The headlines in this year's draft tight end class have been dominated by the E's—Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame), Zach Ertz (Stanford), and Gavin Escobar (San Diego State)—but on the third day of the draft, NFL teams shouldn't forget about an "O", Ryan Otten.
Otten missed a chance to impress at the combine when a hand injury and infection sidelined him, but his film should assure pro teams that what was good enough to be best in WAC is good enough to play on Sundays.
Otten is more like an oversized wide receiver with his length and ball skills. He has a long frame and good speed for a tight end. He is not a quick-twitch athlete, but Otten still moves well for a player of his size. He is fearless over the middle and very stubborn after the catch. Otten was very productive and averaged almost 15 yards per reception over the last two seasons Otten can go up for the ball like a wideout, but he is a willing and mostly effective blocker.
Otten is not especially quick or sudden in his breaks or out of his stance at the line of scrimmage. He is limited as a blocker because of his body type. He's not a creative runner after the catch, and he's not fast or crafty enough to create separation against athletic defensive backs in man coverage from the slot. He is a solid player, but not special in any area. He looked overmatched against better athletes at the Senior Bowl.
Otten measured in at 6'5 5/8" and 241 pounds at his pro day. His 40 times of 4.69 and 4.76 are good enough to be a downfield threat, and his 33" vertical is a weapon with his size and fluid coordination. Otten's poor 4.62 short shuttle and 7.50 three-cone underscore his lack of quickness. He was able to bench press 225 pounds 17 times, which is a good result, although Otten's functional strength is limited by his long frame.
Otten has no known character issues and he was a consistent performer, earning back-to-back first team All-WAC selections in his junior and senior seasons. He missed the combine with a staph infection in a cut on his finger that he suffered during Senior Bowl week. Otten played through the injury/infection and eventually had to be hospitalized. It was so bad that he thought he might die and lost enough weight to fall to the 220s. The whole story illustrates his love of football.
Otten spent time lined up on the line, in the slot and split out wide. He looked equally comfortable in all three roles.
Otten is not that fast or sudden out of his stance. He doesn't have a quick first step, but he will threaten the seam once his speed is built up.
The best route for Otten is heading straight up the hashes and attacking the seam. Otten has smooth breaks in his timing routes, and he naturally squares to the quarterback and presents a big target. Otten instinctively drifts to open space in zone defenses, and he understands how to get open at different levels of the defense.
Otten is a natural hands-catcher who is reliable on high targets, but has trouble getting to low throws because of his height and subpar flexibility. He will hold on to the ball after big hits over the middle and catch the ball without hesitation in traffic.
Even though he is not a supreme athlete, Otten can make some eye-popping adjustments to the ball in flight. He has wide receiver-level body control at times, and he will leave himself open to big hits over the middle to make the play. He is excellent at maximizing his height advantage against smaller players.
Run After Catch
Otten is not going to make anyone miss after the catch, but he transitions to run-after-catch mode very quickly, and he can be very hard to bring down. He is determined to get yards after contact and often requires multiple tacklers to bring him down.
While he won't blow anyone up, Otten seems to enjoy the physical nature of blocking and will lay a lick on his opponent. He generally strikes first and at least stalemates the defender. Otten sustains his block well for a long-framed player, although he is not a dominant blocker. He can cut block well when the play calls for it, and Otten looks for targets at the second level, even if he doesn't always find them.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Otten could be a passable in-line tight end, but his size and body type point to a role as a receiving "joker" tight end who lines up in the slot more often than not. He is a solid blocker on the move and could also get some work as an H-back.