With C.J. Fiedorowicz officially retired from the NFL, the Texans have a pretty big hole at tight end. The 2016 season where Fiedorowicz and Griffin combined for 1,000 receiving yards shows you how dynamic the position can be when played at a reasonably high level. The Texans currently have six tight ends on the roster, but only Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson are proven NFL commodities. The team has to be in the market to add another tight end to fill the void left by Fiedorowicz.
The best tight ends on the market in free agency have all been snatched up by other teams, leaving less than impressive replacement options. Most of the players still available are above the age of 30 and are one-trick ponies. The 2018 NFL Draft may be the Texans’ best bet for addressing the void at TE. Although this is not as impressive a class as last year, which featured three first round tight ends (O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and David Njoku), most of the talent projects to be in the middle rounds, where the Texans have most of their selections.
Here are five tight ends the Texans could add in free agency and/or through the draft.
Julius Thomas (30)
Peyton Manning defined and built Thomas’ career. Outside of having arguably the best QB in history throw him the ball, Thomas has not put up impressive numbers. In 2015, Thomas hit pay dirt when he signed with the Jaguars on a five-year deal that paid $9 million per year. After a season and a half, Thomas was traded to the Dolphins and could barely scratch the surface of his previous success. The 6’4” TE would add more to the passing game than to the run blocking game, but imagine if Deshaun Watson could resurrect Thomas’ career. His dynamic playmaking ability and talent in the middle of the field would open up our elite receiving options for a helluva offensive arsenal. Thomas should be cheap, considering he has a lot to prove, his stock is low, and most teams in need of a TE have already signed one.
Levine Toilolo (26)
A product of the Stanford Cardinal, Toilolo is a young TE who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He has only missed one game in his five year career. His pass catching stats (74 receptions, 723 yards, 7 touchdowns) are respectable and would be a nice addition to the offense. He’s not much of a blocker. He was graded 23rd in run-blocking and 29th in pass-blocking as a tight end in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus last year. Because he is so young, the Texans could continue to mold him. Tight end is a position that requires time to develop into a quality NFL player. Ian Rapoport reported that Toilolo has visited with the Detroit Lions, who just cut Eric Ebron.
(EDITORS NOTE: At the time of this writing Toilolo was a free agent but had not signed with another team. Reports are that the Lions have locked up Toilolo in free agency)
Dalton Schultz, Stanford
Rumors are floating around that Schultz could be landing with the Texans in the upcoming draft. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that the 6’5”, 244 pound tight end worked out with the Texans TE coach Tim Kelly and may have had dinner with the Texans before his Pro Day. Schultz was an All-PAC 12 performer in 2017 after catching 22 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
Here is a good breakdown of Schultz in the passing game.
NFL.com’s Draft Profile of him commends him as “very tenacious and tough as a blocker. Well-schooled in blocking fundamentals.” Projected as a third round pick, I could see the Texans drafting him with the 68th overall pick. Many argue that this pick should go to the best offensive lineman available, but Schultz’s run blocking ability would be an instant upgrade from what we currently have.
Mike Gesicki, Penn State
We Are...Penn State. Mike is...really fast. He ran a 4.54 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is impressive for a guy of his size. He was a pass catching weapon while playing for the Nittany Lions, tallying 57 receptions, 563 yards, and 9 scores while playing in 13 games. Because I LOVE hype videos, here is one on Gesicki.
The second catch in this video where he high points the ball like getting a rebound in basketball is definitely at an NFL level. His hands and route running are the best in this draft. If a team falls in love with his talent, he may be out of reach for the Texans. His athleticism definitely jumps off the paper, as he is a fluid receiver. His run blocking skills leave a lot to be desired; he can be passive at the point of attack and can be moved off of the edge. Still, Gesicki definitely has a place in the league for a guy with his skill set.
Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
I have seen his projections all over the board. NFL.com has him in a 1-2 round slot for the draft. Other sites I have seen rate him a lower, like in the fourth or fifth round. He needs to develop, and it is suspect that he can hold his own against faster and bigger talent, but he absolutely tore up the Missouri Valley Conference. He recorded over 1,100 receiving yards and seven TDs this past year. At 6’5” and 255 pounds, Goedert is a tough man to bring down.
Did you ask for more cowbell? Well I am going to give you MORE COWBELL. Cue the hype video!!
As you see, Goedert was a man amongst boys in college. His route tree is not as developed compared to some of the other players in this draft or in free agency, but the dude is a vicious receiver. He was able to bully smaller DE/OLBs in college; I wonder if he can get away with that in the NFL. I see him as a fourth round TE with a low floor and high ceiling.
Any of these possibilities interest you for the Texans?