Over the next few weeks the Patriots.com/Patriots Football Weekly staff will break down the prospects for the 2015 NFL draft by position. Today we take a look at tight ends.
There are several positions that are deep in talented in the 2015 draft class. Tight end is not one of them. Some of the experts don't list a single potential first round pick at the position, and those that do seem to be unsure whether Minnesota's Maxx Williams is worthy of such stature. Despite the lack of high-end talent, there are a handful of capable pass-catchers who could provide some value in the middle rounds. Florida State's Nick O'Leary is toughness personified. Penn State's Jesse James, Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman and Notre Dame's Ben Koyack are all potential Day 3 picks who could help teams with their combination of size and skill. Miami's Clive Walford could be the best athlete of this bunch, but don't expect the next Rob Gronkowski to emerge from this group.
Top of the Crop
NFLDraftScout.com lists 19 players with potential draftable grades and not a single one in the first round. Williams seems to be the player of choice by most prognosticators and he has decent size and hands but hasn't shown much blocking ability. Walford is a terrific athlete but a bit raw while James and Heuerman seem to possess the skills to be more well-rounded tight ends. South Alabama's Wes Saxton is a terrific athlete who should be available in the later rounds. He reminded me a bit of a young Ben Coates on tape. With no sure-fire player standing out, I lead toward O'Leary, whose grit and hands may make one team quite happy with one of their middle-round picks.
If not for Bill Belichick's penchant for drafting tight ends – he's selected 12 in his 15 years running the Patriots draft – I'd be comfortable dismissing this spot as a possibility. The Patriots have Gronkowski as well as free agent addition Scott Chandler, the versatile Tim Wright and veteran Michael Hoomanawanui. As it is one of the latter pair could easily be sent packing depending on Belichick's plans. But since the coach does have a fascination with the position I'd focus on James and Heuerman, who played for Belichick confidants Bill O'Brien and Urban Meyer, respectively. Rutgers' Tyler Kroft should be dismissed either, although he would fall behind the other two in terms of ability.
Keep an eye on
USC's Randall Telfer may not get drafted at all due to a foot injury but could be a talented priority free agent to keep an eye on. He was a captain with the Trojans and has the athleticism to perform in a pass-catching role. Louisville's Gerald Christian also showed athleticism and soft hands and could be a late target. Saxton is another hidden gem who could provide some late-round value. Due to the overall lack of talent at the position, the late rounds is where teams might find the best value at tight end.