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Arik Gilbert
NFL Draft

Arik Gilbert Doesn’t Need Big Workload To Be A Top NFL Draft Pick

  • Ryan Fowler
  • August 22, 2022
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Following a standout campaign at LSU in 2020, tight end Arik Gilbert enters 2022 with lofty expectations for the Georgia Bulldogs.

A transfer to Athens last summer in which Gilbert made his way to campus in early June, he was irrelevant during Georgia’s run to a national championship. After going through summer workouts with the team, the five-star prep talent began preseason camp with the program but eventually departed in mid-August due to personal reasons. While he failed to register a snap in his sophomore campaign, the performance ceiling on Gilbert remains as lofty as any flex talent in college football and could have us reliving history with a familiar name out of the Bulldogs pipeline.

Early signs from the spring showcased everything head coach Kirby Smart could hope for out of the big 6-foot-5 weapon. A standout during the Bulldogs’ ‘G-Day’ spring scrimmage in which he hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions, the nation’s former No. 5 overall prospect checks off every box you look for in a modern-day in-line talent. And when you pair him with Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, two talents you’ll hear plenty about this fall, he’ll find himself in advantageous matchups all campaign long.

While Gilbert’s production hasn’t been anything to write home about, it’s imperative to understand how the NFL evaluates talent. It’s trait-based, meaning numbers, while they do matter, aren’t the be-all-end-all. If a talent like Gilbert at his aforementioned frame with his movement skills is found in a crowded room for targets, where he eventually hears his name called isn’t based on how many receptions and trips to paydirt he totals during his collegiate tenure. 

It’s similar to Tre’ McKitty, a product of the Bulldogs and current tight end for the Los Angeles Chargers. After spending his first three seasons in Tallahassee as a member of the Seminoles, McKitty made the move to Georgia in hopes of revitalizing his career. It didn’t happen statistically, as he wound up totaling six catches for a substandard total of 108 yards. However, in the eyes of the NFL, McKitty presented a modern-day flex weapon who would thrive on Sundays despite a limited workload. In a day and age in which pro offenses are in search of the next alignment-versatile talent who can both block with success and separate on the outside, McKitty heard his name called in the third round. 

From Kyle Pitts to Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle, the tight end spot has become a ‘Weapon X’ for many of the NFL’s elite offenses. It’s a spot where a bigger body can outmuscle smaller defenders, and in turn, run by more stoutly-built bodies tasked with battling near the line of scrimmage, Arik Gilbert could be the next gamechanger at the NFL level.

Targets won’t be guaranteed this fall with college football’s top tight end (Bowers) atop the depth chart, but if Gilbert is able to recapture the success he achieved both in high school and at LSU, don’t be surprised to hear the No. 60 ranked prospect in the TDN100 find his way up 2023 NFL Draft boards as we move toward April.

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Ryan Fowler