This article is part of our Position Rankings series.
The tight end position has some interesting characters among its elite, highlighted once again by the versatile Jaylen Samuels of NC State. That said, there are plenty of newcomers to this year's list from both blue blood and Group of Five programs as well. Our other position-by-position rankings (running back, quarterback, wide receiver) are all available to help you dominate your draft.
1. Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State, Sr.
Samuels is one of the more unique players in the college landscape as a tight end/h-back who serves as a key component to the Wolfpack offense. His impact as a runner took a step back last season, but he's still managed to rack up at least 55 catches and at least 13 total touchdowns each of the last two years. Although his rushing volume slid, he still got some red-zone opportunities and ran for five scores in those situations. There are other talented tight ends out there, but Samuels has unique upside at the position.
2. Adam Breneman, Massachusetts, Sr.
Once a top recruit for Penn State, Breneman briefly retired due to persistent back problems but eventually resurfaced at Massachusetts, where he quickly established himself as one of the nation's top tight ends. He finished last year as Massachusetts' top pass catcher, snagging 70 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games. With quarterback Andrew Ford back, 2017 should see more of the same. The blue-chip talent he was known for clearly remains intact, and while there will always be some durability risk with Breneman, he'll prove a mismatch against almost all defenses.
3. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma, Jr.
Andrews has shown unique athleticism and a few moments of brilliants in his two years at Oklahoma, and he still remains one of college football's best NFL prospects at tight end, but it's time for the 6-5, 250-pound Andrews to take the next step. In his two seasons he has 50 catches for 807 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he might push for the 800-yard mark in this year alone after Oklahoma saw its other three leading pass catchers – Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon and Geno Lewis – leave school after combining for 149 catches last year.
4. Mike Gesicki, Penn State, Sr.
Even with talented receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall on the roster, Gesicki managed to establish himself as Penn State's second-leading pass catcher behind go-to wideout Chris Godwin. Finishing with 48 receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns, Gesicki outpaced Hamilton by 173 yards and four touchdowns, and even more might be expected in 2017. Gesicki has growth potential for touchdowns specifically, as he caught one in three straight games to end last year, and Godwin headed to the NFL after leading Penn State with 11 touchdowns last season.
5. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina, Jr.
Hurst is a former baseball prospect who returned to the football field after a few years away, giving him a bit of an advantage over his competition due to his advanced age. Hurst looks like a good player anyway, but turning 24 in August certainly helps a bit. After all, he made an impact last year that sophomore tight ends normally can't in the SEC, catching 48 passes for 616 yards and a touchdown. The 6-5, 250-pound target should see his production improve as sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley builds on his promising 2016 debut.
6. Cole Herdman, Purdue, Jr.
Herdman emerged as a reliable chain-moving target for Purdue as a sophomore last year, reeling in 35 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns. He might double that production in 2017, as Purdue lost four of its other top-five leading receivers from last year, making Herdman the team's top returning pass catcher. New coach Jeff Brohm is one of college football's most impressive tacticians, and one with a history of making productive tight ends, so Herdman's overall playing situation should improve his numbers even more than his own progression does.
7. Nigel Kilby, Eastern Michigan, So.
Kilby quietly put forth an impressive freshman season last year, and now the 6-7, 239-pound tight end heads into his sophomore year as one of the most high-upside players at his position. Not many tight ends put forth 34 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns in their first 12 collegiate games, but Kilby can claim the accomplishment. The Eastern Michigan offense is poised to maintain the improvement its shown for years under the direction of coach Chris Creighton, as starting quarterback Brogan Roback returns after throwing 18 touchdowns in nine games.
8. Ryan Yurachek, Marshall, Sr.
Yurachek might be a bit under the radar after a down 2016 season, but he could finish his Marshall career strong in 2017. Despite finishing last year with 28 receptions for 298 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games, Yurachek's more insightful box score is from his 2015 season, when he caught 44 passes for 417 yards and nine touchdowns. He saw some of his tight end production uncharacteristically poached by teammate Emanuel Byrd last year, but Byrd graduated after catching 26 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
9. Ari Werts, Georgia State, Jr.
Few know of Werts after he served as backup tight end on one of college football's worst offenses last year, but he demonstrated standout ability on his own part, and his role is about to increase significantly. Starting tight end Keith Rucker graduated after catching 32 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games. Despite Rucker's presence, Werts caught 21 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns on just 28 targets. With Rucker gone, Werts should see his target count approach or exceed 60, putting him on pace for 50 or more yards per game.
10. Blake Mack, Arkansas State, Sr.
He might function more like a receiver, but Mack is listed as a tight end and should be one of the top fantasy options at his position this year after leading Arkansas State in receiving yardage in 2016. There is some regression risk since Mack was dependent on the big play, catching just 34 passes while turning them into 652 yards, but he's a good bet to improve on his three scores. The return of starting quarterback Justice Hansen is reassuring, and Mack's red-zone usage could go up after the graduation of Kendall Sanders, who led Arkansas State with seven receiving scores.