The tight end class for the 2017 NFL draft appears loaded, and Bucky Hodges could be one of the highlights. Does his scouting report reflect that?
School: Virginia Tech
Weight: 245 lbs
Actually started out as a quarterback in high school and was a four-star recruit to Virginia Tech at that position. This helps explain intelligence and understanding for the various requirements as a receiver. He was converted to tight end once he got to college.
- His height jumps off the screen. Such an inviting target for a quarterback due to his wide catch radius. Also makes him an instant threat in the red zone.
- Shows the toughness, strong hands and awareness needed to consistently win 50/50 situations. Times his jumps well and often is able to high point the football. This either results in a catch, or quite often drawing interference calls.
- Does a good job of using his hands to catch the ball rather than his body. Plays the position like a receiver, showing proper technique every time the ball is thrown to him.
This play showcases what pro teams want to have in their starting tight ends nowadays. Hodges is matched up on a shorter defensive back. Predictably the quarterback goes his way. He uses every bit of his height and physicality to fight off the defender while using proper hand technique to high point the football for a touchdown catch. That is textbook red zone execution.
- Has speed that will sneak up on you. For such a tall guy, he runs like a small forward in the NBA. Has frequently taken hand-offs in the backfield and run them through holes like a running back for decent gains.
- Showed on several occasions he could beat press coverage off the line and get a step on defensive backs. Would’ve made more big plays with a more accurate quarterback.
- While not his forte, he can be a willing blocker. He shows could technique to get the seal on running lanes. More than once he’s been able to help pop some nice rushes.
- Though tall, he’s actually undersized due to his lower weight. Comes across as skinny, which makes him a liability as a blocker against defensive lineman and linebackers in passing situations.
Everything about Hodges from a downside point of view as a blocker is showcased here. The defender uses leverage and a nice setup move to get him to drop his head and lunge. Predictably the defender gives him the slip around the edge and is able to help blow the play up in the backfield. Not only does Hodges need to stay low in that situation but also has to stay patient in his fundamentals.
- Lazy route runner. Comes off the snap with a sort of lackadaisical motion and doesn’t put a ton of effort in and out of his breaks. Particularly bad when he knows he’s likely not getting the ball.
- Has a bad habit of pushing off defenders right before the ball arrives. Got away with it a lot in college but it’s often clear enough where he won’t get away with such things in the NFL.
- After he initially beats a defender off the line he sometimes doesn’t maintain his acceleration when he looks back for the ball, allowing the cover man to catch up. Must learn to run every play out fully.
Pro Comparison: Julius Thomas
Like with Thomas, everything depends on the scheme Hodges ends up in. Thomas was a dynamic and often uncoverable weapon in the passing game for the Denver Broncos. He had size and speed to his advantage. Featuring those two traits, he’s invaluable. However, put him in a more traditional offense where he has to block a lot and his impact is cut considerably. Hodges has a height advantage over Thomas but has similar blocking concerns.
Projection: 2nd to 3rd round
His incomplete skill set does not fall in line with what makes a top 32 selection. Even so, there will be one team who sees his enormous value as a pass catcher on Day 2 and pulls the trigger. Hodges will be an immediate help through the air. If he can improve his technique and add more weight, there’s also a chance he can shore up the one area of his game holding him back.