A deep batch of NFL tight ends will only grow stronger with the arrival of some talented rookies.
One of the most under-appreciated positions in football, tight ends now play a pivotal role in the passing game while still responsible for fulfilling blocking duties.
Some of the game's top players at the position are major factors on offense, protecting the quarterback and confounding the defense with a mismatch.
For those teams still lacking a playmaker, there are a few tight ends in this year's draft class who could make a major splash in the NFL.
Rather than return for his senior year at Notre Dame, Tyler Eifert is set to go pro—where he figures to be one of the first two tight ends selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
While his team received a whooping from Alabama, the 6'6",251-lb. tight end caught six passes for 61 yards in the BCS National Championship.
What he lacks in speed compared to a Jermichael Finley, Eifert makes up for with precise route-running and solid hands. Eifert will provide whoever selects him with a dependable target that will scoop up anything tossed his way.
For a team looking to keep up with the times and add a top tight end, Eifert is worth consideration as a late first-rounder.
If Eifert isn't the top tight end, it's Zach Ertz—who also frequents the first round of many mock drafts.
As Stanford's top receiver, Ertz caught 69 passes for 898 yards and six touchdowns during his junior season. He's now poised to cash in with a lucrative NFL contract.
Another big target at 6'6" and 252 lbs, Ertz would make life a lot easier for his quarterback in the end zone, using his body well to box out defenders.
Ertz can follow in Coby Fleener's path and warrant a high draft pick after leaving Stanford. Too bad he didn't get to start with Andrew Luck under center, though.
After Eifert and Ertz, nobody else projects to sniff the first round.
But that doesn't mean that all the high-upside players are gone. Jordan Reed displays the size, speed and athleticism to make it in the pros, but he's far from a finished product.
Previously a quarterback, Reed shifted to tight end when he arrived at Florida. Last season, he caught 45 passes for 559 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Gators, but he only managed a seven-yard catch in the Sugar Bowl upset against Louisville.
Another year of school probably would have aided his development and his draft stock. Now Reed stacks up as a project for a team hoping to strike gold in a few years.
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