Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski revolutionized how tight ends can be used in the NFL. Before them it was Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. And even earlier Shannon Sharpe, and so on.
It’s pretty simple. If you have a stud tight end, you use them. They can open up the defense, take linebackers away from the run game, and cause serious mismatches all over the field.
Needless to say, new teams poke their heads up every year looking to land the next stud tight end that can make big plays with or without the ball, and create those mismatches that gives teams the slight edge they need to win games. There are at least three tighr ends that might be able to do that in this year’s crop, while there are several others that can help out or rise up with the right coaching and system.
It’s break the top tight ends for this year’s draft as we continue to draw closer to the 2014 NFL Draft:
1. Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
Many say Ebron is simply the most explosive or most athletic tight end in this year’s draft class, but he might actually be the most complete, as well. Ebron has an excellent combination of size, speed, ball skills and play-making ability after the catch. However, he’s also an above average blocker than seems to have a desire to get even better. He’s a legit threat to be a top-10 pick.
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington)
Seferian-Jenkins is pretty close to Ebron when it comes to size and athleticism, but he’s not quite as agile or elusive as Ebron in the open field, and doesn’t have his speed, either. With that said, ASJ is plenty fast and has the size and ball skills to win in the majority of his matchups. He has a foot issue and will need to become a more consistent blocker, but in terms of pure talent ranks second only to Ebron.
3. Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
Amaro isn’t the draft’s most athletic or most complete tight end, but he might be it’s purest receiver. Amaro understands routes, angles and timing, and is an exceptional receiver from all over the field. He isn’t the strongest or most physical tight end, though, and needs a ton of work in the blocking department. However, if a team is looking for a pure receiver at tight end, they’ll find one in Amaro, who was insanely productive and hard to cover at Texas Tech.
4. Colt Lyerla (Oregon)
Lyerla has some serious off field issues and doesn’t have imposing size, but he’s a real gem that could be a steal in this draft thanks to elite speed and athleticism for the position. He just needs to get his mind right.
5. Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
Niklas isn’t the imposing athlete the top-two tight ends in this class are, but he has amazing size and is probably the draft’s second most complete tight end. He excels in blocking, sees the ball into his hands with his eyes on a routine basis and possesses good leaping ability. Niklas isn’t a burner or insanely explosive, while he also could clean up his routes a bit. However, he’s got the tools to be a matchup nightmare in the NFL and also can be a ferocious blocker. That’s the type of player that gets onto the field early and stays there.
6. C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Viewed by many as a pure blocking tight end at the next level, Fiedorowicz is actually a surprisingly decent athlete and a smooth pass catcher. He brings excellent size and strength to the table, and is already a very good blocker. He’s easily one of the most complete tight ends in this draft and has some decent upside, yet, as well.
7. Xavier Grimble (USC)
Not an amazing athlete, Grimble is simply solid all around as a receiver and play-maker. He could have benefited immensely from returning for one more season, but seems to have the raw ability to make plays at the next level.
8. Joe Don Duncan (Dixie State)
Don Duncan played against very weak competition, but is an extremely interesting prospect due to his speed and athleticism. He’s had some injury issues and isn’t the biggest tight end, but he’s pretty dynamic. He might be worth a shot in the middle rounds due to pure upside.
9. Arthur Lynch (Georgia)
Lynch has displayed some decent receiving ability to go with solid size and elite blocking ability. He’s mostly a blocker at the next level, but has shown he can step up and make big catches when called upon.
10. Marcel Jensen (Fresno State)
Jensen has excellent size and worked out of a pass-happy system. He wasn’t insanely productive in 2013 but he flashed some nice ability. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has the size and hands to be a factor at the next level.
11. Richard Rodgers (California)
Rodgers isn’t really a physically imposing tight end, as he has just adequate height. He looks to be a solid receiver and good enough athlete, though, so he could be taken above some of the more complete, blocking tight ends.
12. Crockett Gilmore (Colorado State)
Mostly a blocker, Gilmore has excellent size and made a good impression at the Senior Bowl. He had a solid 2013 season and still has some upside to him.
13. A.C. Leonard (Tennessee State)
Leonard lacks ideal size and played at a small school, so he might have an uphill battle toward getting drafted. He did have a decent 2013 season and has good speed and athleticism, but he doesn’t have a well rounded game. He might be worth a late-round flier based on his ability to stretch defenses.
14. Jacob Pederson (Wisconsin)
Pederson follows in line of the long list of quality H-backs coming out of Wisco. He has soft hands and is a quality blocker. He’s under-sized and doesn’t have good speed, but is overall a pretty complete prospect.
15. Jordan Najvar (Baylor)
Najvar has elite size for the tight end position and is also a deceptive athlete. He has very poor timed speed and wasn’t productive in college, but has the size and sneaky athleticism to be a bit of a sleeper pick late in the draft.
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