UCF Tight End Wasn't Irrelevant to KC

The prospect of tight end Mike Merritt playing in the NFL wasn't too feasible to many experts a week ago. The former UCF Knight had all but given up on his NFL dreams until he was drafted with the 239th overall pick this weekend, in the seventh-round by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Merritt will have to fight to make a roster spot, with future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and third-round prospect Brad Cottam out of Tennessee on the squad, but with his hard-nosed approach to the game, he certainly has a shot.

Merritt, a Florida native, decided to stay close to home and chose the Knights over Missouri and Rutgers. In high school, Merritt played both tight end and defensive end but was regarded more as a defensive prospect originally until the Knights switched him to tight end.

It wasn't until his junior year that Merritt finally found a full-time starting spot with UCF. He caught only three passes, but posted 52 knockdown blocks, and thus Merritt emerged as a blocking threat. With a 6'3", 270-pound frame, Merritt has excellent size for a tight end and could possibly add bulk and move to the offensive line.

Unfortunately for the former Knight, Merritt also has the speed of an offensive lineman. His timed speed is adequate (4.78 40-yard dash), but he doesn't burst off the line, drops a lot of passes, and has a hard time gaining separation from opponents. Because of this lack of explosion, Merritt is best suited as a run-blocking tight end, in the mold of Kyle Brady or Mark Bruener.

After gaining a career high 161 yards receiving last season, Merritt didn't impress scouts with his statistical production, but the play of running back Kevin Smith prompted pro personnel to look at who was giving him room to operate, and that's where they saw the mammoth tight end flattening defenders regularly.

Merritt also offers the important intangible of hard work. He played on special teams for the Knights throughout his collegiate career and that had to impress the Chiefs when they saw him on tape. Merritt also gracefully transitioned from defensive end to tight end, showing that he is willing to do what's best for the team.

The Chiefs have an offense similar to the Knights last season, with a bruising running back in Larry Johnson. Kansas City also added guard Branden Albert to help beef up an aging offensive line. With the Chiefs in the need of a run blocker, Merritt is a more than viable option in goal-line packages. Finesse tight ends Gonzalez and Cottam will likely get more playing time than Merritt, but with his work ethic and willingness to take on any assignment, Merritt might stick around in the NFL.

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