Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Tight Ends

1) Erin Ebron, North Carolina Tarheels
Career Stats: 112 Catches, 1805 Yards, 8 TDs
Height: 6'4             Weight: 250 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.60 
Bench Press: 24 Reps

Ebron leads off this class of tight ends after an impressive junior season and a great showing at the Combine. Ebron is a very athletic for a tight end, with physique similar to Vernon Davis. He isn't at the same level in terms of speed as Davis was, but he possesses the same athleticism abilities that can make Davis a matchup nightmare. Ebron has a great burst off of the snap and is especially dangerous on seam routes as he can create problems for linebackers and safeties. He runs solid routes too as he often bailed out his quarterback this year who just threw it in his general direction. He is also a solid blocker in the run, but he could stand to improve a bit more on his pass protection. Going forward he gets a great push, but can get a bit out of place on throws. While Ebron has a large frame, he needs to learn to use his body more effectively to shield smaller defenders away from contested throws. He has a good set of hands, but he isn't always in optimal position when the ball comes his way. Ebron is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential, and that potential has put him in the top 10 of some draft boards. 

2) Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington Huskies
Career Stats: 146 Catches, 1840 Yards, 21 TDs
Height: 6'5              Weight: 262 lbs. 

The difference between Ebron and Seferian-Jenkins is a foot injury at the Combine. SJ, in my opinion, is a better tight end than Ebron is, but the injury has raised a red flag. If he can make a full recovery, SJ can make a big impact at the next level. He has a body physique and skill set that is very similar to Jimmy Graham of the Saints (Seferian-Jenkins also played on the U. Washington basketball team). He is basically a wide receiver in a tight end's body. He has great hands and runs his routes incredible well. His burst of the line very quick and he is explosive in and out of his routes. He has made some very tough catches at every level of the field. He attacks the ball well while it is in the air and is very sure handed. Best of all, he has the athleticism and versatility to line up along any point of the line. He can get off the line quickly out of a three point stance, and frequently would line up out wide. SJ also possesses a good blocking set. He is powerful at the point of attack and can take on speed rushers. If healthy, Seferian-Jenkins could be a very dynamic weapon similar to what Graham does with the Saints.

3) Jace Amaro, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Career Stats: 138 Catches, 1818 Yards, 13 TDs
Height: 6'5              Weight: 265 lbs
40 Yard Dash: 4.74 
Bench Press: 28 Reps

Amaro has a chance to slip into the first round after the junior season he put together, in which he totaled 106 catches and over 1000 yards. His Combine 40 might not be that impressive, but Amaro actually plays a lot faster than what his timed numbers would indicate. He has a good burst off of the snap and plays with good quickness for someone his size. He is able to beat most linebackers and safeties out of his breaks and is great and finding the soft spot in the zones and exploiting it. Amaro can sometimes rely too much on his speed and doesn't always use his body to shield defenders from the ball. He would become a much more effective receiver over the middle and in the redzone if he can learn to combine that with his speed. However, he does have a great pair of hands, as illustrated by his reception total this year. One has to wonder if he is a one-year wonder and the product of a system, but he looks to be a play making tight end. It is also a bit worrying that he doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience lining up next to the tackle. Similar to Aaron Hernandez, Amaro is a tight end who would does his best work out of the slot or out wide. That's not to say that he cannot line up from there. But if he wants to be a three down tight end, he is going to have to do better with his burst coming out of the three point stance and improve his blocking.

4) Troy Niklas, Notre Dame Fightin' Irish
Career Stats: 37 Catches, 573 Yards, 6 TDs
Height: 6'6              Weight: 270 lbs
40 Yard Dash: DNP
Bench Press: 27 Reps

The production might not read on the stat lines, but Niklas is a solid tight end who has had mediocre quarterback play which held back his potential. Niklas is a big tight end who could develop into a true threat in the NFL. He is quick off the line for someone his size, especially when he is split out wide. His speed out of his cuts isn't the greatest, but that is something that can be polished out at the next level. He also has very good hands and is adept at making the tough catches across the middle of the field. While he may lack upper tier speed, he is good at picking up additional yards after the catch. Really, Niklas's size is what will make him such a weapon at the next level. His size gives his team a huge target in the middle and he can be a mismatch nightmare in the redzone. His size also makes him very formidable as a run blocker. He keeps good leverage and has the ability to drive back linebackers and defensive ends. As a blocker, Niklas needs to improve his down field blocking and his pass protection. He has a tendency to get a bit sloppy with his technique and can disengage from a blocker before his man has made his move. Niklas has some good potential to succeed in the NFL.

5) C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa Hawkeyes
Career Stats: 91 Catches, 899 Yards, 10 TDs
Height: 6'5             Weight: 265 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.76
Bench Press: 25 Reps

Fiedorowicz is more of a throwback tight end than the other prospects in this draft. He is a very powerful run blocking tight end who can help seal the edge. He does a lot of his best work lining up next to the offensive tackle as opposed to in the slot. His burst up the seam is very good and he is quick on his slants and out routes. He is very fast in those shorter routes and can really do the most damage in the short to intermediate range of the field. One of his biggest weaknesses is the fact that he doesn't really have top end speed to break away from defenders. However, Fiedorowicz is one of the best in this draft at using his body to shield defenders and muscle his way to contested catches. He can flat out bully corners and safeties to get himself into position. This can work against him as he has a tendency to get a bit too physical and draw flags. All in all, Fiedorowicz might be a bit more of a project and take time to develop. However, I think he can immediately contribute to a team's redzone game plan similar to the impact Joseph Fauria had with the Lions this past year.

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