The tight end class in the 2022 NFL Draft is one full of intriguing players that can fill roles during their rookie seasons. Trey McBride is the common top tight end by most media outlets, followed by Jalen Wydermyer and Jeremy Ruckert. A player that has slid through the cracks slightly is Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely. Likely was not ranked coming into his collegiate career and was recruited primarily as a receiver.
Thankfully, Coastal Carolina envisioned him as a tight end, and now the rest is history. In his four years at Coastal Carolina, Likely improved each year. He posted career-highs in 2021 with 59 catches for 912 yards and twelve touchdowns. Over the last two years, Likely has the most receiving yards by a tight end in the FBS. Following a strong Senior Bowl week, Likely has inserted his name firmly in the race for the top tight end taken in April.
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Name: Isaiah Likely
Jersey: No. 4
Position: Tight End
School: Coastal Carolina
Weight: 240 lbs
Games Watched: Kansas (2020), Kansas (2021), Appalachian State (2021), Northern Illinois (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Even with Likely being under 250 pounds, he still does very well in this regard. Likely is often used as a lead blocker on outside runs and has thrown players three yards down the field with one push. He is aggressive, and it showed in the game against Northern Illinois. In these plays, Likely was often used as a wing. He would go in motion or around the corner and lead block. On other occasions, he would be in the slot or on the boundary and blocked well in space. When he’s an in-line tight end, Likely can block well.
Unfortunately, there are some concerns here. Likely struggles to hold blocks for more than a few seconds. Likely usually tosses defenders, but sometimes he tosses them into the lane of the ball carrier or can’t control them long enough, and the defender detaches from the block and makes the tackle.
Route Running (13.5/15)
Likely is an underrated route runner. Most of his routes were out and curl routes, but a lot of his production came on post and seam routes as well. With his nuance, Likely will transition to an NFL offense with ease. He often goes straight at the defender covering him and almost steps on their feet to get them to back up or go one way or the other, and the Likely enters his break. In one of the games, Likely ran a deep comeback route about 25 yards downfield and made the two defenders backpedal before turning back to the quarterback.
Likely sometimes struggles to get an advantage off the line of scrimmage. He isn’t twitchy off the snap, so the defender is almost right with him as he starts some of his routes. Likely will sometimes be hand-fighting with the defender until the break in his route, which is slightly concerning.
Likely often finds the ball, but there are a few scenarios where he and McCall weren’t on the same page. Likely seemingly wasn’t ready for a ball on a slant in one of the games watched, so the ball bounced off his hands and onto the ground. Other than that, Likely is strong in this regard. It’s just a matter of who the blame is on for those select throws.
Run After Catch (8.5/10)
Likely is versatile in this regard. He is quick with the ball in his hands, yet he can also run through defenders. When there’s grass in front of him, Likely will take it and run with it. He is surprisingly fast, so don’t give him a crease, or he’ll make you pay. He isn’t a player that will make you miss with cuts, but the fact he can move by people or through them is intriguing.
Hands/Ball Security (8.75/10)
There were no dropped passes in the games watched. However, there could be a few to his name because of the timing between him and Grayson McCall being incorrect. There were a few times where McCall would throw an inaccurate ball or throw the ball behind Likely. As a result, the tight end couldn’t snag the ball. If an accurate pass is thrown his way, Likely will catch it.
Contested Catch (8.5/10)
Likely can secure catches through contact. Unfortunately, there weren’t any cases where Likely would Moss defenders, but that could happen at the next level with the defenders he may face. When a defender hits him as he’s in the catch process, Likely does an excellent job securing the pass and bringing it back to his body.
Likely can play in any system at almost any spot. During his time with Coastal Carolina, he played as an H-back, in-line tight end, slot receiver, and outside receiver. He is a willing blocker, and while he makes mistakes, they happen at full speed. In the passing game, Likely is one of the best in the country, and that is a welcomed sight going to the next level.
Likely is dangerous in open space and is a quick mover. He’s not necessarily a twitchy athlete, but more of a player you can get out in space and let him work. That’s why Coastal Carolina used him as a lead blocker quite often during the 2021 season because he could get out in front and pave lanes for the running backs. Likely had two hurdles during the games watched, including one for a touchdown. He is an underrated athlete and is dangerous in the middle of the field.
In a tight end class that lacks a consensus top option, Likely may have forced some to look back at his film some more. He is an excellent option on the second day of the draft. Some teams interested in the Coastal Carolina tight end include the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, or Packers. There isn’t anything that necessarily sticks out in Likely’s skillset, but there is certainly plenty to like and almost no weaknesses in his game.
Likely fits into every offensive system due to the versatility he has, along with his blocking and catching skills. While there may be a bit of a learning curve to begin his rookie year, expect Likely to have a similar season to the one that Pat Freiermuth had for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.
Rookie Projection: Starting Tight End
Third Year Projection: All-Pro Tight End
Final Grade (84.75/100): Early Second Round
Player Comp: Dawson Knox