NFL DRAFT DIAMONDS

Inside the War Room: 2015 NFL Draft Tight End Edition

Jeff hInside the War Room Tight End Edition

In this week’s Inside the War Room I take an in-depth look at the tight end position. I also give my draft thoughts for the week, and keep you up to date with all the NFL Draft news.

A Look at the 2015 TE Class

This year’s senior class of tight ends has no standout players who will be top ten picks. However, this class is very deep and teams will be able to get good value at this position on day two and day three of the draft. The junior class has several players that could compete for being the first tight end drafted. These players include Tyler Kroft of Rutgers, and Devin Funchess of Michigan. Below is a look of the top five senior tight ends.

  1. Jeff Heuerman Ohio State 6-5 255

Heuerman is one of the most impressive tight ends when it comes to his performance in the weight room. He can bench press 225 pounds a team-leading 33 times, and has a 36.5 inch vertical jump.  He also has produced impressive numbers on the field recording 26 receptions last season for 466 yards. His 17.9 yards per reception also led the team by almost two yards per catch. I would like to see him use his strength to be a more physical blocker.

  1. Rory Anderson South Carolina 6-5 230

Anderson is a big athletic tight end who is just staring to realize his potential. He has yet to produce the outstanding numbers that will blow away NFL scouts only recording 17 receptions for 235 yards last season. However when watching his game film I like the physical makeup of this prospect. He has good height coming in at 6-5, and shows good agility for someone his size. He also shows a good burst off the line of scrimmage, and should be a good intermediate receiver. I would like to see him be a more physical blocker, and put up better stats next year at South Carolina.

  1. Nick O’Leary Florida State 6-3 244

I have seen O’Leary rated as the number one tight end in this draft by several people, which I think is too high for someone his size. At 6-3 244 pounds he lacks the height to be an NFL starting TE. I do like his pass receiving skills though and think he will be a good H-back in the NFL.

  1. Ben Koyack Notre Dame 6-5 261

It will be interesting to see if Koyack can continue the Notre Dame trend of having their last five starting tight ends going in the top two rounds of the draft. This will be Koyack’s first year as a starter after backing up second round pick Troy Niklas last season, and if his spring performance is any indication of how his senior year will go it should be a good year for Koyack. So far in his career he has shown that he is a very aggressive blocker who is a nice receiving threat when used in that capacity.  If he can prove to be a consistent starter this season look for him to rise up the draft board.

  1. MyCole Pruitt Southern Illinois 6-3 250

Pruitt is one of the most productive tight ends in college football. Last season, he led the Missouri Valley tight ends in receptions with 48 catches despite missing the last two games of the season with a broken leg. His production allowed him to be named first-team All-American by several organizations including The Sports Network, and the AFCA. My biggest concerns with this prospect is his lack of ideal size, and the fact he is coming off of a broken leg.

The Belldozer

One of the most intriguing tight end prospects in this year’s draft is Oklahoma’s Blake Bell. Bell played quarterback for the Sooners for his first three seasons at Oklahoma until making the switch to tight end this off-season. He made this choice since he lost his starting job to Trevor Knight, and still wanted to be on the field for the Sooners.

Bell has some intriguing skills that should allow him to make the move to tight end. The first skill he has is excellent size. At 6-6 258 he defiantly has NFL caliber tight end size. He has also been a physical runner during his time at Oklahoma, which should translate to the tight end position. In an ESPN article his head coach Bob Stoops also raved about his soft hands, and his overall football intelligence.

In the same article Bell claims one of the toughest parts about making the switch is the different mentality it takes to play tight end. Obviously tight end is a much more physical demanding position which Bell will need to show he can handle to earn a day two or high day three draft grade. The biggest area this new mentality will show up is in his blocking ability. He needs to show he can match up vs. a defensive end physically and not get pushed around. He also needs to prove he can stay healthy and not be an injury risk for NFL teams. This is a real concern when you factor in he missed two games last season, and time this spring due to injuries. Another big adjustment for him will be learning how to run crisp routes, and being able to settle in open areas on the field.

Overall, I look at Bell as a very intriguing developmental prospect. His hands, smarts, and size tell me he has a spot in the NFL, and if he can answer the questions I have about him he should earn a solid draft grade.     

Different Strokes for Different Folks

There are three different types of tight ends in today’s NFL. The first type is the rare player who can excel as both a blocker and pass receiver. The closet player in the NFL that would be considered a complete TE is New England’s  Rob Gronkowski. These players are extremely hard to find, and I don’t see any prospects that fit this mold in the 2015 senior class of tight ends.

The second group of tight end is the versatile pass catching tight end who can lineup on the line of scrimmage, or be flexed out as an extra receiver.  This type of tight end needs great speed which allows him to be a downfield threat. He also needs to be a good athlete who has the ability to run crisp clean routes.  One other asset this type of tight end must have is excellent hands. A classic example of this type of tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft was North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. While the 2015 senior class  does not have a standout like Ebron several tight ends like Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs, and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman would be considered pass catching tight ends.

The third type of tight end is your big physical blocker. This type of tight end is used mainly as an inline blocker, and short area receiver. NFL teams that prefer the smash mouth running game offense like the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to like these types of players, while a West Coast offense team will tend to shy away and go more towards the pass receiving tight end. An example of this type of player in last year’s draft was C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa who went to Houston at the top of round three.  An example of this type of tight end in the 2015 Draft is Cameron Clear of Texas A&M.

Ten Draft Thoughts

  1. I think no tight end will go in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.
  2. Look for Iowa tight end Ray Hamilton to significantly improve his draft stock this season. Hamilton was a backup last season, and only recorded eight receptions last year for 95 yards. However, I got a chance to get an up close look at Hamilton during Iowa’s spring game this year, and came away impressed. He is a strong blocker, who is a good short area receiving target.
  3. I think Eagle’s WR Jordan Matthews might be an early favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He has look very impressive so far in OTAs with the Eagles, and is in a system that will highlight his skills.
  4. I think one of the most impressive athletes in this year’s offensive guard class is Jamil Douglas of Arizona State. Douglas was named to NFL.com’s Most Freakish Athletes list, and was the only offensive guard named to this list. He has an impressive 385 pound power clean, 430 pound bench press and 565 pound squat. He also runs the 40-yard dash in under 5 seconds, and his body fat is in the low teens.
  5. I think Georgia Southern OT Garrett Frye, and Central Florida OT Torrian Wilson will have to shift inside to offensive guard in the NFL. Both players lack the height, quickness, and agility to play tackle in the NFL.
  6. I think Northwestern center Brandon Vitabile needs to get stronger. He lacks power at the point of contact, and can be pushed back into the backfield when matched up against quality defensive tackles.
  7. I think Southeastern Louisiana QB Bryan Bennett is the top small school offensive player in the draft. I love his athletic ability, and arm strength. If he can improve his accuracy he could be a second round draft pick.
  8.  I think one of the best players I overlooked in my initial wide receiver rankings is UNLV’s Devante Davis. Davis led the team in receptions last season by 42 receptions, in yards by 785 yards, and in touchdowns by 9 touchdowns. Daivs has outstanding size as well coming in at 6-3 210 pounds, and shows good body control. I have some questions about his speed, and burst off the line of scrimmage. I currently have him ranked as the ninth best senior receiver in the draft.
  9. I think the underclassmen quarterbacks are being slightly overrated going into the 2014 season. While players like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Brett Hundley have outstanding qualities, they also have plenty of questions surrounding them. I don’t see a sure fire franchise quarterback among these prospects, and would not be surprised if one or more of these players falls out of the first round of the draft.
  10. I think it will be interesting to see how Jimmy Clausen develops under Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman. He will need to have a great off-season in order to make the team, but if anyone can develop Clausen it is Trestman. 

Notes

Alabama WR DeAndrew White has been cleared to practice. He had missed time due to having toe surgery in January. … Iowa senior DB Nico Law was arrested last week on disorderly conduct. … The NFL Draft will not be held at Radio City Music Hall this year. … Troy OT Terrence Jones squatted 810 pounds this spring. … Louisville DE Lorenzo Mauldin will move to OLB in the Cardinals new 3-4 defense. … Southern Illinois TE MyCole Pruitt is on schedule in his rehab from his broken leg. He should be ready for the start of the season. … LSU junior DB Jalen Mills has been indefinitely suspended from the football team after being arrested on a battery charge. …

Make sure you follow John Blair of Inside the War Room on Twitter @NFLDRAFTITWR 

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