The Big 10 best returning tight ends were not easy to choose. This position group is complicated because some tight ends are very good in the run game and pass blocking, while others are additional receivers for their respective team. The Big 10 is known for developing tight ends for the next level and the 2021 class was no different. Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State went to the Steelers in the second round. In addition, Ohio State’s Luke Farrell was drafted in the fifth round by the Jaguars. With that being said, here are the top three Big 10 returning tight ends for 2022.
Big 10 Best Returning Tight Ends
3. Erick All, Michigan
Coming in third on our list is Erick All, an Ohio native that landed at the University of Michigan. He was used sparingly in his first two seasons as a Wolverine. During his true freshman season in 2019, All played in only two games and had one reception. His productivity was bumped up to five games during the shortened 2020 season. It wasn’t until 2021 that All really started to produce for Michigan. All suffered a high ankle sprain during last season and still saw action in 12 games for the Wolverines. He tallied 38 receptions for 437 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan coaches praise not only All’s athleticism but also his determination.
All will not be alone at the tight end position for the Wolverines in 2022. The tight end room is returning in full for Michigan. All will have fellow returner, Luke Schoonmaker, to help take the pressure off of him in 2022. Schoonmaker played in nine games last season, complimenting All very nicely. He finished the season with 17 receptions for 165 yards and three touchdowns. This duo will undoubtedly pick up where they left off a season ago.
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2. Payne Durham, Purdue
Coming in second on our list of the Big 10 best returning tight ends is Payne Durham from Purdue. Durham has been a touchdown machine since he stepped on campus in 2019. As a true freshman, Durham played in seven games for the Boilermakers. He hauled in nine passes for 82 yards and tallied four touchdowns. His momentum continued in the shortened 2020 season. Durham saw action in one less game, six, and scored one less touchdown, three. However, his receptions increased to 16 with 166 receiving yards. These numbers show how reliable Durham is for Purdue quarterbacks. All of his numbers increased in 2021. Durham played in 10 games and had 45 receptions for 467 yards and six touchdowns.
Durham had arguably his best game against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. He hauled in five passes for 85 yards and gained two of his six touchdowns. Further, one of those touchdowns was a career-long 62-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter in traffic. The Boilermakers were down by one when Durham made a catch across the middle and carried several defenders into the end zone. He is a guy that will be invaluable to Purdue in 2022.
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1. Sam LaPorta, Iowa
We have reached our number one spot and the tight end shouldn’t be a surprise to Big 10 football watchers. Sam LaPorta has been a workhorse since arriving in Iowa City in 2019. He didn’t log a touchdown in his true freshman season, but he saw action in six games and had 15 receptions for 188 yards. Then, in 2020, he scored his first touchdown against Illinois. LaPorta played in eight games that season and had 27 catches for 271 yards. LaPorta doesn’t have the touchdown totals that Durham has, but he is first on the list because of his production in other areas. He played in 14 games in 2021 and totaled 670 receiving yards on 53 receptions. The Hawkeyes are using LaPorta in other situations besides near the end zone. He finished 2021 with three touchdowns.
LaPorta will look to develop more as a blocker in 2022, but it is no secret that he has a gift on the receiving side of the position. The Hawkeye will hear his name called at the NFL Draft, it will just be whether he is the first tight end off the board or the second. If he can improve his blocking technique, there is no ceiling for LaPorta.