NFL Draft 2013: Tracking the Best Available TEs
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The tight end position has become increasingly more important in the NFL, with the focus shifting from passing or blocking specialists to do-it-all, versatile offensive weapons. Everyone is on the hunt for the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, and though those types of tight ends are tough to find, that certainly doesn't stop general managers from using valuable draft picks on someone they think they can mold into the next big thing.
Here's a look at every tight end ranked by Bleacher Report's resident draft expert, Matt Miller, in his final big board, and it will be constantly updated based on when they are drafted and by which teams. This is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with these 18 prospects.
9. Ryan Otten, San Jose State
You can view Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report for Ryan Otten here.
Ryan Otten of San Jose State is a perfectly workable tight end—not an amazing receiver, but not a bad one either; not a prodigious blocker, but not incapable of it either. He had 47 receptions for 742 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 and over 700 receiving yards in 2011, as well.
Blocking isn't Otten's biggest strength because, as Bloom says, he's basically "an oversized wide receiver." Bloom continues:
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.
13. Zach Sudfeld, Nevada
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You can read Dan Tylicki's full scouting report on Zach Sudfeld here.
When it comes to Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld's strengths, he could certainly be a mid-round selection in this year's draft. However, his weaknesses may send him all the way into the seventh round depending on how general managers view him.
Sudfeld is a product of Nevada's fast-paced Pistol offense, which required him to both block and catch while keeping step with the speed of the system. As such, Sudfeld is both athletic and fast, especially for his 6'7" frame.
Tylicki breaks it down further:
At 6'7", Sudfeld has great size, and is one of the tallest tight ends in the draft, and perhaps the tallest that will end up drafted. In high school, he was a letterman in tennis, track and field and basketball, meaning that he has a lot of athletic upside.
Despite not being invited to the combine, Sudfeld had an impressive pro day, showcasing his athleticism and ability to be a red-zone threat at the next level.
The issues with Sudfeld are his age—he's 24 years old—and his medical risks. He's had six surgeries in his time in Nevada, stretching his college career to six years in length, with 2012 the only one in which he was fully healthy. He had 45 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012, which are all impressive numbers, but those multiple injuries are a major red flag.
14. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
You can read Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report for Jake Stoneburner here.
It's hard to get a true read on Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner because he wasn't a major player in the team's passing offense, catching just 16 passes in 2012 for 269 yards and four touchdowns.
Stoneburner has good speed as well as versatility, as Bloom notes:
He can move around the formation and play multiple spots, which is becoming more common in today's NFL. His quality hands and ball skills reflect his wide receiver background, and he can threaten a defense downfield and effectively work between the hashes.
His blocking could use work, however, and he would benefit from added strength.
15. Lucas Reed, New Mexico
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New Mexico tight end Lucas Reed suffered from poor quarterback play in 2012, catching just five passes for 37 yards after pulling down 22 for 241 the previous year.
Though he's 6'6", he weighs just 247 pounds and is on the bubble when it comes to being drafted. Per WalterFootball.com, he was helped out by good showings at the East-West Shrine game and his pro day, which should give him a bit of a boost.
17. Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky tight end Jack Doyle has put together two solid seasons—53 receptions for 566 yards and five scores in 2012 and 52 receptions for 614 yards and no scores in 2011—but that's about it.
WalterFootball.com notes that Doyle isn't very strong, which will hurt his chances to catch on as a blocker, and he didn't look good at the Senior Bowl. He will most likely go undrafted in 2013.
18. Joseph Fauria, UCLA
You can read Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report for Joseph Fauria here.
UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria is quite the divisive prospect. He's Miller's lowest-ranked tight end and the one with the biggest bust potential as well.
Fauria is a better receiver than blocker, pulling down 46 passes in 2012 for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's a dangerous red-zone threat—which is also a nice way to say that he lacks speed. He ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.
At 6'7", Fauria can certainly outmatch any defender tasked to him, from a height perspective. As Bloom says:
While he is a good athlete for a 6'7" player, Fauria is still somewhat stiff and slow, and no threat to rip the seam. He doesn't create great separation, and aside from an occasional hurdle of a defender to make a highlight reel, he doesn't do much after the catch.
Fauria is rather one-note, making him a boom-or-bust prospect for whichever team that chooses to draft him.
2. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
You can find Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report for Tyler Eifert here.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has dubbed him both the "most NFL-ready" as well as the first among the 2013 tight ends to reach the Pro Bowl. It's not hard to see why, even if Miller ranked him second in the position group in this year's draft.
Despite shaky quarterback play at Notre Dame in 2012, Eifert still made an impact. He had 50 catches for 685 yards and four touchdowns, including six receptions for 61 yards in the Fighting Irish's BCS Championship loss to Alabama—impressive numbers against college's best defense.
Eifert can catch and block and should be a nightmare in the middle of the field as a receiver. As Bloom notes, he "eats up open field with his long stride and decent speed, and then creates separation with sharp and precise breaks at the top of his route."
In an era where do-it-all tight ends are all the rage, Eifert will have a very productive rookie season.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 21, Cincinnati Bengals
1. Zach Ertz, Stanford
Matt Miller Breaks Down Zach Ertz
You can view Ryan Lownes' full scouting report on Zach Ertz here.
Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller has Stanford tight end Zach Ertz at the top of his position group for the 2013 draft, dubbing him the best overall prospect at the position, the lowest risk among the tight ends and the one to have the best career in five years' time. That's high praise for a player who most certainly deserves it.
Ertz had 69 catches in 2012, for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Lownes believe Ertz has more work to do as a run-blocker:
Watching Zach Ertz play, he seems much more in his element as a receiver as opposed to a blocker. He struggles to hold blocks and often appears physically outmatched.
Generally I have few gripes with his effort, but he leaves much to be desired as an in-line blocker. Additionally, he does not do a great job of finding blocks in space.
However, his all-around performance on both the field and at the scouting combine pushed him atop the rankings at the position for this year's draft.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 3 (35 Overall), Philadelphia Eagles
4. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
You can read Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report on Gavin Escobar here.
San Diego State's Gavin Escobar would likely be listed as Miller's third overall tight end of the 2013 draft class if it weren't for one glaring thing—his lack of speed, which could be a liability when it comes to shaking defenders.
As Bloom puts it:
He's not going to make anything happen after the catch with speed, quickness, or elusiveness. He also won't create separation downfield against NFL safeties or linebackers in a footrace.
At 6'6", however, he's a large target and will certainly find himself a home in the NFL, where he'll be developed into an eventual starter.
Escobar had 42 receptions for 543 yards and six touchdowns in 2012.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 17 (47 Overall), Dallas Cowboys
3. Vance McDonald, Rice
You can find Ryan Lownes' full scouting report on Vance McDonald here.
If you're a team that already has a solid blocking tight end on the roster but lacks that dynamic receiving component, then keep your eye on Rice's Vance McDonald. Though not the king of all blocking when it comes to the 2013 tight end class, what he brings as a receiving weapon makes him Matt Miller's third overall tight end this year—as well as the one with what he believes to be the best power.
Simply put, McDonald is an athletic freak. He's incredibly fast—as evidenced both by his 40-yard dash time of 4.69 at the scouting combine and his Senior Bowl performance—with great hands and solid route running. He's everything a team would want in a receiving-focused tight end.
Lownes also comments on McDonald's blocking:
A relentless, physical blocker, McDonald bullied defensive backs from his position in the slot. He flashed aggression as a blocker, playing to the whistle and displaying some pop in his hands. Though operating from the slot, he showed the ability to block with his arms and legs, driving and steering defenders out of harms way.
McDonald had 36 receptions for 458 yards and two scores in 2012 and 43 catches for 532 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. If he becomes a rookie-year starter, expect these numbers to all greatly increase in the NFL.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 25 (55 Overall), San Francisco 49ers (trade up with Green Bay Packer)
6. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
You can read Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report on Travis Kelce here.
Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce is best known for his blocking. From Bloom: "His combination of size, routes, hands, and ball skills makes Kelce a strong prospect as a receiving tight end, but he really shines as a blocker."
However, he's definitely a capable receiver, leading the Bearcats in receptions in 2012, with 45, for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. However, Miller has him as his sixth-best tight end in this year's class, noting that he's also the biggest risk among them.
The risks are that Kelce will need to have a solid offensive system in which to work and be given the chance to catch passes more than simply block. He had only 13 catches in 2011, so it's hard to tell how productive he can potentially be.
Kelce was also suspended for the entire 2010 season for undisclosed reasons. While whatever might have prompted it should be firmly in the past, the fact that it happened at all could have some NFL general managers wary of him.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 1 (63 Overall), Kansas City Chiefs
5. Jordan Reed, Florida
Matt Miller Breaks Down Jordan Reed
You can read Eric Stoner's full scouting report on Jordan Reed here.
Florida's Jordan Reed is a somewhat underrated tight end prospect. He's a little smaller and a little slower than first anticipated, and he had just 16 bench press repetitions at the scouting combine, but his drills went well, further highlighting what a playmaker he was for the Gators.
As Stoner says:
As of right now though, Reed is both undersized and not particularly explosive. His athleticism after the catch and ability to detach from the formation and line up as a wide receiver will likely draw many comparisons to his Gator tight end predecessor, Aaron Hernandez.
Reed had 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns and could have done even better if his quarterback, Jeff Driskel, played better.
That being said, however, Reed is a former quarterback, which means he's still learning the ropes of the tight end position, particularly blocking. With proper development, he could find himself with a productive NFL career.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 23 (85 Overall), Washington Redskins
10. Dion Sims, Michigan State
You can view Sigmund Bloom's full Dion Sims scouting report here.
Though Michigan State tight end Dion Sims had the third-most receptions on the team in 2012, one must remember that the Spartans were mainly a run-heavy team behind Le'Veon Bell. Sims had 36 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns this past season, but his real acumen is as a run-blocker.
As Bloom puts it:
He fires off of the snap and looks to land the first blow in the confrontation. Sims sustains his blocks to the whistle and will put his man on the ground when he can. He has very good feet as a pass-blocker, and he can do an adequate job of mirroring an edge rusher if asked.
Granted, Sims can certainly catch a few passes here and there, but that's not what he'll be drafted to do. He's a good fit for a team that already has an established receiving tight end but needs additional help in blocking.
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 9 (106 Overall), Miami Dolphins
16. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Levine Toilolo backed up Zach Ertz at Stanford this year, which necessitated him playing second fiddle to one of the top tight end prospects in this year's draft. He still managed 24 receptions for 393 yards and four touchdowns, but he has work to do on his fundamentals if he's to succeed in the NFL.
Toilolo did himself few favors at the scouting combine. His 40-yard dash time was the second slowest, and he had just 17 bench-press repetitions. His 2010 ACL tear doesn't help matters either.
Toilolo needs to improve his blocking and route-running. He probably would have been better off returning for his senior season to improve before going pro, but he declared for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 36 (133 Overall), Atlanta Falcons
8. Nick Kasa, Colorado
Matt Miller Breaks Down Nick Kasa
Colorado's Nick Kasa has played tight end for just one year—he was previously a defensive end—but he made enough of an impact in that one season at the position to be worth a team's draft pick this year.
WalterFootball.com notes: "A lot of scouts are high on Kasa's potential because he has a serious combination of size and speed."
Kasa caught 25 passes for 391 yards and three scores in 2012. He has great size—he's the biggest tight end of the class—combined with solid speed, which means he'll be useful both in blocking and receiving, though of course he'll require some additional development.
Drafted: Round 6, Pick 4 (172 Overall), Oakland Raiders
11. Mychal Rivera, Tennessee
You can view Dan Tylicki's full scouting report for Mychal Rivera here.
Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera has the potential to be a playmaker in the NFL. He's primarily a receiving tight end, with 36 catches in 2012 for 562 yards and five touchdowns.
Rivera is extremely athletic, though not impressively fast. Tylicki breaks down what makes Rivera such a solid receiver despite that lack of speed:
Rivera's biggest strength is his raw athleticism. Despite not having top-end speed, he can make big plays in other ways on the field. He also has great hands and has never had any trouble with dropping passes.
He also has special teams experience, which raises his draft cachet significantly.
The biggest weakness for Rivera is blocking, which is partially related to his being rather small for the position.
Drafted: Round 6, Pick 16 (184 Overall), Oakland Raiders
12. Michael Williams, Alabama
Though most would ascribe the continued success of the Alabama Crimson Tide's run game to their stellar offensive line, the contributions of tight end Michael Williams also greatly helped them out.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Williams is mainly a blocking tight end who has taken on minimal receiving duties. He caught just 24 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 and only 16 passes the previous year.
Though he's capable of catching the football—he's remarkably athletic for being 6'6" and 278 pounds—his true talent is in run-blocking. As Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com says:
The bread and butter of Williams' game is his run blocking. He is extremely strong at the point of attack. Williams uses his big body to matchup [sic] well against defensive ends, and there are rarely ends who can match his power.
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 5 (211 Overall), Detroit Lions
7. Chris Gragg, Arkansas
You can read Sigmund Bloom's full scouting report of Chris Gragg here.
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg is Miller's sleeper at the position this year as well as the prospect with the best speed—he led all tight ends at the scouting combine at the 40-yard dash. He's quite fast, and it certainly helped him when performing in drills at the combine, but there are issues with Gragg that put his draft stock all over the board.
The main concern with Gragg is injuries. He missed eight games in 2012 with leg and knee issues and all of 2009 with an ankle dislocation. Bloom notes that durability worries could affect when Gragg is drafted.
In 2012, he thus caught only 22 passes, for 289 yards and three scores. In his first year as a starter in 2011, he had 41 receptions for 518 yards and two touchdowns.
Gragg would work best in the NFL as a receiving-only tight end, as Bloom says: "Eliminate in-line tight end as a pro position for Gragg at 6'3" and 244 pounds. That also means he'll never be a highly effective powerful blocker."
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 16 (222 Overall), Buffalo Bills