The 2022 NFL Draft is talented and deep at a number of positions, but lacks a true headliner at tight end. That’s opened the draft board up for several prospects to jockey for position at the top of the board.
Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely comes with a pair of knocks against him as an undersized small school tight end. However, he has the potential to be one of the big playmakers to come out of this draft. Likely has been Coastal’s big play threat as they burst onto the scene over the last two seasons.
The New York Giants have a definite need at tight end after parting ways with their top three from a season ago. We don’t yet know how the Giants plan to employ their tight end position, but Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka are both used to having athletic playmakers at the position. Could that put Likely on the Giants’ radar?
Prospect: Isaiah Likely (4)
Games Watched: vs. Kansas (2021), vs. Arkansas State (2021), vs. Troy (2021), vs. Northern Illinois (2021)
Games Played: 42
Yards (YPC): 2,050 (15.4 per catch)
Games Played: 13
Yards (YPC): 912 (15.5 per catch)
Best: Receiving, athleticism, versatility, big play ability
Worst: In-line blocking, aggressiveness
Projection: A secondary tight end or H-back in a 12-personnel offense
(Likely is Coastal Carolina Tight End number 4)
Isaiah Likely is an athletic and highly productive “move” tight end from Coastal Carolina University.
Likely is a very versatile prospect who played a huge variety of roles in CCU’s offense. Likely not only lined up as a traditional in-line and detached tight end, he played out of the H-back position, flexed out to the slot, and even lined up as a wide receiver. He was used as a pass catcher and blocker from all positions, and even occasionally carried the ball.
Likely was Coastal Carolina’s big-play threat through the air. He is a long-striding runner who has good speed in the open field. He features an efficient release of the line of scrimmage, getting into his routes with the minimum of wasted time or motion. Likely runs a relatively varied route tree and executes his routes well from all positions. He does a good job of chipping when releasing into his routes as a tight end, disguising the routes run from the H-back position, and has good precision as a wide receiver.
Likely uses his size to his advantage against man coverage, boxing out defensive backs and has solid physicality at the catch point. He also does a good job of settling into voids in zone coverage and presenting a good target for his quarterback. Likely has solid ball skills and does a good job of locating and adjusting to the ball in flight.
He is a good-enough blocker from all of his various alignments. Likely uses his athleticism well to gain positioning on opposing defenders and is quick to get in front of a play. He consistently looks for work at the second level and can be seen blocking two or three different defenders on some plays.
But while Likely is a very willing blocker and he can certainly help an offense, teams need to be judicious in who they ask him to block. He gives up significant size to most defensive linemen and EDGE defenders, which shows up when blocking. Likely lacks length compared to many EDGE players and doesn’t have the strength to hold up against defensive linemen. He can also stand to be more aggressive with his hands as a blocker. Likely doesn’t fire his hands into defenders’ chest plates, and instead seems content to be an obstacle as opposed to a blocker.
Likely can also stand to be more consistently aggressive at the catch point. There are instances where he will let the ball into his chest plate as opposed to extending to pluck it out of the air. Likely also lacks great explosiveness from a standing start. He has solid open-field speed but can take several steps to get up to full speed.
Overall Grade: 7.3
Isaiah Likely projects as a second tight end for a team that frequently uses 12-personnel packages.
Likely is an athletic and versatile hybrid tight end who can fill a variety of roles for an offense that’s prepared to use his diverse skill set. He can play out of any alignment in a modern offense and has the ability to be a dangerous receiver from across the offensive formation. Likely is reliable enough to be a check-down or possession option to keep the offense on schedule, but he also has the potential to be a big-play threat. He has enough quickness to get open in short areas, long-speed to stretch the field, and has solid ball skills.
And while he shouldn’t be asked to routinely block defensive linemen, Likely is capable of blocking off-ball linebackers or defensive backs in space. He is a useful player for blocking ahead of sweeps, on screen plays, or on wide-zone runs.
Most offenses will want to pair Likely with a more traditional tight end. Likely’s versatility could allow them to run a wide variety of schemes from one personnel group, and even simulate 11 or 21-personnel packages without substitutions.
Isaiah Likely may be a small-school prospect, but he has the ability to help an NFL team and can be an effective player for an offense willing to use him to his strengths.