Which Tight Ends Are the Best Bets in the 2014 NFL Draft?
|Date & Time||Thursday February 20, 2014, 12:00 PM (EST)|
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If you’ve watched more than 30 seconds of sports coverage this week, you’ve heard about the Jimmy Graham saga that is currently playing out in New Orleans. Few would argue against the fact that Graham is the best TE in the league right now. There are quite a few draft prospects, though, who are looking to give him a run for his money starting in September. I don’t see anyone one-upping Graham in the near future and this is a relatively lean TE class, but some of the guys on this list should become factors on their new NFL teams right away.
1. Eric Ebron (UNC) - I don’t see anyone denying that Ebron is the best TE in this year’s draft class. Ebron’s incredibly athletic and has amazing hands (have you seen how many one handed catches this kid has made?) The only drawbacks I see with Ebron are the fact that he’s a little on the lean side at 6’3 and 245 pounds and that he doesn’t always play with as much focus as he could. Fortunately, there are weight rooms and coaches, so both of these issues ought to be fixable.
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) - Seferian-Jenkins, at 6’6 and 276 pounds, certainly has the size that is necessary to be a TE in the NFL. Seferian-Jenkins’s size makes him a challenge for the majority of safeties, while his speed makes him a challenge for the majority of outside linebackers; the bottom line is, Seferian-Jenkins just isn’t easy to cover. His numbers during his junior year were lacking compared to earlier seasons, so his consistency should be taken into account, but overall, he has all the tools to become a force to be reckoned with at the pro level.
3. Troy Niklas (Notre Dame) - Niklas has only played the TE position for two years, but he already looks almost ready for the pros. Niklas has excellent hands and blocking abilities. Niklas needs to spend time refining his route running skills, but has the size and natural athleticism necessary to become a starting NFL TE in short order.
4. Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) - A number of mock drafts have Amaro headed to the Patriots. This makes sense; Amaro is a flex TE who has the ability to always provide the sorts of mismatches that Coach Belichick loves. Amaro tallied 1,352 total yards and 7 TDs in his final season at Texas Tech, so he certainly has the potential to be an immediate factor in the NFL as well.
5. Colt Lyerla (Oregon) - Lyerla is actually among my favorite TEs in the 2014 draft class. Lyerla’s disciplinary issues and run-ins with the law have him sitting at No. 5 on this list. He’s an excellent route runner, though Lyerla could stand to work on dropping balls with less frequency. Overall, Lyerla has enough talent to be an early second-rounder, but he’s going to need a coach who’s willing to take-on a fatherly role and foster him through his tendency to overreact and act-out. We’ll just have to wait and see if any team is willing to take him early.
6. C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) - Fiedorowicz is coming off of a banner season; he was named First-Team All-Big Ten and had six TDs, the most of his career thus far. 6’6 Fiedorowicz has great hands and long arms, so grabbing the ball above defenders isn’t an issue for him. Fiedorowicz isn’t the fastest TE in the 2014 class, but he has natural talent at this position, so he should still be in demand come the third or fourth round.
7. Marcel Jensen (Fresno State) - Coming out of the same program as the much-hyped Derek Carr, 6’5, 266 pound Jensen has the right size to become a solid NFL TE. Jensen didn’t have explosive production in college, but certainly has the potential to develop into an excellent player. Jensen could raise his draft stock by putting-up top-notch numbers at the combine, but expect him to be a mid-rounder regardless.
8. Crockett Gillmore (Colorado State) - Gillmore, who remained in school throughout his senior season, had an inconsistent junior year, but looked solid as both a sophomore and a senior. Furthermore, Gillmore enjoyed an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, which caused his draft stock to rise considerably. Gillmore’s not the most naturally athletic prospect on this list, but in a relatively weak TE class, he’ll still garner interest.
9. Joe Don Duncan (Dixie State) - Duncan, who will be a 25 year old NFL rookie, probably wouldn’t make this list in a stronger TE class. However, Duncan did dominate at his Division II school, racking up 1,045 yards and 13 TDs in a mere 10 games during the 2013 season. Duncan has had some injury issues, so his performance at the combine is key. I like his intelligence, knowledge of the game, and the fact that he seems to live and breathe football; this could improve his ability to succeed at the pro level.
10. Richard Rodgers (California) - One of the main things that NFL scouts will love about Rodgers is his self-motivation; he was dedicated enough to lose 30 pounds during his junior season. Rodgers didn’t get the chance to fully develop his skills in college due to Cal’s coaching staff’s game of musical chairs. Hopefully Rodgers will get picked-up by an NFL club that can help him realize his potential.