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Saints 2022 Position Battle Preview: Tight End

Saints’ TE1 position up for grabs heading into training camp

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints have a long history of talented tight ends. But who will Pete Carmichael go with for the 2022 season alongside a new wealth of wide receivers?

There are currently seven tight ends listed on the roster. Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, and Lucas Krull appear to all be in the hunt for the TE1 position.

Here’s what you need to know about each player and their current odds of being the starting tight end:

1. Adam Trautman

Last season, the 25-year-old Trautman was the starting tight end for the Who Dats. In his sophomore season, Trautman managed to record 263 yards and two touchdowns in 2021. He missed six games last season due to injury and COVID-19 protocols.

Last season was an odd one for Trautman. Not only did he miss considerable time away due to a knee injury, some have speculated that he was never 100% healthy after his return. Trautman has been a notable weapon for the Saints in his first two seasons, especially in the run-block department. This year, he will have a huge role as both a blocker and as a short route target for Jameis WInston amongst a field full of talented receivers.

GM Mickey Loomis certainly saw great potential in Trautman when he gave up four picks to move up and draft the Dayton tight end in 2020. This year, he has the opportunity to build on his role, and I believe that he currently has the best odds to be TE1, but other candidates are not far behind. He still needs to impress Carmichael and Allen at training camp.

2. Taysom Hill

Shortly after Dennis Allen was hired as head coach in February, he moved Tayson Hill to tight end. Though Hill has played his fair share of tight end during his tenure with the Saints, he is now officially listed as a non-quarterback.

If anyone on the Saints’ roster, other than Alvin Kamara, has proven himself as a versatile athlete, it’s Taysom Hill, the Swiss Army Knife. Regardless of the tight end position battle, Carmichael will likely continue to find ways for him to contribute. The question involving his contributions as a tight end will rely on his ability to create space and pull in targets, despite being the shortest tight end on the roster.

I expect that you will continue to see Taysom Hill doing Taysom Hill things, he just may not be the TE1. He is still currently recovering from surgery in January, but is expected to be fully healthy for the season.

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

3. Juwan Johnson

Johnson may be the most intriguing tight end heading into this position battle. He is currently coming off a 159 yard, 13 reception and four touchdown 2021 as a wide receiver-tight end hybrid.

As Johnson further transitions into his role as a tight end, he may be in for a big season. He performed better in 2021 than many expected, perhaps largely due to the absence of wide receivers on the roster. Johnson has the speed and athleticism that would allow Carmichael to move out wide if necessary, adding another big-height threat to the Saints’ offense.

If anyone besides Trautman is to make a surprise impact as a tight end, I believe it could be Johnson. Transitioning from wide receiver to tight end takes time, and he might have what it takes to pull in a few targets per game from Winston in 2022.

3. Nick Vannett

Vannett will be entering his seventh season as an NFL tight end, making him the longest tenured tight end that is battling for the Saints’ TE1. Last season, he made nine catches for 133 yards and one touchdown.

There’s no doubt the Vannett has an uphill battle in earning the TE1 spot. Carmichael will certainly want to give Trautman, Hill and Johnson their fair share of playing time. However, Vannett has six years of experience in the NFL, possibly giving him an advantage over some of the younger tight ends who have yet to show serious production.

This appears to be a make-or-break season for Vannett. If he has an impressive training camp, then perhaps he will be in the TE1 consideration. But, as of now, I expect Vannett to play a few downs per game, but nothing substantial.

5. Lucas Krull

Krull appears to be the young wildcard candidate for tight end this season. He’s an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh that could potentially make the roster in a crowded tight end group. He’s a sturdy 6’6, 260 pound playmaker that could make a leap over some of the veterans on the roster.

Krull supposedly had an impressive start to OTA’s and minicamp, surprising coaches and adding another tight end to the battle. The 24-year-old is primarily a receiving specialist, with room to improve on the blocking end.

At the end of the day, he’s tied with Vannett as the tallest tight-end on the roster and has been performing better than expected recently. It would be shocking to see him emerge as the TE1, however, there’s definitely a chance he could make his way into the lineup in 2022.