The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have enough needs already that there’s more than a little certainty they won’t be spending a pick in the first couple days on a tight end. Especially after picking Luke Stocker up in last year’s draft.
But there are a few intriguing guys in this year’s draft at the Tight End position, some of whom will be around in the later rounds should the Bucs want to add another tight end to their roster. Depending on whether or not Kellen Winslow is a Buccaneer come the start of next season, the Bucs may or may not opt to take a tight end later on.
This isn’t a great year for tight ends, but there should still be four or five Tight Ends taken on the first two days of the draft, starting with Coby Fleener in round one. There will still be plenty of potential available in rounds 4-7 too.
1.) Coby Fleener, Stanford, Sr.
Fleener is widely considered the best in a mediocre class of Tight Ends, I happen to think Fleener is actually quite a bit better than he’s getting credit for though. At Stanford he was Andrew Luck’s guy, he lined up at pretty much every receiver position at some point and demonstrated more than enough athleticism to be effective. The benefit of that is he comes from a pro style offense at Stanford where he worked with an NFL caliber quarterback and line, he’s got the kind of pedigree you really like in a player. Another former basketball standout turned tight end, Fleener has great leaping ability and very soft hands. Perhaps his best attribute is his route-running, a skill that oftentimes takes a while for tight ends to refine. He’s an above average blocker who has room to improve, but he does seal the edge well on run plays and looks to get involved downfield when possible. He’s only average to above average with the ball in his hands after a catch, but let’s be honest there aren’t too many truly dynamic tight ends in the open field. Overall Fleener is going to be a solid tight end wherever he ends up, but in the right system could potentially be a pro-bowl caliber guy. A lot of people think he would be a good fit with his old college coach in San Francisco at pick 30, but I don’t think he’ll last that long. He won’t make it past the Colts at the top of round two, they would be remiss not to reunite him with Andrew Luck.
2.) Dwayne Allen, Clemson, Jr.
Another former basketball player, Allen cashed in on a huge junior season at Clemson and turned pro. He would actually be higher on my overall list (top 100) if not for something he said during his Pro Day that really stuck with me. Allen said he can’t wait to take a break because he hasn’t been able to heal from last season due to the rigors of the draft process. The problem with that is he’s not going to get too much of an opportunity to heal being that he’ll be in OTA’s and minicamps within a couple weeks of the draft. I’m sure it’s like that for plenty of players, but combined with questions about Clemson’s conditioning program (many of their pros have a learning curve based on the shape they report to the NFL in), that drops him a bit. He’s still the second rated tight end on this list though. Allen is more of a receiver than a blocker, his body control, flexibility and soft hands make him an incredible target, especially in the red zone. But questions about his speed and blocking persist, he isn’t an accomplished blocker despite having relatively good technique and his frame will probably never allow him to excel in this area. Overall though, in the right system he could be a legitimate receiving threat.
3.) Orson Charles, Georgia, Jr.
Charles hurt his draft stock last month with a DUI arrest in Athens, before that he was considered, with Allen and Fleener, as potentially the draft’s top tight end. Charles is a bit undersized, he’s not going to be the kind of receiver Allen or Fleener could be in the NFL, but he’s a much better blocker with a mean streak that should serve him well in the pros. Charles is likely a better option as a second tight end early in his career or possibly even an H-back. He genuinely seems to enjoy the contact that comes with blocking and happily attacks bigger defenders with serious pop and solid technique. As a receiver, he’s better when he doesn’t get challenged at the line, if he gets a clean release he runs good routes and has good hands, with above average ability after the catch. But off the line of scrimmage, he sometimes gets rocked on the jam and tossed off his route. Size is always going to be a concern with Charles, but he does still have enough to be solid at the next level. There are a couple other red flags with Charles off the field, namely he was named by Nevin Shapiro as a guy that accepted benefits from Miami during his recruitment. Charles is likely a second round guy, maybe third.
4.) Taylor Thompson, Southern Methodist, Sr.
Thompson intrigues the hell out of me, he was a defensive end at SMU, and a solid one at that, but he’s decided to flip to tight end (a la Erik Lorig, who eventually became a fullback) and has worked out as one throughout the draft process. Thompson has all the NFL size and measurables you could want, but absolutely no game-tape to go by. That makes him extremely difficult to evaluate, though his defensive game tape is solid, you see a player with a very good motor, good body control and burst and enough body strength. Now he has to flip from being the guy who gets past blockers, to the guy blocking though. That’s the big concern many have, is that his receiving skills will be adequate but his blocking will lag and force whatever team that drafts him to develop him before he’s ready to make an impact on Sunday. I think someone will take a shot on Thompson around the end of round three, you can always flip him back to defense if he doesn’t pan as a tight end. That being said, I think he’s got enough upside at tight end to make it in the NFL
5.) Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr.
When Green was being recruited he was looked at as a big, lanky, slow receiver and didn’t get a whole lot of interest from major programs. He ended up at ULL, where he added serious weight to his sizable frame (he now stands 6-6, 240) without losing any speed. Now he’s a fairly fleet-footed tight end with a receiver skill set and a ton of intriguing potential. With a 35-inch vertical and an 82-inch wingspan, Green makes for one hell of a target. He’s a good route-runner who gets off the line pretty well and presents a coverage nightmare for linebackers and safeties. The knock on him is his blocking, which is a work in progress with questions as to how viable a blocker he will ever be. He’s a high-effort blocker with solid technique, but can be destroyed at the point of attack by bigger, stronger defenders. He also played in the Sun Belt, which at its worst is a step above a rec-league. But just his receiving skills and body type alone should ensure that he ends up getting a good shot in the NFL.
Best of the Rest
6.) Michael Egnew, Missouri, Sr.
The best way I’ve heard Michael Egnew described is a guy that would have been considered a big, slow receiver a decade ago, but is an NFL tight end now. Egnew is a big target with soft hands a proven collegiate track record, he has deceptive speed but isn’t exactly fast either. The biggest issue is as a blocker, where he tends more to just get in the way of defenders than actually block them,
7.) Deangelo Peterson, LSU, Sr.
Peterson has decent body size and a solid frame, he’s an above average receiver and he blocks efficiently, though one scout referred to him as a trumped up receiver on the line of scrimmage. Wasn’t especially productive in college, hauling in just 38 receptions and three touchdowns in his career. Hardly a stand-out, but could develop into a good second tight end.
8.) Rhett Ellison, Southern California, Sr.
Ellison would probably consitute more as old-school at this point because he’s a much better blocker than receiver. He displays inconsistent hands at times and has the tendency to be overwhelmed when trying to block bigger defenders, but has the frame and NFL bloodlines to develop into a decent pro.
9.) Chase Ford, Miami, Sr.
Ford really helped himself with good performances in the college all-star games back in January and solid workouts since. Ford has all the skills and measurables to develop into a good NFL tight end down the line (a la Jimmy Graham) but he posted just 16 catches in his entire career as a Hurricane, which isn’t exactly productive.
10.) Matt Veldman, North Dakota State, Sr.
Veldman is largely a mystery, played on a good FCS team (formerly Division 1-AA), but wasn’t especially productive. Still, has major size for the position and ran a 4.7-40, amongst the fastest in this class. Knock on him is he’s a lumberer, doesn’t change directions well and lacks great body control. Still, I think he’s going to surprise some people.