Cardinals Scout Talented Tight End

The Cardinals are long on potential and low on productivity at the tight end position. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff spent ample time during Senior Bowl week looking at players who could reinforce the position. Cardinalinsider.com takes a look at one of the top candidates from Mobile, Ala.

Martin Rucker (6'5", 248 pounds) was a standout tight end at Missouri. He recorded 203 catches for 2,175 yards (9.9-yard average) and 18 touchdowns during his career. He earned All-Big 12 and All-American honors after becoming the fourth tight end in Missouri history to surpass 1,000 career yards.

Rucker is reliable, skilled and athletic. He has good speed for his size (4.71-second 40), making him a legitimate downfield threat. The question regarding Rucker is whether he has the toughness to handle the dirty work demanded of all tight ends.

"I just have to work on my in-line blocking," he said. "Coming from a spread offense we haven't done it a lot. That doesn't mean I can't, it just means I haven't done it and (scouts) haven't seen it."

Rucker made the most of his time in Mobile. In addition to working closely with Oakland Raiders coaching staff, Rucker enjoyed private meetings with the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins.

"It helps a lot because they can tell you exactly what they're looking for," said Rucker of his meetings with the various coaches. "You can work on everything they tell you to work on and use it to bolster your draft stock."

Rucker's older brother, Mike, is a veteran defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, so Martin is familiar with the pro football lifestyle. However, he lacks maturity when it comes to his training and workout routine.

What Rucker lacks in mental preparation he makes up for with physical ability. He has good ball skills -- despite dropping some easy passes -- and makes plays consistently. He is not a great runner after the catch but will corral passes in traffic. He is very agile and can stretch the field up the seam.

"There's a fire inside me to play this game of football," he said.

Leonard Pope finished with only 238 yards last year, and has failed to top 25 receptions in either of his pro seasons. The Cardinals need a player who can exploit the middle of the field when Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin draw coverage outside the hashes.

If Rucker can mature off the field and continue to develop on it, he could be that player.

"I'm a playmaker, a complete team player who will do whatever it takes for his team to win. Whatever role they want me to play, I'll play," he said.


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