When drafting in the later rounds of the NFL draft you are looking for a specific skill set. Whether it be athletic ability or a special teams ace, good teams are very intentional with their late round picks. That’s exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did when they drafted Minnesota tight end Ko Kieft.
Kieft was drafted in the sixth round and was the second tight end the Buccaneers picked in the 2021 draft. He wasn’t on the radar for many fans or evaluators, myself included. So after going back and watching him play I can understand why Jason Licht and Todd Bowles wanted to bring him in.
So, what is the skill that Kieft brings to the table? That would be his blocking ability. Kieft is a relentless and versatile blocker who can lineup in a variety of formations.
Listed at 6’5 and 265 lbs by the team, Kieft plays with the power you would expect of his size. In many ways he’s a 6th offensive lineman on the field with the ability to drive back defenders. However, this is not a stiff limbering goon.
Kieft can play as a wing and get out in space or make key backside blocks. He moves with surprising speed for a man of his size. Kieft excels at getting to his spot and inflicting pain.
To give you an idea of how good Kieft is, he was named as an honorable mention on the All Big Ten team. Pretty impressive for a guy who only had seven catches for 101 yards and one touchdown all season. This is a reflection of what he can do as a blocker.
For the Bucs, I’d expect him to be used as a chess piece. Kieft will likely play in the line, as a wing and I could even see him being the primary fullback. Without setting the bar too high, Kieft should be able to replicate most of what Rob Gronkowski was able to do as a blocker in Tampa Bay.
As good as Kieft is as a blocker, the questions about the rest of his game are just as important. As noted before, in 2021 Kieft only caught seven passes in 13 games. His route running, ability to separate and ability to catch the ball are all unproven at best.
Could there be unlocked potential here as a pass catcher? Possibly, and if anyone can help realize it then it would be quarterback Tom Brady. However, it’s much more likely that Kieft is a niche player in the NFL.
Kieft has one very valuable skill in his blocking ability that the Bucs needed. He’s strong, quick and nasty and will fit right in with the “glass eaters” on the offensive line. It’s for this reason that I expect Kieft to make the team as a sixth round draft pick.
With that said, Kieft will likely never be a guy who you can consistently use in the passing game. He will never be a red zone weapon or a highlight reel type of guy. In fact, most fans probably won’t even notice him as he goes about his business on the field and helps the team win.
Expect to see Kieft in goal line packages and in short yardage situations for the Buccaneers. He will also likely make his mark on special teams in different ways. He’s the hard nosed blue collar player that coaches absolutely love and I am no exception to that. You may not see many number 41 jerseys in the stands, but Kieft will be a fan favorite amongst football junkies.
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