Ranking the 2012 NFL Draft's Top 10 Tight Ends
With the recent success of young tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the NFL is hungry for talented college players. But can this year's Draft offer teams what they want?
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The success of young players such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have made the tight-end position as red-hot as ever when it comes to the NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, the college game is not cooperating with the NFL's quickened hunger for true mismatch players.
College football has evolved into such a spread-dominated league that the next Rob Gronkowski is becoming harder to find. Jimmy Graham only caught 17 passes at the college level, and yet has clearly become one of the NFL's most dangerous targets. Antonio Gates followed a similar path.
Consider that of the league's five most productive tight ends (by yardage) in 2011, only one of them was drafted in the first round. That one player (Tony Gonzalez) was drafted in the first round about 15 years ago. Only three of the 10 most productive tight ends this year were drafted in the first round.
With 13 players having been drafted in the first round over the last ten Drafts, there has not necessarily been a shortage of highly graded newcomers.
The point I am trying to make is, the increasing disparity between how college football uses tight ends and how the NFL uses tight ends have made this a difficult position to project.
Players who were productive in college do not necessarily have the well-rounded skill set to be productive at the next level, whereas players who might have been relatively buried in their college offenses could turn out more productive at the next level. You are almost as likely to find productive players in the middle rounds as you are in the first round.
This makes the position very exciting to grade, as you have the potential to find true diamonds in the rough. Let's take a look at the guys I rate as the 10 best tight-end prospects, as you might find some players in there that you would not suspect.
1. Coby Fleener, Stanford
Coby Fleener is by far the best tight end on my Draft board, and should be taken in the first round this April.
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-Elite triangle numbers with full 6’6” height, speed should time in 4.5’s
-Versatility to be a mismatch against every kind of player on a defense
-Excellent ball skills with ability to pull in highlight-reel catches
-Fluid route runner uses hands well to fight off jam, gets open vs. man coverage
-Powerful frame and good coaching makes him a solid on-the-line blocker
To be an elite tight end in the NFL, you cannot be a mismatch against just one kind of player. You have to be a mismatch against every kind of player on the football field. There can be individual defensive players with the special qualities to defend you, but there can be no position that can do the same.
Much is made of players who are so fast that they will be a mismatch against most over-sized linebackers. The problem is defenses will start to change the way they defend such a player.
Coby Fleener is a true mismatch against every kind of player who could be lined up to defend him at the next level. It goes without saying that he can be a speed mismatch with slower linebackers and a size mismatch with smaller corners.
What makes him special is that he can still be a speed mismatch with a lot of defensive backs, and a size mismatch with a lot of linebackers. These are the makings of an elite tight end.
His receiving skills are well known. He possesses soft hands and the ability to make highlight-reel one-handed catches. He runs fluid, controlled routes and is capable of using his hands to keep himself free from the jam, while not losing speed into his route. He has control over his body which helps him get open in man coverage. His pure running skills are elite level for a tight end his size.
He was constantly split out to the perimeter and the slot at Stanford, showing the team’s confidence in his abilities to get open and make catches against defensive backs. He is very powerful and explosive after the catch, and should gain a lot of yards at the next level that way.
I have trouble finding true weaknesses in Coby Fleener’s game. His blocking may sometimes leave something to be desired, but the way I have heard it told, he has never found a defensive player he can block.
The tape simply does not uphold these accusations. I have seen him decimate large defensive ends on the line and consistently put them on the ground. He squares up into contact really nicely, and uses his large, powerful frame to his advantage.
He does not possess a killer mentality, though, and his issues in blocking come out a little more when blocking in space rather than on the line.
Fleener is legitimately a first-round prospect, and none of the other tight ends in this Draft come even close to his grade.
2. Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen stood out in college as a legitimate pro prospect.
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-Symmetrically balanced player that runs with his pads over his feet
-Not impressive size or speed combination, more of a technician
-Balance, focus allow him to stay in control and use all of his explosiveness at speed
-Square blocker w/ good feet, power, but size mismatches will hurt him on the line
-Good hands and a good, not great, run after catch player
I have spent a lot of time criticizing Dwayne Allen this Draft season, which has led some people to believe that I do not like him as a Draft prospect. This is not the case. I actually appreciate Dwayne’s talents a lot and rate him as legitimately the second-best tight end on my board.
He runs consistently with his pads over his feet and makes good, even foot contact with the field. All of this translates to him being nimble enough to make cuts in his routes that are not necessarily described by his Combine measures.
His balance and focus also make him able to leap a lot more quickly and effectively than other players at the top of the catch.
You may find other guys that jump higher on a vertex, but when it comes to playing on a football field and having to use that explosiveness after having run a route, with the ball in the air, Dwayne Allen will out jump those other guys because of his balance.
He clearly has very good hands and can pull in a highlight reel catch every once in a while. He shows a comfort level with catching the ball in traffic, while being physically accosted.
The problem for him is that, in the end, he is just not a particularly big, strong or fast player.
His bench press numbers came out well at 27 reps; however, on the field there is only so much the weight room prowess will help him when he is 6’3” and 255 lbs, and he is charged with blocking defensive line players that are much bigger than him. The weight and leverage are just not there.
Even in college, he was used as more of an H-Back than a real tight end.
Players that are 6’3” are just not going to dominate the seams or the perimeter of the field the way taller players will. Everyone wants a “seam threat” at the position, but true seam threats do not have Dwayne Allen’s size-speed combination.
True seam threats are either really tall, really fast, or both. A player like Dwayne Allen puts tremendous pressure on the quarterback to be very accurate when throwing to him in the seam, or risk interception. Some quarterbacks are risk-averse and may not put a priority on hitting a guy like Dwayne Allen in the seam.
Dwayne Allen should be able to split out wide between the 20’s because it can expose mismatches in the coverage and give you an advantage.
However, inside the 20-yard line and toward the end zone, I believe this mismatch will start to disintegrate.
That is where you want a player with a better size-speed combination to pose a bigger perimeter mismatch in the smaller spaces.
A player with this kind of size needs to present tremendous run after catch abilities in order to be considered an elite level player at the next level. As a pass catcher, Dwayne’s size puts him in the mold of a Fred Davis, who was and is a tremendous runner after the catch.
The problem is, I do not necessarily sense nifty feet or explosive power from Dwayne after the catch. This is why ultimately I see him as a mediocre starter at the next level, rather than a true mismatch player who will pose problems for a defense.
3. Michael Egnew, Missouri
Michael Egnew is one of the few players in this Draft with the legitimate ability to become a true mismatch tighe end.
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-Rare combination of size, speed and explosion makes him a legit mismatch tight end
-Not a well-rounded player, had next to no experience as a blocker
-Proven hands with excellent production over the years in Missouri’s spread
-Raw route runner that too often rounds his cuts and does not control his speed
-Pure ability for run after catch is there because of size and explosiveness
Michael Egnew is one of the few tight ends in this Draft that has the raw potential to be the mismatch player that Coby Fleener will likely be right out of the box. He has legitimate size at over 6’5” and 252 lbs.
He showed explosiveness and speed in his Combine measures, as well as on the football field at Missouri in select situations. He had a broad jump of 10’11” as well as a vertical of 36 inches.
I would like to emphasize that, unlike some players, Michael Egnew is not simply a wide receiver trying to play the tight-end position. He is able to be physical at the top of the catch as well as after the catch in order to create yardage and scores. His build is not one that I would accuse of belonging to a large wide receiver.
However, he does bring some wide receiver qualities to the football field. Particularly, there are situations where he can plant his foot in the ground and make cuts with the explosiveness that should be reserved for wide receivers.
The issue is you do not see this often enough in his route running, as he is highly undisciplined and inconsistent. At the Combine, he came to the borderline of willful resistance to coaches’ orders in running certain drills.
As a blocker, you will have to build him from the ground-up. He has very little experience blocking at Missouri the way he will be asked to block at the next level. However, I will say that if you are going to build a player from the ground-up as a blocker, at least let it be a guy that is over 6’5” and 252 lbs with his build and explosive abilities.
If he is a hard worker, he should be capable of transforming into a decent blocker. Coming out of Miami as a basketball convert asked to run jump ball routes in the end zone, Jimmy Graham was extremely raw as a blocker. However, the size, strength and explosiveness were there, as was the will.
Egnew has no known character issues and his work ethic has been praised by coaches and teammates. Therefore, he has the potential to get where you need him to be.
A few years ago, Jermaine Gresham came out of Oklahoma a very similar prospect to how I find Michael Egnew right now. As you can probably tell from that statement, I did not see a first round grade on Gresham, nor do I see one on Egnew.
However, players with this kind of combination of size, hands, explosiveness and work ethic do not come around very often.
It is not Egnew’s fault NCAA trends saw him develop into the kind of one-dimensional player that will wind up drafted in the third round.
However, I know that many draftniks and possibly even some scouts will view him skeptically because of how overrated players like Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker turned out to be, coming from the same Missouri spread offense as Egnew.
Though those players had legitimate size, Egnew has much more legitimate athletic ability and explosiveness than those other prospects. We could, one day, be talking about Michael Egnew as one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL that were not drafted in the first round.
4. Chase Ford, Miami (Fla.)
Chase Ford was not very productive at University of Miami, but he figures to be a far better pro than college athlete.
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-Highly under-used player at Miami (Fla.) that showed up big time at Shrine practice
-Legitimate pro size over 6’6” and 258 lbs with great running ability and explosion
-Not in any way a good blocker, which is the primary reason for under-use at UM
-One of the few players with the potential to be a legitimate seam threat
-Catches the ball away from his frame and is capable of highlight reel plays
As much as I nitpicked two of the top three tight ends in this Draft, once they are off the board, that is when I start to see legitimate problems with this tight-end class that would see me staying away from them until the very late rounds.
That said, Chase Ford is a legitimately underrated football player that I would gladly have on my team.
His lack of production at University of Miami will likely be held against him by draftniks and scouts alike, but this was a legitimately talented high end JUCO transfer prospect who was buried on the depth chart by the Hurricanes because of his lack of blocking ability, and under-used by quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris because of their lack of passing ability.
Unfortunately for Hurricanes fans, Chase Ford would not be the first player to come out of Coral Gables producing far better in the NFL than in college over the last few years.
You can imagine my surprise when I showed up to this year’s East-West Shrine practices and saw a tight end legitimately dominating practice in a way that I have not seen any tight end, not even Baltimore Ravens standout Dennis Pitta.
Ford’s running skills were evident immediately. Though he had measured almost a half inch above 6’6” with nearly 260 lbs on his frame, he clearly was not a guy that lumbered around like his fellow Shrine tight ends George Bryan of N.C. State or Cory Harkey of UCLA.
With his height, he would be a seam threat even at slower speeds. However, he showed at his Pro Day recently by running a 4.76 at this size, that he is more than just a tall player. He also had a 33-inch vertical.
What really stood out about Chase was his ability to catch the ball away from his frame and make highlight-reel catches in practice. As the week went on, quarterbacks began to notice that they looked a lot better if they throw the ball to Ford, which is about the greatest compliment you can receive in this setting.
He was not just a practice warrior, either. During the game he made a highlight-reel 60+ yard catch and run where he used his superior size and strength to break two tackles after catching the ball.
I normally would not be comfortable rating a player this high on the assumption that essentially his college team failed him and that is primarily why he lacked production, even with his Shrine performance.
However, the fact that he was such a talented and sought-after JUCO transfer prospect, in addition to being an All Star standout, shows me that in most venues the guy actually has found a way to perform impressively.
Given the turmoil in University of Miami’s recent history, I am willing to overlook the lack of opportunities he saw there.
5. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern
Drake Dunsmore of Northwestern is a highly underrated tight end prospect that could find a productive role as an H-Back in the NFL.
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-Undersized prospect at 6’2” and 241 lbs that will have to be an H-Back at the next level
-Shows tenacious qualities as a blocker that help him hold his own vs. bigger players
-Very crisp and fluid route runner capable of running NFL slot receiver routes
-Comfortable with physical jamming and coverage, dishes as much as he receives
-More of an effort player as a blocker, not to be trusted with heavy burdens
Drake Dunsmore stood out to me with positively with his performance at the NFL Combine. It was not just about his measurements and test results, which I mostly ignored at first.
It was the simple fact that out of all of the tight ends present, Dunsmore was clearly the most fluid, explosive and polished player running routes during field drills.
The only player that came close was Dwayne Allen who showed just as much polish and at least as much fluidity, but was not as physically gifted and had trouble at times accelerating through the catch.
Dunsmore was the only route runner present that I felt could truly plant his foot and explode out of his breaks. And so I went back to the film to see what he was at Northwestern.
What I found was a player that can run the same sort of jerk routes and other routes you commonly see run out of the slot, except he can do it as a tight end.
The ability to plant and explode out of his breaks showed up on the film and he showed the ability to run double moves, and to operate the scramble drill with his quarterback.
Drake’s hands are very good, and he shows the ability to catch the football in traffic regardless of physical coverage.
At the jam, he is able to physically dish as much as he receives, while still getting out into his break with fair quickness. He is a mismatch player that was highly productive at Northwestern with over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in three seasons.
As a blocker, Drake has more will than pure ability. At 6’2” and 241 lbs, you will not see him asked to handle a heavy load blocking as an H-Back.
However, he shows tenacious qualities in his blocking and will handle himself surprisingly well against players a lot bigger. As a blocker, you can expect him to do his job, as long as you are mindful of which jobs you give him, realistically speaking.
Dunsmore should be more of a hybrid player at the next level, but I believe his combination of explosiveness, speed, hands and tenacity could actually see him being a mismatch against several different kinds of players in the NFL.
He could be productive as long as schemed properly, like an Aaron Hernandez with perhaps a little less interesting run-after-catch ability.
6. DeAngelo Peterson, LSU
DeAngelo Peterson may be undersized but his combination of explosiveness and hands could play better in the NFL than in college.
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-Smaller, quicker player with explosive qualities similar to Drake Dunsmore
-Highly recruited but not productive, only 10 starts and 39 catches at LSU
-Tested really well from speed and explosiveness standpoints at the Combine
-Shows some run after the catch potential
-Fluid route runner that can be a mismatch with several kinds of players
DeAngelo Peterson was another player that stood out to me at the Combine during field drills, along with Drake Dunsmore of Northwestern. He has a very good overall Combine showing with a 36 inch vertical and 10’1” broad jump, as well as a 4.65-second 40-yard dash.
During field drills, I felt Peterson played the ball in the air as well as any of the tight ends at the Combine. His routes were not totally crisp, but he was controlling his speed and tracking the football through the air well enough to get the deep ball on his outside shoulder.
Watching Peterson play the word I kept thinking of is explosive. He shows explosive qualities in both his route running and his run after catch.
His routes were good enough to create separation at the college level, but I believe the potential is there to stick his foot in the ground and explode out of breaks. He strikes me as a player that is not necessarily young, but plays young, and is still growing.
There is certainly work to be done with Peterson’s blocking, especially if he hopes to be able to contribute on the line, which is unlikely at his size. He shows more potential with blocking in space than some players.
With his background as one of the best High School recruiting prospects in the nation, his clean character history and athletic potential, as well as his explosive on-field qualities, he is the kind of prospect I would trust in the late rounds to work under my coaching staff and develop into someone that I can move around and create mismatches with, and to also play well on special teams.
7. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette
Ladarius Green may be a top five tight end in this year's weak class, but he runs the danger of being an over-sized wide receiver prospect.
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-Runs danger of being more of a wide receiver than a real tight end
-Very athletic player that can legitimately beat man coverage by multiple players
-Not overly physical, but does use his hands nicely at the jam to free himself
-One-dimensional player that does not show enough as a blocker
-Does not run with the balance and focus it takes to utilize his physical gifts
While I rate Ladarius Green as a top ten tight end in this class, he is to me a prime example of why I would probably wait until the later rounds to draft a tight end if I were not able to get hold of one of the top three players: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Michael Egnew.
I am legitimately high on my No. 4 tight end Chase Ford, but I also realize that the rest of the NFL is not necessarily as high on him and I can probably get him in the later rounds. Either way, I am probably foregoing this year’s Tight End class until the fifth or sixth round.
Green is not a bad college football player. I do not mean to give that impression. However there is the simple fact that when I watch him play, I see more of a wide receiver trying to play the tight end position.
At 6’6” and 238 lbs, he is not built stout and has a very thin base. His build makes me wonder just how much more mass you can fit on that frame. You wonder if he is always going to look like a wide receiver playing out of position.
His hand use at the jam is actually pretty good, and he is capable of running routes like a wide receiver. He has a flexible lower body and can make cuts. His Combine numbers say he is a great jumper, with a 34.5 inch vertical and 10’4” broad jump.
However, he runs with poor balance and focus, which makes him a very poor jumper during the moments of the game when it counts at the top of the route.
To watch Ladarius Green jump on a football field with a ball in the air, you would not think he could clear even half the air that a Dwayne Allen can achieve. This is because of the poor balance and focus on the football that Green has.
This showed up on an interception his quarterback threw against Arkansas State where Green got into a jump ball situation, misjudged the ball in the air, tried to jump from an off balance position, ended up tipping the ball up with one hand and having it land right in the hands of a defender.
That kind of interception will be attributed to the quarterback’s stat line, but it was completely on Green.
Similarly, at the end of the bowl game against San Diego State, Green ends up isolated in the end zone on a pair of fade routes with no safety help and only the 5’11” and 172 lbs Larry Parker to cover him.
This is the definition of a mismatch. Yet, Parker out-played and out-jumped Green for the ball on both plays, consecutively. I may have something of a man-crush on the highly underrated Parker, but that still speaks poorly to Ladarius Green’s abilities as an NFL tight end.
The danger I see in Ladarius Green is that despite his attractive triangle numbers, including his legit 4.5 speed, he may never be more than another Shawn Nelson. However, this is a player that wakes up in the morning with more physical gifts than a very large percentage of people in this world.
He compares favorably on paper to Nevada’s Virgil Green from a year ago, however I saw Virgil as a much more physical player coming out than Green is.
8. Orson Charles, Georgia
Orson Charles has had a disastrous pre-Draft process but still possesses skills that may interest teams.
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-Undersized player whose lack of size was exacerbated by playing on the line at Georgia
-Strong upper body that helps him block a little better than size would indicate
-Gets off the line very quickly and looks agile, light on his feet
-Questionable attitude and character based on recent decisions
-Not as fast as purported to be and not an interesting mismatch player
I have picked on Orson Charles a lot in the last month. The fact of the matter is, I feel I have good reason. I believe Charles to an extremely overrated player.
Watching Charles on tape, two things stand out at you immediately. The first is his size, which on the line surrounded by offensive and defensive linemen, looks tiny. There is no other way to put it. He showed up at the NFL Scouting Combine at 6’2” and 251 lbs.
The latter was a surprise, because on tape you knew there was no way he played that heavy. The second thing that stands out is his acceleration off the line, which is impressive.
As a small player, he is pretty light on his feet and it shows when he is out running routes. He also possesses soft hands and the ability to catch the ball away from his body.
From there, things go downhill quickly. As you continue to watch him you realize that his size makes him look a little faster than he purely is, which made it unsurprising when he averaged in the 4.8 range at his Georgia Pro Day.
I tend to gauge speed of an offensive player by watching the defensive players chasing him. Though Charles looks fast from broadcast camera angles if you are looking at him, looking at the defenders reveals a player whose speed the defense generally needed not truly fear.
He did not run with any kind of power, speed or creativity after the catch and he generally went down on first contact, which came surprisingly soon after catching the ball. He is just not a fast player.
All of the problems I talked about with Dwayne Allen not being particularly tall or particularly fast come into play with Orson Charles, except far, far worse. He will not be a seam threat at that height.
In order to make him an Aaron Hernandez style joker tight end, he would need to develop run after catch skills that he does not possess.
Probably worst of all is his pattern of bad decision making. He made the surprising decision to come out of school early at the very last minute. He showed up at the Combine at a surprising and “rocked up” 251 lbs, clearly showing off his weight room prowess, but by doing that he a lot of speed, explosion and agility.
He only jumped 30 inches in the vertical and 9’5” in the broad jump. Both marks would have been among the worst at the Combine at his position, comparable to the over-sized, lumbering poor athlete Cory Harkey of UCLA.
Charles’ decision to not run or perform at the Combine was also questionable. He chose to perform in field drills, which left him no real health excuse for not performing in the measurement drills.
During field drills, I noted him several times taking far too lax an attitude and not really listening to coaches’ instructions. Then, of course, after his disastrous pro day, he gets pinched by the police on a charge of drunk driving.
This is a player that does not interest me much athletically, but who moves on his feet well enough with an obviously-strong upper body (did 35 bench reps at the Combine) that I might consider drafting him in the late rounds of the NFL Draft, even despite his character flags.
9. Kevin Koger, Michigan
Kevin Koger first caught my eye with his frame and potential for being a well-rounded player at the East-West Shrine practices.
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-Big-bodied, well-built player who weighed in at over 260 lbs on his 6’3” frame
-Shows off a wide base with active feet which helps him be a very reliable blocker
-Running is a lot more fluid and controlled for size, not a lumbering player
-Lack of pure speed makes some blocks at the next level more difficult
-Smart player that played in 47 games with 31 starts
Kevin Koger stood out to me at East-West Shrine practices as I got to see him move and perform next to a few other players in his draft class at the position. The first thing that really stood out to me was the simple fact that he weighed in a lot heavier than he looked to me on the field.
At 6’3” and 263 pounds, he measured bigger than some of the guys I saw on the field such as George Bryan of N.C. State and Cory Harkey UCLA who looked bigger and moved bigger.
Koger had a fluid quality to his movement that caught my attention, but it was his work as a blocker in drills that really got me thinking. The NFL needs guys like Kevin Koger who can be relied upon to block real defensive linemen from an on the line position as a tight end.
This is why I have no problems putting Kevin in my top ten. I know he will find a role in the NFL, and will probably man that role for a number of years.
His weakness is that while he is a fluid mover and has speed that does not necessarily fit his size, he is not a purely fast player. Even as a blocker, he will have trouble with certain backside cut-off responsibilities and second-level blocks.
His wide base, aggressive attitude, pure strength and active feet make him more of a straight-ahead guy that can be relied upon for pass protection.
10. Brad Herman, Iowa
Brad Herman may not get a lot of attention but I believe he is an NFL player.
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-Proverbial “killer” as a blocker with strength, punch and a nasty attitude
-On-the-line player that can consistently be relied upon to block defensive ends
-Speed & ball skills combo give him potential in passing game, but not an agile guy
-Not necessarily a high focus player, will make mental mistakes during the game
-Blocking technique needs work, especially hand placement & keeping head up
Trends in college football have led teams away from utilizing guys that are still commonly given playing time in the NFL. Brad Herman is, to me, one of the kind of players that falls victim to these trends.
Herman is built well with broad shoulders, thick thighs and a compact frame at 6’4” and 255 lbs. He was not a Combine invite, nor did he attend any of the major All Star games. His Pro Day will be on March 19, and there we will get to see how he measures and runs.
His speed timing will be interesting, because on film I believe I saw legitimate vertical speed that could time in the low 4.7’s or maybe even better.
Brad is a good old-fashioned slobber knocker. I watched him play in 2010 against the likes of 6’7” and 290 lbs defensive end Tyler Hoover, and consistently match him strength on strength. You can see him in both 2010 and 2011 acting as a pass protector against defensive ends like Hoover and Pittsburgh’s Brandon Lindsey and holding his own like an offensive tackle.
This is one of the few tight ends you see coming out nowadays that you are comfortable consistently matching on a defensive end from an on-the-line position.
In 2010, when he played next to Allen Reisner (who made the Minnesota Vikings’ roster this year), there was no question that Herman was the more physical, physically impressive, stronger blocker.
His blocking has weaknesses. By 2011, you would have hoped he would have cured his habits of getting his head too far down trying to lay into a defender, but you could still see that at times. This tendency especially came out in space.
He also continued to have trouble with initial hand placement as he attempted to explode into a target. Against Pittsburgh, he was benched in favor of Zach Derby because he made too many mental errors.
On one play, he blocked the wrong pass rusher and let a player get inside him for a sack. On another, he forgot the snap count and released early for a false start. Inconsistent timing of the snap count was an issue for him on multiple occasions.
I believe his strengths and potential outweigh the weaknesses. He has the legitimate strength to match blow for blow with any NFL defensive ends or linebackers. He possesses a killer mentality to keep blocking a guy until he’s buried.
He possesses strong hands to jerk and steer a player when he does get his hand placement right and is able to lock on.
When you get right down to it, his underrated athleticism plays a factor in his blocking potential at the next level, as he has the athletic ability to engage key cut-off blocks on zone plays, and to mirror properly with faster players at the second level.
This is not just some guy with 5.1 speed that people conveniently place into the pool of blockers simply because they have nowhere else to put him.
His route running and pass catching obviously need work. He is vertically fast when he gets on the hoof and he can threaten the seam with speed, size and physicality.
He possesses the speed to beat linebacker coverage even from much smaller and quicker players as he crosses the formation on crossing patterns.
In the games that I watched, he actually showed very good hands and the ability to catch the ball high, low, and even to fight aggressively back to an under-thrown ball, out-muscling a defender for it.
He has technique problems, as he will get a little too physical at times at the jam point, where he should be focusing on getting to his spot as quickly as he can in order to get good timing with the quarterback. He is not especially quick off the line and will labor when asked to make quick lateral moves right off the line.
The bottom line with Brad Herman is, to me, he is an NFL player. I cannot say that about every tight end in this class. That is why he makes my list of Top 10 tight ends.
One of Jim Harbaugh’s philosophies at Stanford with respect to the tight end position was that the guys you pick must be really good at something, either blocking or in the passing game. He did not want guys that were mediocre at both.
To me, Herman should end up really good at blocking once he has received some more full-time coaching at the position, while having the potential to more productive in the passing game in the pros than he was in college.