Tight end has been a position we have talked about a lot as we have dissected the New York Giants this offseason. There is good reason for that as it is in flux partially because of the failures of the players the Giants used there last season and partially because no one is sure right now what type of players new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo wants at the position.
Tight ends will be among the first players to have on-field workouts during the 2014 NFL Combine as they will work out Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Let's look at some of the players worth paying attention to.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
We have not yet profiled Ebron, considered by most the top tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft and a player who might already be off the board when the Giants pick at No. 12 in the first round. Don't ask me why we haven't profiled Ebron yet, but we will get around to him.
Highly athletic, highly productive "F" tight end dripping with upside and mismatch capability. Ebron might not be in the "freak" category, but his speed, movement skills, hands and run-after-catch skill puts him in the next tier, as he has ample ability to be a playmaker at the next level.
Ebron, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, is not a traditional inline tight end. CBS Sports compares him to Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers. Ebron says his mix of size and speed "should be illegal."
Let's see what sort of athleticism Ebron brings to the table at the Combine. There have been rumors that he has gained a large amount of weight since the end of the college football season, so the weigh-in will also be interesting. We will have lots more to say about Ebron between now and the draft.
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
The Giants have a history with Fighting Irish tight ends. Apologies to Jeremy Shockey supporters, but Mark Bavaro remains the best tight end in franchise history. Derek Brown was, well, a waste, yes, but also a first-round pick out of Notre Dame in 1994.
No one is saying Niklas will be as good as Bavaro, a 1985 fourth-round pick, or a first-round pick like Brown. His being from Notre Dame, though, gave me a chance to mention Bavaro, and that's always fun. And yes, if you're so inclined feel free to moan about the Giants not drafting Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert last season.
Anyway, back to Niklas. This is a guy built like a traditional Giants' tight end. Niklas is a 6-foot-6, 270-pound mountain of a man who took over for Eifert as Fighting Irsh tight end in 2013. He played well enough that CBS Sports ranks him No. 4 among tight end prospects in this draft class and expects him to be selected on Day 2 of the draft. CBS writes:
With only one full season as a starter, Niklas was a surprise early entrant into the 2014 draft. His imposing frame and underrated athleticism, however, scream upside. While still a bit inconsistent as a receiver, Niklas also shows off the ability to extend and pluck tough passes outside of his frame.
Scouts certainly are excited about his potential. The normally conservative Advisory Committee reportedly gave Niklas a second round grade, potentially hastening his early departure from South Bend.
NFL.com offers a similar assessment:
A converted DE/OLB who emerged from the shadow of Bengals 2013 first-rounder Tyler Eifert, Niklas is the latest in a line of NFL tight ends produced by Notre Dame. He boasts an intriguing combination of size, athleticism, receiving ability and blocking ability to develop into a bona fide, balanced, No. 1 tight end. Has played tight end for just two years and arrow is pointing up.
Giants' GM Jerry Reese has always loved players whose physical attributes jump off the page at you and whose ability appears to scream "untapped potential."
Rob Blanchflower, UMass
So, who the heck is Rob Blanchflower and why are we talking about him? Well, the dude's last name is 'Blanchflower,' and for whatever reason that made me want to write about the guy. Plus, the Giants and UMass seem to be joined at the hip in recent years -- ever since Victor Cruz showed up and became a salsa-dancing NFL sensation. On the current Giants' roster, Cruz, running back Michael Cox and wide receiver Julian Talley are all from UMass. Maybe Blanchflower is next in line, so let's get to know a little about the guy.
Blanchflower is a 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end who might figure as a Day 3 selection. NFL.com says Blanchflower "possesses the grit to factor in-line in the run game and can become a solid base-blocking No. 3 tight end and short-area receiving option."
Blanchflower caught 109 passes as a four-year starter at UMass, including 43 in 2012. He played only five games in 2013 due to injuries.
ESPN's Mel Kiper calls Blanchflower "a pretty good player" and adds that he "runs pretty well and what I like is the way he catches the ball, using his hands and not letting it get to his body. Blanchflower has long arms, pretty good quickness for a guy his size, and runs well when he's in space.
Players We Profiled Previously
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa -- Jesse seemed quite high on Fiedorowicz, a likely mid-round selection, when he profiled him. Jesse wrote this about the 6-6, 262-pound Fiedorowicz:
I think Fiedorowicz is a player that NFL teams will like more than the draftnik community because teams will see the size and the speed (let's see what he runs at the combine) and couple that with the coaching that he received at Iowa (which is well-respected in the NFL) and his pro readiness as a positive thing. He's not flashy and players like Ebron, Jace Amaro, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins are more dynamic and have more potential, but Fiedorowicz is a starting-caliber player in the NFL and those are players that are usually drafted in the first 100 picks. If the Giants are hoping Adrien Robinson can bring the dynamic ability they may want to hedge their bet with a player like Fiedorowicz.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech -- ''Raptor' profiled Amaro, and thinks whether or not the Giants would be interested depends on the type of tight ends McAdoo wants:
There is uncertainty about what the Giants' new offense is going to look like and how the tight end position is going to be used. If McAdoo is going to use the tight ends as athletic mismatches and receiving weapons first and extra blockers second, then Amaro certainly fits. If the new offense is going to use the tight ends in a more traditional role, then Amaro is a project at best.