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A film study on the complete, playmaking tight end that is Adam Trautman

Adam Trautman’s savvy route-running and adequate blocking ability provides the Saints with depth and long-term stability at the tight end position.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints traded their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round draft picks late Friday night for pick 105. With that pick, they selected 6-foot-5 tight end out of Dayton University, Adam Trautman.

Not the wide receiver some might have wanted, but in my estimation, this was fantastic value in the late-third round.

We’ve seen the Saints pick up receiving specialists like Jared Cook, Coby Fleener and even Dan Arnold. And we know about the Josh Hill’s of the world, who are mostly there for blocking purposes.

But we haven’t seen them grab as balanced of a tight end as Trautman in a while. The 250-pounder has a combination of route-running savvy and strength in the running game that NFL teams covet.

He racked up 916 receiving yards (second-most among NCAA TE’s) to go along with 14 TD’s (first), and his 2.71 yards per route run was tied for sixth-highest in the country. His Pro Football Focus run blocking grade was a solid 74.1.

With that being said, it’s fair to wonder how he fell so far in the draft. I’ll go ahead and give you a hint: It’s the level of competition he played against in college.

Trautman comes from the Pioneer conference in the FCS. His size and movement skills were absolutely unfair against the defenders he was going up against. They had no chance of stopping him.

But he did all he could do, which was utterly destroy the teams he went up against. Since PFF starting grading college players, the only tight end with a higher receiving grade than Trautman’s 94.3 mark was Dallas Goedert, who also went to a lower-level college.

In my Offensive Draft Sleepers piece, I wrote about how important Trautman’s Senior Bowl performance would be due to the questions about his level of competition faced.

Sure enough, he knocked it out of the park in Mobile. He showed he not only belonged on the field with FBS opponents, but that he could thrive in said environment.

He displayed his power in the run game:

And of course, he put scouts on notice with his notoriously-smooth route running abilities. Watch him cook up second-round pick (and now Carolina Panther) Jeremy Chinn in one-on-ones:

We might get to see this matchup twice a year. Can’t wait.

But enough with the Senior Bowl. It was important to Trautman’s pre-draft process, but to be completely honest, you should never put more stock in the limited amount of reps you see there, compared to the entire body of work you see in college. It just turns out Trautman killed it in both respects.

What gets me most excited about Trautman is how good of a route runner he is at his size. He displayed his smooth hips on tape all season with one beautiful route after another, as well as with his three-cone at the combine.

Sean Payton raved about the Dayton-product’s hips in his post-draft interview.

I would second this statement. I talked about a particular post-corner-ish route he ran last year in the aforementioned Draft Sleepers article, but it bears repeating just how impressive this route is.

On this play, Dayton’s offense is in an 11-personnel trips left formation, with no receivers to the weak-side. Trautman is lined up on the line of scrimmage as the Y-tight end on that weak-side. The defense is in man coverage, but with a double on Trautman, with a linebacker faced up on him and a corner with deep outside leverage.

Trautman sees the outside leverage, and before he turns towards the middle of the field for the post, he takes a couple steps outside, turning his hips and head to give the effect of a fade or corner route. This causes the corner to take a couple steps back and outside, and allows Trautman access to the middle of the field. The rest of the play speaks for itself.

There aren’t a lot of tight ends who can move side-to-side well enough to actually sell the outside route like this. This is a very intriguing rep that I’m 100 percent sure played into the Saints’ scouting of him.

Here’s another example:

You can tell he works on this type of stuff a lot. He’s out there cutting and dipping his hips like a wide receiver. I don’t care what his level of comp was, that will translate to the next level.

On this play, he’s working from the slot against a Cover 3 defense. He’s running the deep out/corner route on a flood concept, making the flat/overhang defender decide between the flat route and his route.

He eludes the overhang defender and sharply straightens his route back up-field, before swiftly cutting back out towards the sideline. And he’s wide open.

The word that comes to mind is efficiency. There’s no wasted movement there. He’s not unnecessarily chopping his feet a thousand times before his breaks, like you see many receivers do.

He just uses his top-notch agility to get open ASAP.

Another thing that stuck out on tape was his power and balance after the catch. Now, this can be more attributed to the lack of high-level players he faced attempting to tackle him. A lot of the time, he was just bowling over 190-pound safeties, which you just won’t see in the NFL.

The same can be said for his blocking.

However, he still possesses enough power and elusiveness to make a difference in the YAC department.

According to PFF, he eluded 12 tackles in 2019. That was tied for the second-most among this tight end class.

This is relevant because Sean Payton said he sees Trautman as a “true Y” and as an inline tight end, meaning he’ll be attached to the hip of a tackle on the line of scrimmage. This means he might be cutting into Josh Hill’s snaps, whose position chart looks very similar to Trautman’s in that most of his snaps came as an inline tight end.

The first thing that comes to mind for me when thinking of this is how all of those random little quick screens Sean Payton calls for Hill could now be going to a man who can do a little more with it after the catch.

Not that Hill never made any positive plays on these screens, but he’s not doing much past occupying the space his blockers set up for him. Trautman can do that, plus make a guys miss for extra yardage.

Last but not least on the totem pole of Trautman’s skills are his ball skills. Once again—and I know this is becoming an irritating theme—his level of competition has to be factored into his contested catch numbers.

He caught over half of his contested targets in 2019, but a good bit of them came on plays where the primary defender’s lack of size, athleticism or ball skills were apparent.

Yet he still dominated at the catch point quite often.

His steady hands are also quite impressive, no matter who Dayton was playing against. He dropped a mere two passes on 95 targets last year.

These ball skills will make him a far more effective option in the red zone than Josh Hill.

Overall, Trautman looks to be a great fit in the Saints’ offense. Although he’s seen as an inline tight end, he’s capable of playing in the slot or out wide.

He might not be a burner, with only 4.8 speed, but that’s fine. The Saints prefer to work the short-to-intermediate levels of the field with Brees under center, anyways.

Payton and the offensive coaching staff implement one of the most multiple schemes in the league, as far as how many different formations they trot out. They ran mostly 11-personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE), but were near the bottom half of the league in even that personnel-usage because they use so many others.

One personnel package they didn’t use a whole lot last year was 12-personnel (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB). They ranked 20th in the league in percentage of 12-personnel packages.

But with the depth they now have at tight end, combined with the lack of receiving depth after Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas, I think we could see much more of these two-tight-end packages utilized in the upcoming season.

And that’s why the fans who were hoping for New Orleans to select a wide receiver in the draft should be at least -semi-pleased with this pick. Trautman will be utilized heavily in the passing game if he reaches his potential, much like a receiver would have been.

Plus, “tight end” Jared Cook already basically is a receiver, playing over 50 percent of his snaps from the slot.

Given the value of where they got Trautman, I love this selection. I think it’ll serve Drew Brees and the offense well to have another pass-catching option who can also facilitate in furthering the unpredictability of the offense’s multiple scheme with his ability to block.