Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Tight Ends

The title says it all, as usual. I'm only going to cover the first sort of 10-15 guys on the list I have, then come back for the rest another day. Starting with;

- Coby Fleener, Stanford: Not the best run blocking tight end. Not bad, but he gets shaken off by determined defenders a little too easily. His speed is pretty good and this is where Fleener really finds his niche. He's less of a pass catching tight end as he is just an over sized wide receiver. There's a good chance the team that eventually takes him will just treat him as such.

At 6'6 and over 240 pounds he presents a formidable match up for any defender and though his acceleration isn't blinding, he does have good speed once he builds up a head of steam. His route running is pretty polished and he has good hands, so he should make an effective pass catcher. In man to man coverage he has proven almost impossible to cover effectively with a linebacker and sometimes even with safeties.

With the recent success of guys like Rob Gronkowski in New England, don't be surprised if someone takes Fleener inside those first 32 picks. He should succeed at the next level.

- Dwayne Allen, Clemson: Last time I checked, Mike Mayock had him rated as the number one tight end in this years draft. There is certainly some merit to that opinion. Allen is a big guy who can block pretty well, though sometimes his footwork is a little clumsy. Route running he's very good, which is surprising given his size.

In the passing game Allen is the very definition of what I would call a target man. In other words his ability to time his jumps, and to leap and stretch for the ball, makes quarterbacks look better than they really are. That's an important attribute for me and one that is incredibly under valued.

Now no, Allen isn't the quickest tight end in the world. He doesn't have that explosion out his stance that some players do. It doesn't matter though, not to me at least. It's what he does once he gets going that is important and once Allen gets going he is very impressive. An excellent tight end with an excellent future.

- Orson Charles, Georgia: "I know, we're a month or so away from the NFL draft, one of the biggest and most pivotal moments of my life, so what I'd best do is have a few drinks and then go for a little drive. That can't possibly go wrong, can it? Ah man, I must have had more than I thought, I keep seeing red and blue lights flashing in the corner of my eyes. Oh no wait, that's just the cops...."

Yep, every draft has its idiots and sure enough Orson Charles didn't disappoint. Every year it never ceases to amaze me just how f**king stupid some people can be. Seriously, a DUI? Even if you have no plans for a long term career and even if you're idiotic enough to believe that drinking and driving is ever acceptable, surely you have enough sense to play it straight for a few months until your big pay day is signed, sealed and delivered? Apparently not.

Well the sad fact is that idiotic driving habits will eventually be put aside and someone will eventually take Orson Charles, though most seem to agree that a once potential first rounder (in some circles), maybe early second rounder, is now going to have to consider himself lucky if he gets taken in the third.

Charles is about average as a run blocker. His biggest problem seems to be figuring out who he's supposed to block more than anything. In the passing game Charles is quick and runs great routes. Not the strongest tight end despite his impressive bench press result at the combine* (his increased weight suggests that he bulked up purposely), but his real value is in the passing game. Hands are about average.

Like I said, the consensus seems to be that he'll go in the third round, though that DUI could do more damage to his reputation than first thought. If he keeps his nose clean and stays healthy he could prove to be quite a handy receiver, though his grasp of a teams run blocking scheme will decide whether he makes it onto the field as a full time tight end.

*The little asterisk was put in because I wanted to watch Charles's bench press with my own eyes. One of the reasons I hate the bench press at the combine is because form is not regulated properly and players routinely get away with using a very wide grip and not properly extending their arms.

It's one of the many reasons that I think the combine is becoming as much of a joke as the Pro Bowl, along with the amount of players who don't participate in any of the drills, or will compete in some but not others without any real rhyme or reason why (you can sprint a 40 but not do the field drills huh?).

Anyway, the only video of his bench press is locked behind the hideous wall that is a link to the video section. I took the plunge and tried to watch the video, but it constantly kept glitching, failing to load, or would load the advert but not the actual video.'s video section used to be good... once upon a time. Now? For a company that makes as much money as the NFL does, it's a complete disgrace. When you compare it to ESPN, where I have yet to have even so much as a single problem, it just makes the NFL look like laughable amateurs in the online media world.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there are amateur video game and movie critics out there on the web who do their own video hosting etc and even they manage to provide a service that is reasonably good. And the NFL wants to create its own network? Give me a break.

And now back to your normal programming.

- Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette: What's a polite way of saying that you think someone has been over rated? Andrew Lucked? Robert Griffined? Ladarius Greened?

I guess that's not really fair because to be over rated you would actually have to be touted as being more than you are and I suppose Green isn't really being touted all that much, but his name does seem to crop up in the top five of every list going about 2012 tight end prospects.

As a run blocker he can't really compete in the NFL and as a receiver he seemed to struggle against all but the very weakest defensive teams. I can't see him having the speed or competence in route running to do much at the next level.

- Michael Egnew, Missouri: Meh. Egnew is pretty quick with the ball in his hands, but broadly speaking he doesn't have much that will attract NFL teams. Coming out of the Missouri offense his route tree is incredibly small (more like a shrub) and he doesn't have great technique. He really struggles to separate from defenders and at times looks a little lazy. The odds are against him I think, unless someone can figure out a way to harness that speed, perhaps making him a third down tight end who runs mainly seam routes?

- Evan Rodriguez, Temple: I can't hate on someone like Rodriguez who seems to just enjoy the contact that takes place on a football field. He's a willing and very able run blocker who has demonstrated time and again the ability to take on bigger defenders and keep them away from the runner.

As a pass catcher however Rodriguez has some good, some bad. The good is that he adjusts to badly thrown passes pretty well and has pretty safe hands. The bad is that his route tree might actually be smaller than Egnew's. He really didn't run much beyond about 5 yards and his utility takes a big hit as a result.

Unfortunately he just doesn't offer anything unique or worthwhile to a team. He might be the kind of guy who can set the tone in a practice session with his aggression and attitude, but on the field he offers nothing that any back up tight end in the NFL couldn't do. It's just not worth picking him.

- David Paulson, Oregon: I'm not a huge fan of Paulson as a run blocker, though he does ok. In the passing game he is a treat to watch. His crappy 40 time at the combine aside, Paulson runs pretty good routes and he has exceptional hands.

Projections for him are quite low, especially after that 40 yard dash, but I think people should keep their eye on this kid. He's another one of these "target men", who can make a quarterback look better than he really is. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Just a gut feeling.

That's your lot for now. Tight ends are thin on the ground this year, certainly not as deep as we've seen in the past. In general this strikes me as being quite a crappy year for the draft. Hopefully as we now move over to the defensive side things will pick up, although from what I've seen looking at a few players here and there, it doesn't get much better.

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