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2019 NFL Draft Could Be Big For Tight Ends

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's draft day for the National Football League. Usually, quarterbacks and defensive players rule the first round, but this draft could be big for tight ends.

LINDSAY JONES: Historically, in the NFL, a tight end has been kind of used as an extra blocker, and that has really changed as the league is transforming more into a passing game. The most valuable skill that a tight end can have now is his skills as a receiver.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

That's Lindsay Jones, who covers the NFL for The Athletic. She's in Nashville for the draft, where two tight ends are likely to get picked early; T.J. Hockenson, in particular, may go very early.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: T.J. Hockenson - touchdown Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: And guess what? It's a tight end - T.J. Hockenson.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: It's back to the end zone. Touchdown - it's Hockenson.

JONES: He's the guy who a team's probably - that drafts him, especially if he drops into the top 10, they're going to see him as a guy who can catch 100 passes a year, a guy who can have double-digit touchdowns. So that's the ideal type of tight end that you're looking for right now - a guy who is big, fast, strong, but you don't think that there's anybody on the opposing defense who's going to be able to cover him as a pass-catcher.

CORNISH: Hockenson and his fellow Iowa Hawkeye Noah Fant have serious shots at going in the first round.

JONES: That would be exceedingly rare and just a sign of just how valuable tight ends are becoming in today's NFL.

SHAPIRO: Two tight ends, both from Iowa - some are calling it Tight End U. Another Hawkeye, George Kittle, set records at tight end for the San Francisco 49ers last year.

JONES: You know, I don't know if it's anything about their specific schemes that they're running there, but it is very interesting that they kind of have these two guys that are built very similarly that are coming out right now, and people in Iowa should be very proud to have the two tight ends coming out tonight.

CORNISH: That's Lindsay Jones, NFL reporter at The Athletic.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARCELS' "COMEDOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.