With the 52nd pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals select tight end Troy Niklas of Notre Dame. The Cardinals give quarterback Carson Palmer a blocking tight end who is an underrated pass-catcher; it's possible Niklas has the most upside of all tight ends in the draft, as he has just two years of experience at the position.
The pick makes underachieving tight end Rob Housler expendable, so if Arizona cannot work a trade for him, they may be forced to release him.
BA gets a key component to his TE - CENTRIC offense. Niklas can play in line or on the move. Box players rule = bigger, stronger, tougher.— Ron Wolfley (@wolf987FM) May 10, 2014
How soon can Niklas play? "how long does it take to get on an airplane?" Arians says— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) May 10, 2014
Niklas will step in immediately and contribute. As Ron Wolfley's tweet above notes, the Notre Dame product can play in line or from the slot. Either way, he is a mismatch for opposing defenses. He will play early because of his blocking ability, but on passing downs when he runs routes from the slot, he will attract a linebacker or strong safety in coverage merely because of his size.
That means running lanes could open up for Andre Ellington and Co. because less players will be in the box when Niklas is in the slot. If defenses choose to match him with a cornerback, he likely would become a top target of a passing play.
Head coach Bruce Arians loves big, physical tight ends. He was around for the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft Heath Miller in 2005 and recently had very high praise for the former Virginia Cavaliers tight end:
Bruce Arians calls Heath Miller best TE in NFL. Got me to thinking- Could Steelers trade Heath? Huge cap dilemmas with aging roster.— NFL_DRAFT_Bites (@NFLDraftBites) February 24, 2014
Arians believes in having tight ends who do everything well, not just block and catch passes. Niklas is a complete tight end—old school, if you will.
When you first see Niklas on the field, you'll notice he's virtually the same size as star defensive end Calais Campbell. Well, Campbell with a fiercely chiseled body and a 32-inch vertical.
This is a great pick for the Cardinals. We figured a tight end would make his way to the Valley via the draft at some point this weekend, but Niklas at 52 is great for the franchise.