NFL teams invested heavily in tight ends during the 2017 draft.
For the first time since 2006, five tight ends were selected in the first two rounds, and for the first time since 2002, three went in the first round. And teams dug deep for those pass-catchers, with South Alabama's Gerald Everett leading four non-Power Five tight ends drafted in the first found rounds.
Though it's possible a few more small-school tight ends emerge as early-round prospects for 2018, it's more likely players from traditional powers are off the board early.
Entering the 2017 college football season, here are the top five tight end prospects for the 2018 draft, a group that includes three from the Big Ten.
5. Durham Smythe – Notre Dame
Arguably the most athletic tight end in the 2018 class, Durham Smythe could shoot up draft boards with a big 2017 season.
A little smaller at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Smythe was finally healthy and involved in the offense last year — though his nine catches for 112 yards and four touchdowns are still underwhelming. He's a good blocker who could stretch the defense if he and new quarterback Brandon Wimbush are on the same page.
4. Marcus Baugh – Ohio State
Baugh, a former four-star top-150 recruit in the 2013 class, got off to a rough start at Ohio State. After a redshirt season, he was suspended for the first two games in 2014 after an underage drinking incident and caught a total of two passes in 2014-15.
Last year, he became a reliable weapon, catching 24 passes for 269 yards and two scores. At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, he's a great blocker with good-enough athleticism to help in the passing game.
Marcus Baugh finds the end zone. pic.twitter.com/B6EPqKCcKB
— Ozone Communications (@theOzonedotnet) October 23, 2016
3. Mark Andrews – Oklahoma
Recruited as both a tight and receiver, Mark Andrews has insisted he's a receiver since arriving at Oklahoma. And while the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder can play receiver in the NFL, his future is likely at tight end.
A similar player to former Ole Miss' tight end New York Giants' first-round pick Evan Engram, Andrews is a large target who moves well and can stretch the field (16.7 yards per catch in 2016). He won't be a first-round pick but continues to climb draft boards and could be a day-two prospect.
2. Troy Fumagalli – Wisconsin
Fumagalli, Wisconsin's 6-foot-6, 247-pound tight end, may have been a third- or fourth-round pick in this year's draft had he declared after a breakout junior year.
Despite having just nine fingers — his left index finger was amputated shortly after birth — Fumagalli is a sure-handed versatile big man who caught at least one pass for at least 20 yards in seven games last year.
1. Mike Gesicki – Penn State
A Third-Team All-American in 2016, Mike Gesicki set the Penn State single-season records for most receptions (48) and receiving yards (679) by a tight end.
The 6-foot-6, 252-pound senior has risen from little-used backup to one of the premier tight ends in the nation by using his size and athleticism to confuse defenses. Another big season could thrust him into fringe first-round prospect.