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Where is Tight End on Bolts List of 2024 Draft Needs?

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Welcome to Part 8 of our 2024 draft preview series, which will be a position-by-position look at key prospects and where the Chargers roster stands ahead of the NFL Draft. This series will include a look at which prospects could be options for the Chargers later this month.

We chatted with Dane Brugler of The Athletic to break down the tight ends in this draft class. Brugler, one of the most well-respected draft analysts in the country, can be found on Twitter @dpbrugler for his analysis.

Chargers status at TE

Will Dissly, Hayden Hurst, Ben Mason, Donald Parham, Jr., Stone Smartt

A trio of players in this group are new while the other two are returning players.

The Bolts signed both Dissly and Hurst in free agency, adding a pair of veterans that should provide stable play at the tight end spot.

Both players recently said they're going to bring a blue-collar mentality to the Bolts.

"You can see the younger generation is falling in love with 7-on-7 and passing camps. That's definitely not where I came from," Dissly said. "You have to put in the work.

"I look at it like basketball — you have to set the screen to get the pass for the layup," Dissly added. "Put the work in to get the reward. I've never been afraid of hard work."

Hurst added: "We're going to be physical, we're going to come at you. When you see us pop up on the schedule, it's going to be a long Sunday."

Parham and Smartt offer value, too, including in the passing game.

The 6-foot-8 Parham has 11 touchdowns over four seasons while Smartt enters Year 3 as a tight end after playing quarterback in college.

The Bolts recently signed Mason, who has appeared in one career game.

Is TE a position of need?

Of the five tight ends currently on the roster, only Dissly is under contract past the 2024 season.

Brugler opined that the need for a long-term option, coupled with Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's background, could mean the Bolts will be in the market for a tight end higher than normal in the draft.

"Obviously, you look at Jim Harbaugh's background and how much he likes to use the middle of the field, use the tight ends, work the seam … it's something that has been an identity for this head coach," Brugler said. "You look at the tight end position and you can make an argument that it's one of those spots on offense that they're going to be looking to upgrade. It's just a matter of where do they find the value in doing that?

"Could they be in the market for Brock Bowers at five or is it more likely a trade back situation? They could look at the second and third rounds and say, 'Alright, this is the guy we're targeting?' I wouldn't say it's a great tight end class, but I would say slightly above average," Brugler added. "There's a big drop off after Bowers, but once you get to Day 2, there's certainly a few names that I think would interest Harbaugh and the Chargers for what they want to be on offense."

Key draft questions

1. Why is Brock Bowers the clear-cut No. 1 tight end?

"He's a playmaker and it doesn't matter where you line him up. He's only limited by the playcaller's lack of imagination because he can line up in line, he can be in the backfield, he could be out wide, he can be in the slot. I think the word 'versatility' gets used probably too much this time of year. Every prospect is versatile, but as you project him to the next level, Brock Bowers has legitimate versatility. You watch him on the Georgia tape and the offense went through him. They would use him on motion, they use him on jet sweeps so that he can do a little bit of everything. You want him to block, he can do that. But he can also be a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 pass-catching option for an offense."

2. What are your thoughts about taking a TE in the top 10?

"There's a lot of different opinions on this. There's not one blanket thought from team to team, they all look at it a little bit differently. If Bowers goes No. 5 overall, he enters the NFL as one of the highest paid tight ends in the league already. But, hypothetically, when you sign an extension, he's not going to cost as much as a top receiver. So that's something that teams have brought up in terms of cost now and later. Bowers belongs in that conversation as a blue chipper, but because he plays tight end, maybe he gets knocked down a little bit and goes in that eight to 12 range as opposed to somewhere in the top seven."

3. Who's a mid-round TE the Bolts could target?

"Let's go with Jared Wiley, the TCU tight end. I think he'll go somewhere in that third to fourth-round range. He's 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds and ran in the low 4.6s in the 40-yard dash. A former quarterback, but he made the transition a tight end and he looks natural doing it. He's got a vacuum hands with just one drop in his career. He has good athleticism for his size. Maybe you don't see him running down the scene that often on tape but you look at the size and the speed and you say, 'OK, he's got the ability to do it.' He could be a post-up target or a catch-and-run guy. I just think he's a good size athlete with toughness and ball skills."

Expert rankings

Jeremiah currently has one tight end in his latest overall Top 50 list, while ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has one in his Top 25 (Bowers).

Brugler has four tight ends in his most recent Top 100 list, with the highest coming in at No. 7 (Bowers).

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus has two tight ends in the top 100 in their Big Board Rankings, with a highest of No. 7 (Bowers).

Potential Chargers options

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on (linked for each player's name).

Bowers 1

School: Georgia | Year: Junior | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 243 pounds

2023 stats: 10 games; 56 receptions for 714 yards (12.8 avg.) and six touchdowns; 5.6 receptions per game; 71.4 yards per game

Quick fact: A three-time All-American at Georgia, Bowers became the first back-to-back winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.

T. Johnson

School: Penn State | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 259 pounds

2023 stats: 13 games; 34 receptions for 341 yards (10.0 avg.) and seven touchdowns; 2.6 receptions per game; 26.2 yards per game

Quick fact: A team captain, Johnson tied for third in the nation with seven touchdown catches in 2023.

J. Sanders

School: Texas | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 245 pounds

2023 stats: 14 games; 45 receptions for 682 yards (15.2 avg.) and two touchdowns; 3.2 receptions per game; 48.7 yards per game

Quick fact: Sanders ranks first all-time among Texas tight ends in career receptions (99), second in receiving yards (1,295) and sixth in receiving touchdowns (seven).

Brugler's Report: "A little bit undersized at 6-4 and 245 pounds but he's athletic and works well on the move. He was second in college football in terms of tight ends with the most catches of 20-plus yards just behind Bowers, so he has some big-play ability. I just wanted to see more of a red-zone presence from him and that was as much play calling as anything. But if you're looking for a guy between the 20s that's going to help you get first downs move the chains, Sanders can affect the game with his athleticism."


School: Ohio State | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 247 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 41 receptions for 576 yards (14.0 avg.) and five touchdowns; 3.4 receptions per game; 48.0 yards per game

Quick fact: A 2023 Second-Team All-Big Ten selection, Stover was also the Big Ten Tight End of the Year.


School: Kansas State | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 250 pounds

2023 stats: 12 games; 49 receptions for 676 yards (13.8 avg.) and six touchdowns; 4.1 receptions per game; 56.3 yards per game

Quick fact: A two-time All-Big 12 First-Team honoree, Sinnott is tied for the most receiving touchdowns by a Kansas State tight end with 10.

Brugler's Report: "Another really good athlete. He's fluid, loose, accelerates really well. He's a really coordinated ball catcher so it doesn't matter if the ball is right at his numbers or if he gets a little bit awkward to finish the catch, he can do it. I think he projects best as that versatile H back where you can flex them all over the formation. He gives you some blocking value but his real value will be as a pass-catching option. It might not be a priority to add a player like this, but I think he's going to fit every scheme."


School: Florida State | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 241 pounds

2023 stats: 13 games; 39 receptions for 503 yards (12.9 avg.) and two touchdowns; 3.0 receptions per game; 38.7 yards per game

Quick fact: Bell, who spent the first three seasons of his career at South Carolina, scored 13 total touchdowns in his career, including four on the ground.

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