Just who is the top tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft class?
It says something about this class that you might get a completely different answer to that question depending on which evaluator you ask. That isn’t to say that this is a weak tight end class — it has the potential to produce several good tight ends. But rather, there isn’t a consensus “TE-1” who obviously dominates the rankings and individual evaluators will value different traits.
There are athletic receiving tight ends, powerful blocking tight ends, and a few “complete” tight ends who can do everything pretty well.
Washington’s Cade Otton is one of those “complete” tight ends, and he has a chance to be the first tight end drafted. Otton has good size, good athleticism, receiving upside, and is an experienced blocker.
Considering we don’t know just how the New York Giants plan on using their tight end position, could a “complete” tight end like Otton appeal? After all, they have a definite need at the position after parting ways with their top three from a year ago.
Prospect: Cade Otton (87)
Games Watched: vs. Montana (2021), vs. Michigan (2021), vs. UCLA (2021), vs. Oregon (2021)
Red Flags: Foot (2021)
Games Played: 31
Yards (YPC): 1,026 (11.3 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 9
Games Played: 8
Yards (YPC): 250 (8.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 1
Best: Size, blocking, pass catching, versatility, toughness
Worst: Top-level athleticism, consistency
Projection: A number two tight end with the upside to be a starter with development.
Washington’s Cade Otton has a good blend of size, athleticism, and versatility to play the tight end position at the NFL level.
Otton possesses a prototypical frame for a “complete” tight end at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds with 32 ¾ inch arms and 9 ½ inch hands. That frame, combined with good athleticism and great play strength allow Otton to be a reliable contributor as a blocker and receiver in Washington’s offense. He lined up as both an in-line tight end in a three-point stance, a detached tight end, and flexed out to the slot position.
Otton was also occasionally flexed out wide as a wide receiver, though that was usually to be a blocker for receiver screens out of bunch sets.
Otton is a generally reliable receiving option. He gets into his routes with little wasted motion and is effective when asked to chip before releasing. While Otton wasn’t asked to run a particularly diverse route tree, he ran his routes well. He understands coverages well enough to bend his routes away from defenders downfield and did a good job of finding voids in coverage. Otton has a big frame and a similarly large catch radius, which he used to good effect. He is physical at the catch point and is able to use his frame to box out defenders.
Otton was primarily used as a blocker in Washington’s offense and appeared to relish the role. He plays with great toughness and aggression as a blocker, regardless of whether it was a running or passing play. He blocks with good leverage and technique, generally keeping low hips and pads while trying to gain defenders’ chest plates. Otton is capable of creating movement at the line of scrimmage and understands angles well enough to use his frame to seal off running lanes.
Washington frequently asked Otton to match up against EDGE defenders and he was able to mirror their speed and anchor well-enough against power. He is a very tough blocker who works to sustain his blocks through the echo of the whistle and looks for work when he doesn’t have anyone to block.
Otton is a capable pull blocker and has enough athleticism to be an effective blocker in space – both at the second level and on screen passes.
While Otton is a solid athlete, he lacks elite athletic traits. He is quick in a short area and has adequate long speed, but isn’t going to be running away from defenses. Likewise, he struggles to create separation as a receiver when matched up in man coverage. Otton can also lack consistency when catching the ball. He generally has good mechanics, but can see the ball glance off his hands for seemingly no reason. Otton’s route tree was also limited by NFL standards and could use some development.
Overall Grade: 7.6
Washington tight end Cade Otton projects as a good number 2 tight end early in his career, and has the potential to become a starting tight end with some development.
Otton has the traits and skill set to be a “complete” tight end at the NFL level who never needs to come off the field. Every team in the NFL should be interested in Otton, considering that 11-personnel is the de facto “base” offense for the NFL. He has the ability to block like an extra offensive lineman while also contributing as a receiving option.
Otton is a more advanced blocker than receiver right now – something of an anomaly for a highly graded tight end prospect in this day and age. That said, his pass catching should come along nicely with some development. Otton may never become a big play threat as a receiver, but developing a more diverse route tree and greater consistency as a pass catcher should make him a solid “starter”.
Even if Otton doesn’t develop as a receiver, he’s good enough that he can be a high quality “number two” tight end who isn’t strictly a blocker in a 12-personnel set.