. Turner isn’t known for his blocking, but given the rising importance of tight ends in modern passing attacks, how much does that matter?
The New York Giants have a definite need for a long-term answer at tight end after parting ways with their top three tight ends from 2021. Could Turner be an option for the Giants?
Games Played: 25
Yards (YPC): 1,370 (11.7 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 20
Games Played: 11
Yards (YPC): 677 (10.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 10
Best: Length, catch radius, ball skills, open field speed
Worst: Blocking, play strength, contact balance
Projection: A secondary right end in a spread offense.
Cole Turner is a long, athletic, and versatile receiving tight end from the University of Nevada.
Turner is a tall, lanky tight end at 6-foot 6 ½ inches, with 33-inch arms, giving him an absolutely massive catch radius.
He is a versatile player and was a moveable piece in Nevada’s offense. Turner played both in-line and detached tight end, H-back, slot receiver, and wide receiver and frequently played out of multiple positions on the same drive. He is a dangerous receiver and was able to execute from each of those alignments. His long legs give him deceptive speed in the open field and he has solid quickness for such a large player.
Turner is a confident receiver with a good ability to locate, track, and quickly adjust to the ball in the air, and he is a reliable option in the short, intermediate, and deep areas of the field. Nevada used Turner in a variety of ways, from tight end screens and quick stick routes to mesh concepts and angle routes, to vertical routes attacking the seams or with fade routes. Turner’s size also made him useful as a blocker for tight end screens, particularly when matched up against defensive backs on the perimeter.
Unfortunately, Turner will probably need to be limited to blocking defensive backs at the NFL level. He is a poor blocker over all, playing with poor technique and play strength. Turner has a stiff lower body, leading to high pad level and considerable waist-bending, compromising his leverage. Turner also lacks good hand usage, rarely striking defenders and controlling them, and too often leading with his shoulder.
Overall Grade: 6.1
Nevada tight end Cole Turner projects as a secondary receiving tight end in a spread offense.
While Turner has the size to be a “complete” tight end, that just isn’t his game. He lacks the play strength and technique to consistently be asked to block as a “Y” tight end, and is the most useful flexed out. Turner’s length and ball skills make him a dangerous receiver and a much better player as a pure “receiving” tight end than his grade would indicate – it’s weighed down heavily by his blocking issues.
Turner does a great job of locating, tracking, and making adjustments to the ball in the air, and he is a “hands” catcher down the field. He’s able to leap and high-point the ball, as well as lay out to make the most of every inch of his impressive catch radius. Those traits are maximized when he’s matched up on defensive backs as a slot or wide receiver.
Likewise, Turner’s blocking is maximized when he’s able to use his frame to obstruct defenders’ path to the ball – particularly when he is able to match up on much smaller defensive backs. He doesn’t have the play strength or the technique to match up on EDGE defenders and linebackers, often getting blown up as they make their way to the ball.
Turner does have some issues with contact balance, with some lower body stiffness apparently making it easy for defenders to knock him off his route in traffic. Again, that’s minimized by the sheer mass difference when he can be schemed match-ups with defensive backs.
Turner has the potential to be a useful player in a passing offense, and can find his way onto the field as a sub-package player as a rookie. His frame suggests the potential for more mass and blocking upside, but that would be a multi-year project for a team.