The Inquirer’s Eagles beat writers break down the selection of Grant Calcaterra, a 6-foot-4, 243-pound tight end drafted by the team in the sixth round, No. 198 overall, out of Southern Methodist.
Jeff McLane 🤷🏻♂️
By the sixth round of the NFL draft, teams are often looking for one of two traits in prospects: upside or scheme fit. Calcaterra falls under more of the former category after quitting football for almost two years because of concussion concerns. He tried firefighting and nearly became an EMT, but save the Danny Watkins jokes. Calcaterra discovered how much he loved football during the hiatus and returned for his senior season after transferring to SMU.
The 23-year old received medical clearance and avoided another head injury last year. The Eagles obviously felt confident enough in their doctors’ evaluations to draft Calcaterra, but considering his college film and athleticism, he could have been taken earlier with a clean chart. He caught 38 passes for 465 yards and four touchdowns upon his return. Blocking isn’t a forte. He’s an “F” tight end, in that he’ll line up more in the slot as opposed to in-line, as Eagles scout Andy Weidl described him last week.
There have been comparisons to Zach Ertz. Calcaterra even cited the former Eagle as a tight end he patterned his game after. I see perhaps more similarities with former Penn Stater Mike Gesicki, now with the Dolphins. The slight-framed Calcaterra will have to do some blocking, but if he can develop into a receiving threat, and possibly a backup alternative to Dallas Goedert, the Eagles might have found a late-draft keeper.
But concerns about his health are justified. There have been significant advances made in head care with helmets and NFL protocols. Calcaterra has described his concussions as “minor,” but any knock to the head has to be considered significant. Could the Eagles have spent their last pick on a player without check marks against? Maybe. Calcaterra seems like a prospect who could have been acquired after the draft. But if he makes the 53-man roster — the Eagles are noticeably light on accomplished backup tight ends — the sixth-round investment may have been worth the cost.
EJ Smith: 👍
The backup tight end spot behind Goedert was a sneaky offensive need for the Eagles going into the draft, and after trading away five picks for Jordan Davis and A.J. Brown, the team didn’t have much draft capital to prioritize it in the latter rounds.
After an early run on more proven entities at the position, Calcaterra was one of the only intriguing options remaining in the sixth round.
He’s not the ideal TE2 for the Eagles considering his 6-foot-4, 243-pound frame is more akin to a muscled-up wide receiver instead of an inline tight end. He won’t offer much in terms of blocking, at least not right away, but he does have upside because of his athleticism. His talent level would suggest he’d go earlier in the draft, but his retirement from football in 2020 is a legitimate concern.
Still, he had 38 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns in SMU’s pass-happy offense last season after the year away from the game, and he has said the concussion concerns are behind him. If that’s true, there’s some upside for Calcaterra to become an athletic “F” tight end who can run precise routes and create mismatches against slower linebackers, slot corners, or safeties.
The risk of Calcaterra having a short NFL career is there, but the flier on a smooth mover is well worth that risk in the middle of the sixth round.
Josh Tolentino 🤷🏻♂️
NFL teams tend to draft based on selecting the best player available on the board and not on positional need. But the Eagles certainly could’ve benefited from selecting a defensive back on Day 3.
Calcaterra joins a tight end room that’s headlined by Goedert, but there’s not much more reliability from a passing perspective beyond TE1. Tight ends listed behind Goedert on the depth chart include Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson, Richard Rodgers, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Noah Togiai. Calcaterra could earn an opportunity as the featured backup behind Goedert, and he figures to earn more snaps in multi-tight end sets; based on his film, Calcaterra needs work in shoring up his blocking technique.
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He arrives in Philadelphia boasting a relationship with his quarterback — Jalen Hurts and Calcaterra briefly played together at Oklahoma. Their bond might help accelerate Calcaterra’s learning curve, especially if he develops into the featured reserve behind Goedert.
Day 3 pickups are traditionally viewed as low-risk gambles. Last year, the Eagles struck tremendous value when they drafted running back Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round. He proved to be a meaningful contributor, finishing second on the team in total touchdowns. If Calcaterra is able to produce in limited reps, fans will look back at this pick as a success. If he fumbles his opportunity, this selection will be remembered as one that could’ve been used to address the secondary.