If Tyrone Swoopes hears his name called at any point during the 2017 NFL Draft, he’ll be announced as, “Tyrone Swoopes, tight end, Texas.”
As a Longhorn, Swoopes never once saw a snap at the position, but following five months of training for his transition from quarterback to tight end, he’s beginning to look the part of a legitimate professional pass-catching prospect.
Since December, Swoopes has spent seemingly countless hours training with pro-agility, three-cone, position and footwork drills, among other workouts at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Texas in hopes that his professional aspirations come to fruition this weekend, even if it be on Saturday during Day 3 of the draft.
While even that may be a stretch, as Swoopes is currently just an intriguing project prospect in a draft considerably stacked with proven tight ends, his natural athleticism and physical tools make him flyer-worthy.
“I’m raw talent,” Swoopes said via FanSided. “I think I have a lot of ability that no one has seen yet. I think that with enough work and the proper coaching I could belong in the same class as anyone else in this draft class.”
Following the Longhorns Pro Day in March, reports noted the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks watched Swoopes and his performance moved the needle a bit, and understandably so.
For a variety of reasons, Swoopes potentially landing on an NFL roster as a tight end, even if it be as a training camp or practice squad addition, shouldn’t be surprising.
To an extent, taking flyers on prospects with little-to-no experience at a specific position, such as the Cowboys drafting Baylor power forward Rico Gathers as a tight end in the 6th round last year, is becoming more commonplace. Of course, Gathers is a freak athlete, but a handful of talents have previously been in the exact same position as Swoopes — transition from quarterback to tight end — and found various degrees of success.
After quarterbacking at Ohio State for three seasons, Terrelle Pryor transitioned into a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns and more comparably, former Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has seen various stints as a tight end with the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills.
“They’re both natural athletes,” Swoopes told the Star-Telegram of Thomas and Pryor. “And I feel like I’m the same thing. I feel like if both of them can do it, I can do the same.”
While there’s obviously no game film on Swoopes at the position he’s hopeful an NFL franchise will pay him plenty of money to provide reps or depth at, Swoopes’ belief that he ‘can do the same’ as Thomas and Pryor did is justifiable.
For starers, at 6’4, and a lean 247 pounds, Swoopes has the physical makeup necessary to play tight end in the NFL, complimented by his 4.65 40-yard dash and 35-inch vertical leap. More so, what Swoopes did leave on film is his proven ability a rugged rusher, often in the ‘18-Wheeler’ package during his final two seasons in Austin, which is critical for his future to extend plays after the catch.
Throughout his Longhorn career, Swoopes rushed 256 times, amassing 966 yards and 24 touchdowns. While he’s displayed some finesse at times, more often than not, Swoopes was bullishly bulldozing defenders and required multiple bodies to bring down.
In short, Swoopes wasn’t your typical college quarterback. He was hardly one as a senior, serving as the backup to Shane Buechele and attempting just nine passes all season, but his time in the backfield may actually prove to be beneficial to his potential success at tight end down the road.
“I think that [NFL teams] are going to find out that because of his QB background, that he’ll understand the details of the passing game and understand what he has to do,” former Longhorns assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson told FanSided of Swoopes. “He understands the game of football. You tell him once and he’s got it. He’s a natural football learner.”
Swoopes echoed Watson’s sentiments, crediting his former coach for his ability to read defenses, which he believes has aided his transition tremendously.
“Coach Watson taught me the most during my time at Texas,” Swoopes told FanSided. “He taught me a lot about reading defenses, and that’s what’s helped me the most making the transition.”
Of course, having the size and overall understanding of what a quarterback wants are helpful, but in order for Swopes to ultimately find success as a tight end at the highest level, he must be able to catch the ball in a league that heavily utilizes tight ends in the passing game.
If you ask Swoopes, which was evident as Texas’ Pro Day, he’ll tell you that caching the ball is actually his strongest quality as a tight end at this point.
“Catching the ball is always something that I've been able to do, catch a football,” Swoopes said per TexasSports.com. “So it really wasn't that big of a transition for me and I think that's my strongest thing right now.”
WalterFootball.com currently projects Swoopes as the 15th best tight end available in the 2017 class and notes that NFL scouts have taken notice of Swoopes’ ability to catch the ball, as well as his physical frame.
“They say that Swoopes has a good skill set for the position. They think he has hands for the position, but they definitely like his size and athletic ability to play tight end.”
By Saturday night, we’ll know if NFL scouts and ultimately, NFL decision makers are high enough of Swoopes’ hands, size and athletic ability to expend a draft pick on the Texas native. Once the 7th round rolls around, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear, “Tyrone Swoopes, tight end, Texas,” nor would it be a surprise if the draft concludes without Swoopes ever receiving that coveted call.
At the very least, though, Swoopes has displayed the tools necessary to earn a training camp invitation, and some NFL teams have already began nibbling at the bait.