The NFL is always changing, from the run heavy offenses, to the shotgun pass happy offenses, and to the spread look of a Chip Kelly offense. The trend now seems to be hybrid players on both the offensive and defensive side.
If we look at some of the most familiar names of the NFL today that might include Von Miller who is a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. You may know Rob Gronkowski, who just earned himself a Madden cover, and is a pass catching tight end who abuses mismatches on linebackers that simply cannot keep up with this “oversized receiver”.
This is exactly what seventh round pick Thomas Duarte is and this may be the reason the Miami Dolphins drafted him despite having a deep tight end group that includes former pro bowler Jordan Cameron, Jake Stoneburner, and Dion Sims. All of these tight ends provided little to nothing in Miami’s disappointing 2015-16 season. Which showcased a offense that week after week struggled to get started and looked quite vanilla.
Adam Gase may be looking for that X-factor player on offense that so many other teams have. Thomas Duarte’s strength is definitely not with his blocking ability. At UCLA he did not play a traditional tight end position. However we can compare Duarte to Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. I may also add Jordan Reed really caught on this season collecting 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jordan Reed has also recently cashed in for a 5 year, $50 million dollar contract.
Duarte was third among tight ends in this year’s draft class. His combine was relatively disappointing with a 4.72 40-yard dash, but where Duarte impressed was with his agility. His ability to start and stop was one of his defining traits and can be a deep threat against linebackers on double moves. His agility also compares nicely with all of the hybrid tight ends who have taken the league by storm. Miami only scored 54% of the time when in the red zone and lacked a go to guy in the red zone that one of their biggest rivals the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski.
Thomas Duarte brings receiving talent and great agility combined with size and could be a deadly red zone target. Is Duarte ready to become a top tier red zone, and receiver-tight end hybrid? The dolphins coaching staff believes he can and this is one of the main reasons they drafted him, his ceiling could be at a pro bowl level and contributor for years to come. We will have to wait and see if this was a draft gem or just a 3rd or 4th string tight end.