In 2013, the Safety class seemed to cause quite a bit of...
2014 NFL Draft – Tight End Class Pre-Season Preview
The Tight End position is in great health in today’s NFL. With the passing game becoming more and more dominant, the importance of the Tight End position just continues to rise. Those teams that have stars like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez, truly recognize what a huge impact, a great Tight End can have on a team.
The Pac-12 seems to be the hot bed for the 2014 crop of Tight Ends with four of my top five coming out of the conference.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at our top 5 Tight Ends heading into the year, rated using our RAP system.
* Denotes underclassmen
1. Austin Seferian-Jenkins*, TE, Washington – RAP (92.7)
Player Comparison – Rob Gronkowski
Seferian-Jenkins is one of the most impressive Tight End prospects to come out in recent years. Standing at 6″6, 272, with 4.60 speed, Jenkins has the tools to be a complete tight end, something the like we haven’t seen in recent drafts.
In the pass game, Jenkins has good hands, can run some nice routes and has an exceptional catching radius. He can read defensive schemes and finds the hole in zone coverage well, he also positions his dominating frame to maximize YPC.
He isn’t a bad blocker, but he certainly needs to improve as every college tight end needs to do in the transition to the NFL. He has the frame and physical attributes to be a good blocker, he just needs to work on his technique a little bit.
Jenkins’ game replicates Rob Gronkowski quite closely and like Gronk, he seems to have a very relaxed, happy go lucky personality. Unfortunately for Jenkins, that may have got him into trouble as he was arrested in March 2013 on suspicion of drink driving.
He was subsequently suspended indefinitely by Washington, and as of May 2013 he still is suspended, but that shouldn’t last too much longer, i would suspect. Jenkins seems like a good hard working kid, that simply just made a mistake, but unfortunately that mistake has dropped his RAP grade a little bit. He has plenty of time to rehab his image though, so that grade of 92.7 should be on the rise by the time April comes around.
2. Colt Lyerla*, TE, Oregon – RAP (72.7)
Player Comparison – Aaron Hernandez
Colt Lyerla is certainly an intriguing athletic prospect. In Oregon’s high flying offense, Lyerla had limited exposure playing your traditional tight end, instead being more of a “do-it all” type guy.
Like Hernandez was, Lyerla is probably more of a fit at the next level as a H-Back. He would have received an 81.8 RAP grade as a H-Back, but i tried to keep just to the TE grades on this list.
Lyerla is the type of player, you want to get him out on the move on shallow pass patterns and let him make some plays with the ball in his hands. He isn’t a great route runner at this stage, he hasn’t had to read defensive zone schemes and hasn’t shown the ability to make difficult catches. All of these negatives are caused in part by the Oregon Offense, but the question mark still remains can he develop those skills to an NFL standard.
A troubling off the field issue has arisen in recent times with Lyerla. He tweeted out some quite shocking things regarding the Newton school shooting, that i personally found quite repulsive.
Although he “apologized” for his remarks, he only apologized to his team-mates and coaches, not to the victims of the Newton shooting.
He may not have been arrested or crossed any line with the law, but that is the type of thing that would take a player off my board and I am fairly confident some teams would feel the same way. It becomes even more of an issue when the Owners and Executives get involved in the process and looking at him from a branding perspective. I would suspect those stakeholders would try hard to avoid a guy like that representing their organisation.
3. Xavier Grimble*, TE, USC – RAP (70.6)
Player Comparison – Dwayne Allen
Grimble is a very solid all around Tight End. Coming out of the USC Pro Style system, he is well set up to have a decent NFL career. He is a good blocker, hard worker and very competitive individual.
In the pass game he moves well, but he isn’t one of the vertical Tight Ends that have come out recently. I compared him to Colts TE Dwayne Allen and is really similar in most areas, however Allen had significantly more production at Clemson.
Grimble’s targets will probably be one of the more significant factors in his evaluation. A year ago, with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee out there, Grimble’s numbers were very ordinary.
With Woods gone, Grimble may get targeted more, but the next player on our list may take away some of those potential targets.
4. Randall Telfer*, TE, USC – RAP (67.7)
Player comparison – Ed Dickson
Like his USC team-mate, numbers and production are the major issue in Telfer’s evaluation.
From a physical perspective, Telfer is quite a bit different to Grimble. Telfer is more of a slender, vertical type tight end, with an amazing catching radius.
Speed is a little question with Telfer, if he can test well and show a sub 4.65 40 time, his stock should rise as he has the skill set you look for in a vertical tight end.
5. Eric Ebron*, TE, North Carolina – RAP (61.7)
Player Comparison – Rob Housler
Ebron is very physically gifted, but very raw in terms of refined skill. He is incredibly explosive as evidenced by his use on passing downs at Defensive End as a speed rusher.
In fact i would like to see Ebron play more at Defensive End and refine that skill set, as that may well be high better pro position.
Back to his Tight End ability, his blocking needs significant development. I can’t see him ever being a dominant blocker because that’s not really what he brings to the table.
His explosiveness should enable him to get in and out of breaks quicker than he is at the moment, it would seem he needs to just simply refine his route running technique a little. He does drop a lot of balls as well, so he will need to work on that this summer.
I am really interested to see how Ebron gets on this year. He probably has the greatest scope to increase his RAP grade than any other in this Tight End class, so the pressure will be on him to deliver in 2013.
Other Notable TE’s to look for:-
- Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin.
- C.J. Friedorowicz, TE, Iowa.