The Saints are hoping Adam Trautman can be a step-up guy at tight end, and he had a decent rookie season (in a backup role, he caught all but 1 of the 16 passes thrown his way). But asking him to emerge as perhaps a top-15 tight end, that’s a big step.

New Orleans needs solid play from Trautman because Jared Cook is gone. They needed to release him in part because of salary cap issues.

I played around with the numbers, and what Trautman is attempting to pull off is rare. See the chart below, which includes numbers dating back to the merger over 50 years ago. I see only 13 other instances in which an unheralded tight end in his first, second or third year caught at least 85 percent of the passes thrown his way. And here, I’m looking at up-and-coming guys – players who (like Trautman) are trying to make the ascension from being a backup to a viable starter.

Of the previous 13 guys, only one came back and finished with PPR numbers ranking him better than 25th at the position (using PPR scoring). That would be Jack Doyle, who’s gone on to have a nice career. If you select Trautman, it’s with the hope he might be another Jack Doyle.

In fairness, most of these guys didn’t have the sizzle or potential of Trautman (a third-round pick last year out of Dayton). Visathe Shiancoe, Adam Shaheen and Maxx Williams did. Most have forgotten Reggie Johnson long ago, but he was a second-round pick by the Broncos, playing with John Elway.

Note that there are two other tight ends heading into this year that caught most of the few passes thrown their way last year: Kaden Smith and Pharaoh Brown, but nobody is hoping for much out of either of them. (Smith was previously with the 49ers.)

I also see Anthony Firkser on this list. He had a Trautman-type rookie season, and I still have some interest in him (with the Titans having lost Jonnu Smith).

I haven’t stacked a board yet, but I would guess I’ll have Trautman some between 15th and 25th among tight ends. Makes some sense as a second tight end with some upside (but more likely he won’t be much of a factor).

Final note on Trautman. While he caught 15 of the 16 passes thrown his way in the regular season last year, they also threw him 3 balls in the playoffs. He caught only 1 of those.

YearPlayerTgtNoYdsTDNext YrRk
1992Reggie Johnson, Den.1110139120-243-125
2001Justin Swift, S.F.111166110-63-063
2002Steve Heiden, Cle.1917105118-134-045
2004Mike Seidman, Car.131312320-0-0105
2006Visanthe Shiancoe, NYG141281027-323-131
2010Jonathan Stupar, Buff.131211100-0-0--
2011David Johnson, Pitt.14129110-0-0--
2011Brody Eldridge, Ind.1094500-0-0--
2015• Jack Doyle, Ind.141272159-584-513
2017Adam Shaheen, Chi.141212735-48-178
2018Maxx Williams, Balt.1716143115-202-147
2018Anthony Firkser, Ten.2019225114-204-149
2019Jaeden Graham, Atl.10914913-25-096
2020Adam Trautman, N.O.16151711?-?-??
2020Kaden Smith, NYG21181120?-?-??
2020Pharaoh Brown, Hou.16141632?-?-??

—Ian Allan