Tight end was a position in major flux last season, something the Cincinnati Bengals hope to avoid in 2017. That was largely due to injury as NFL tight ends are more physical than ever.
One player who could help prevent the position from becoming a problem in 2017 is Mason Schreck, whom the Bengals drafted in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft. However, Schreck is facing some stiff odds of making the final roster.
Where does he currently stand on the depth chart, and does he have a realistic shot at making the 53-man roster?
Position: Tight end
Weight: 258 pounds
Hometown: Medina, Ohio
Schreck’s rookie contract is a four-year deal worth up to $2,464,270, according to Spotrac. If waived this year, the Bengals will only have a dead cap hit of $64,270. He’ll make $481,067 in 2017 if he makes the 53-man roster.
Injuries decimated the tight end 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 draft selection on a tight end this year. The 251st-overall pick in Round 7, Schreck wasn’t projected as a draftable prospect by any major service, but he certainly had his moments in college.
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.
The good news for Schreck is he gets to fight for a roster spot at a position that's been very thin over the years in Cincinnati, though more so because injuries have ravaged the position than anything else. That's why Schreck's greatest value is as depth in case injuries arise once again. If Eifert, Kroft or Uzomah get banged up, the Bengals now have Schreck waiting in the wings to step up.
Saying all of this, 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 when they did in the draft, and they may try to stash him on the practice squad this season.
It’s somewhat normal for NFL 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. Not helping his cause are numerous reports of dropped passes on a near-daily basis so far during training camp.
That said, Schreck can spend the next year developing and improving his skill set with NFL coaching if he does make the practice squad. And in 2018, Eifert will become a free agent, followed by Uzomah and Kroft becoming free agents in 2019.
If everyone stays healthy at the position, Schreck will probably begin the regular season on the practice squad. Though, one or two injuries at this position could lead to him getting a quick call up. He’s not looked great in training camp thus far, though it’s hard to put much stock into a rookie struggling through his first week of training camp. He’ll be an intriguing player to watch in preseason games.
Odds: 20 percent.