In the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, CardinalsSource will profile 30 draft prospects who could end up making their way to Arizona this offseason.
Player: Michael Roberts
Weight: 270 pounds
Arm length: 33 inches
Hand size: 11 1/2 inches
College stats: 2014: Four receptions, 65 yards, two touchdowns, 2015: 21 receptions, 234 yards, four touchdowns, 2016: 45 receptions, 533 yards, 16 touchdowns
Strengths: At 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, Roberts is wider and bulkier than most of the tight ends available in this year's draft class. He's simply got a gigantic frame, but he knows how to use that frame to his advantage, especially on routes up the seam. Despite being slower (4.86-second 40-yard dash) than some of his fellow tight end prospects, Roberts is still comfortable and more than capable of playing from various alignments. Many tight ends with Roberts' frame wouldn't be able to split wide or play in a three-back type of a role, but he's got the athleticism and strength to function in open space and help teams as the secondary tight end in a 12-personnel set. Roberts' top skill is his red zone awareness, which is a trait a team like the Cardinals should fall in love with. When Roberts is near the end zone, he has a nose for it and does an excellent job clawing his way for extra yards, keeping defenders off of the center of his frame, and angling his body away from coverage players to make contested catches. Though there's limitations to what Roberts can do from a route-running standpoint, he isn't limited whatsoever in the red zone.
Weaknesses: At times, Roberts looks like he's running in quicksand and can be painfully slow when adjusting his path to block more athletic, more agile defenders. This is going to create issues for Roberts at the next level, and the learning curve could be harsh for a player who was asked to set the edge by walling off defenders in a spread offense in college instead of set the edge by driving defenders off the ball from a three-point stance. To have success at the next level, Roberts will have to include his blocking technique and his ability to run his feet on contact, because in a mid-major conference, he was allowed to get away with stopping his feet and simply using his body as a shield against smaller defenders. Another part of Roberts' game that could provide NFL teams with cause for concern is his pad level, which is unsurprisingly high for a big-bodied player at an offensive skill position. Roberts will need to work on firing out of his stance as opposed to rising off the ball, but this is something that should come if he develops better practice habits in the NFL.
Roberts' fit: Unless the Cardinals feel Alabama's O.J. Howard is a can't-miss first round prospect, it's unlikely the team will draft a tight end until the later rounds of the draft which makes Roberts and intriguing fit for the organization. Arizona already cut ties with Darren Fells this offseason, and drafting Roberts would give the Cardinals a player who could potentially step in and provide the team with a player who is a bit more of a pass-catcher and red zone threat and a bit less of an in-line blocker than Fells was during his time with the franchise. Roberts fits what the Cardinals are trying to accomplish at the line of scrimmage because Bruce Arians loves players with larger frames at the position, and he's got experience playing from every alignment, which would allow the team to deploy him in 12-personnel sets and come up with creative ways to take advantage of his pass-catching abilities. Are there better tight ends on the board? Absolutely. But if the Cardinals get to the fifth round and are looking for potential value, we like what Roberts has to offer and how he fits.