If you don't think Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez have changed the way teams will use tight ends in the NFL, you've got another thing coming.
Offensive coordinators are enamored with the reoccurring matchup nightmares they create and defensive coordinators, well, they hate them.
Let's take a look at the best tight end prospects in the 2012 draft class and the ideal places for them to land.
Coby Fleener, Stanford
Fleener is the premier tight end in this class due to his size (6'6'', 245 pounds), speed and terrific hands he displayed during his time with the Cardinal.
He reeled in 34 passes for 667 yards (19.6 average) and 10 touchdowns in 2011 as Andrew Luck's favorite target, especially in the red zone.
While Fleener won't physically outmatch linebackers and safeties like Gronkowski and Graham effortlessly can, his acceleration and experience in a pro-style system should allow him to transition relatively seamlessly to the NFL.
Possible teams: Houston Texans, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts
Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Allen isn't as tall (6'3'') as Fleener, but he is a capable blocker at 255 pounds and exudes athleticism running down field and bringing in errant passes.
He had 50 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
While Fleener has more potential as a pure pass-catcher, Allen's overall game is more polished. A team will get great value if they grab the John Mackey Award winner in the middle of the second round.
Possible teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette
Green is that immensely athletic tight end prospect who needs more refinement—we see individuals like him in nearly every draft class. Julius Thomas was that guy last year, Graham was probably that player in 2010, and Shawn Nelson was the guy the year before.
This Ragin' Cajun prospect is 6'6'' and 237 pounds, with 4.53 speed.
He contributed on the field all four years, beginning with his freshman season in 2008, and he finished his career with 149 receptions, 2,201 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Green must add more bulk to his frame to become any sort of reliable blocker at the professional ranks, but his receiving talents will intrigue many coaches starting in the third round.
Possible teams: Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons
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