Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame (6'6", 270 lbs.)
Second Round: 52nd Pick
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- Elite height and overall size and strength.
- A slightly better all-around athlete than he's typically given credit for—he originally went to Notre Dame as a linebacker.
- Arguably the most dominant blocking tight end in this class and easily the best blocker of the guys who can also contribute as a pass-catcher.
- Strong enough to be an asset as an in-line blocker.
- Bigger and stronger than most edge-rushers in today's NFL and can at least come close to matching most of them athletically, giving him the potential to continue to develop into one of the elite blocking tight ends in this class.
- Smart, patient, shows great awareness and an ability to react when blocking on the move.
- A physical possession receiver who knows how to get open.
- Does a great job of using his size to box out defenders in coverage and give a nice target to his quarterback.
- Long arms to go with impressive height, which makes him a tough cover for defensive backs in jump-ball situations.
- Comes from arguably the greatest family tree in NFL history—nephew of Bruce and Clay Matthews Sr. and cousin of Clay Jr., Casey, Jake, etc.
- Lacks the speed to be a downfield threat.
- Speed and agility are average at best, limiting his ability to pick up yardage after the catch.
- Occasionally gets lazy with his route running and rounds off his cuts rather than being sharp and using what little explosive ability he has.
- Runs a fairly limited route tree due to his lack of speed—mostly limited to curls, ins, outs, drags, etc.
- Will sometimes get too high in his stance as an in-line blocker and get walked into the backfield by stronger pass-rushers.
- Tends to be a little too physical when fighting to get open, which will need to be scaled back to avoid penalties in the NFL.
- Hands are somewhat inconsistent and he's still learning how to position himself to catch the ball away from his body and then secure it quickly.
- Suffered a head injury during 2012 spring practice.
- Limited during combine by a core muscle injury.
- Only two years of experience at tight end after transitioning from linebacker prior to 2012 season.
- Played offensive and defensive line in high school and was named Los Angeles Times lineman of the year in 2010.
20 years ago, we would be talking about Troy Niklas as a first-round lock and potentially one of the greatest tight end prospects to come around in a long time.
Back in an era when guys like Kyle Brady and Mark Bruener were first-round picks, Niklas would have stood out for his incredible blend of size, strength and athleticism.
In today's game, however, he lacks the athleticism to project as an elite pass-catching tight end, which slightly limits his value. However, he is one of the few tight ends in this class who can genuinely be an asset in every aspect of the game. Few prospects come along these days with as well-rounded a skill set as Niklas'.
Draft Projection: Second-Third Round