The tight end position has continued to evolve in recent years, and the NFL may have more talent at the position than ever before.
The 2014 NFL Draft has a few tight ends capable of impacting the game early on. The question facing NFL teams is how they will use these tight ends. Players like Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro spent most of their time catching passes out of the slot, which is common for a player like Jimmy Graham as well.
Ebron and Amaro should have the most value on draft weekend, but a few other tight ends should catch the attention of teams on day two of the draft.
1. Eric Ebron | 6'4 3/8, 250 pounds | Tight end | North Carolina *
With Ebron, there is a lot to like. He's a speedy tight end with big play ability. He fits the mold of the modern tight end. But that's not to say he's without flaws. Ebron's hands at times are questionable and he's not a finished product as a tight end. But his speed and athleticism trump any concerns and make Ebron the best tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft.
2. Jace Amaro | 6'5 3/8, 265 pounds | Tight end | Texas Tech *
Jace Amaro isn't quite the dynamic athlete that Ebron is, but he's effective at getting separation and making plays in the red zone. Amaro has a quick release of the line of scrimmage and accelerates to top speed in a hurry. Most of what Amaro did for Texas Tech was out of the slot, so he needs to prove he can be an in-line blocker. His hands are also a bit small, and that shows up in some of the issues he had with drops. Amaro also hasn't plenty of room to bulk up his lean frame. He can get muscled around a bit and get knocked off his route, but if he gets stronger, he'll be even more well-rounded as a pass catcher.
3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins | 6'5, 262 pounds | Tight end | Washington *
Austin Seferian-Jenkins entered the season as our no. 1 tight end, but some added weight slowed him down in 2013. He's not as quick when changing direction as the top two tight ends in this class, but he is a much more balanced player. Seferian-Jenkins has a prototypical frame for an in-line tight end and showed a willingness to block in his final year at Washington. His basketball background shows up when he's catching passes, too. Seferian-Jenkins' strengths are getting body position and getting the ball at its highest point. That being said, Seferian-Jenkins needs to be more aggressive and precise in a lot of areas. He gets lazy with his routes and didn't show a killer instinct when going after the football in contested situations, which led to some catchable passes hitting the ground.
4. Troy Niklas | 6'6 1/2, 270 pounds | Tight end | Notre Dame *
Notre Dame continues to turn out NFL-caliber tight ends. Troy Niklas started off playing defense for the Irish but switched to tight end midway through his career. His frame is ideal for an in-line tight end, but because of his size he sacrifices some of the natural explosiveness the other tight ends in this class have. He's a physical player, both when blocking and attacking passes in the air. Niklas will be a huge red zone target in the NFL due to his catch radius and ability to gain position on defensive players.
5. C.J. Fiedorowicz | 6'6, 270 pounds | Tight end | Iowa
Fiedorowicz is a sneaky good route runner. Looks to really set up his breaks, especially on comeback routes. Picked zone apart at times for Iowa. Is at his best when he work the seam. Doesn’t have the best hands and will miss some easy throws. A proficient blocker, and he should only get better in this role. Will make some spectacular catches outside his frame. Possesses the strength to break tackles in the open field.Certainly won’t blow anyone away with his speed and shouldn’t be expected to. Won’t make defenders miss after the catch.
6. Arthur Lynch | 6'4 5/8, 258 pounds | Tight end | Georgia
No single player helped himself more at the Senior Bowl than Lynch. He started the week in Mobile looking excellent in blocking drills. He finished things out by catching almost everything thrown his direction. Lynch is a physical tight end with enough athleticism to go up and high point the ball over safeties. Lynch isn't a dynamic tight end, but in the third or fourth round he'll be a nice draft choice.
7. Xavier Grimble | 6'4, 257 pounds | Tight end | Southern California *
Xavier Grimble was one of the most under-utilized tight ends in the country during his final season at USC. Considering his combination of size and athleticism, one would have expected Grimble to receive more targets that he did. While he needs to get a bit stronger and continue to fill out his frame, Grimble is a smooth route runner and a natural hands catcher. He showed off solid body control as well.
8. Richard Rodgers | 6'4, 257 pounds | Tight end | California *
Richard Rodgers is one of the most interesting tight ends in this class. He started his career at California as a wide receiver but played as heavy as 275 pounds during his sophomore season. As a junior, he was playing closer to 250 pounds. He has the frame and body type to add or lose weight fairly easily. Rodgers' wide receiver background is evident in his game, as he uses smooth, controlled movement to get separation and create after the catch. He has the ability to make some ridiculous catches, but needs to show more focus in order to eliminate some drops. While he could get a bit stronger, Rodgers is a willing and capable blocker, showing the ability to block in space or be an in-line blocker in the running game.
9. Marcel Jensen | 6'6, 270 pounds | Tight end | Fresno State
Blocking is a bit of a lost art for college tight ends, but Marcel Jensen is cut from a different mold. The 270-pounder did his fair share of blocking for Fresno State throughout his career. He is strong enough to drive defenders off the ball and is smart about how he blocks as well. Of course, given his size, Jensen is never the fastest player on the field and has some trouble getting separation due to a lack of explosiveness when changing direction. That being said, Jensen rarely drops the ball and can be relied upon in the middle portion of the field.
10. Crockett Gilmore | 6'5 7/8, 260 pounds | Tight end | Colorado State
Crockett Gilmore is a handful to deal with in coverage and the open field. He's not particularly fast, strong, or explosive on paper and definitely could add weight to his frame. But what Gilmore does have is reliable hands and an aggressive mentality that NFL quarterbacks will love. He refuses to be beat for the football in contested situations and hates to be brought down once he has the ball in his hands. If Gilmore can get stronger to become a more reliable blocker, he could be a nice option for teams looking to add a no. 2 tight end who has room to grow.
11. Colt Lyerla | 6'3 7/8, 242 pounds | Tight end | -- *
12. Ted Bolser | 6'6, 254 pounds | Tight end | Indiana
13. Joe Don Duncan | 6'3, 268 pounds | Tight end | Dixie State
14. Jacob Pedersen | 6'3 1/2, 238 pounds | Tight end | Wisconsin
15. Alex Bayer | 6'4, 253 pounds | Tight end | Bowling Green
16. Jordan Najvar | 6'6, 265 pounds | Tight end | Baylor
17. Rob Blanchflower | 6'4, 256 pounds | Tight end | Massachusetts
18. Chris Coyle | 6'3, 222 pounds | Tight end | Arizona State
19. Asa Watson | 6'4, 235 pounds | Tight end | North Carolina State
20. Trey Burton | 6'2 1/8, 224 pounds | Tight end / H-back | Florida
21. Eric Waters | 6'5, 245 pounds | Tight end | Missouri