Tight end was a position in major flux last season, something the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to avoid again in 2017.
Injuries ravaged this position at various points last year, highlighted by Tyler Eifert missing eight games due to back and ankle injuries. C.J. Uzomah missed time due to a calf injury, while Tyler Kroft was sidelined for most of training camp and the preseason with a knee sprain.
That may explain why the Bengals used their final 2017 NFL Draft selection on Buffalo Bulls tight end Mason Schreck. The 251st-overall pick in Round 7, Schreck wasn’t projected as a draftable prospect by any major service, but this is the round in which teams take chances on guys you may have never heard of.
Schreck was a productive pass-catcher in the MAC, earning all-conference honors last season after catching 59 passes for 651 yards and four touchdowns as a first-year starter.
Even with a good senior season, Schreck got very little love from the draft community.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay did not have Schreck among his top 300 prospects coming into the draft
- Mel Kiper also did not have Schreck among his top 300 players.
- The final Pro Football Focus draft board did not have Schreck among their top 300 players.
- CBS Sports had him ranked 507th.
- The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, did not have Schreck among their top 300 prospects.
It’s clear that Schreck had very little value in terms of where the Bengals got him in the draft, but his greatest value is as depth for what was a shaky position last year. If Kroft, Eifert and/or Uzomah get banged up again, the Bengals now have Schreck waiting in the wings to step up.
Then again, Schreck doesn’t look like someone who will contend for a roster spot this year, being that Eifert, Kroft, Uzomah and h-back Ryan Hewitt will occupy all of the tight end snaps and roster spots. That’s actually probably why Cincinnati took Schreck, who they may try to stash on the practice squad this season.
It’s pretty common for teams to draft players they plan on stashing on the practice squad on Day 3 of the draft. Schreck looks like he could develop into a nice NFL player over time, but this simply isn’t a position where he’s likely to earn a roster spot in 2017, outside of there being injuries to other guys.
But in 2018, Eifert will become a free agent, so if he leaves, Schreck could take his roster spot in 2018 while Uzomah and Kroft occupy the starting duties. It’s also worth noting that Uzomah and Kroft are both free agents in 2019, so Schreck could spend the next two seasons on the practice squad, then make the roster in 2019 and be one of the top three tight ends.
Schreck probably begins the regular season on the practice squad, but one or two injuries at this position could lead to him getting a quick call up.