Draftnik's Corner - TE

Mike Seidman (UCLA) is considered by some as the second best dual-threat TE after Witten in this draft

With Dan Campbell now departed, even though new FB Jim Finn is expected to carry out some of the assignments he had last season, I think we need to find someone bigger for the in-line blocking required to seal off the end to let the RB's get around the outside. I don't believe however that a Howard Cross-type would be a good fit as Campbell contributed enough in the passing game to stop defenses keying solely on Jeremy Shockey in 2-TE sets. While Marcellus Rivers can catch the ball, his blocking leaves much to be desired so he cannot be expected to step up. A wild-card for the ‘Campbell role' is last years camp surprise Darnell Dinkins but with so little experience at the position, the Giants can't afford to cross their fingers and hope he comes through so must bolster the position through the draft. The crème de la crème this year is Jason Witten (Tennessee), the only player at the position who rates as a sure-fire 1st round pick and who compares favourably with all but Jeremy Shockey & Dan Graham from last years super draft class. The top dual-threat TE in this years class, he's a pretty good blocker at the point of attack – though he has skinny legs and isn't dominant yet – and has excellent hands (though he has had a few games where he treated the ball like soap in the bath). Having really only played for two years – and one of those as a back-up – his 73 career catches for 911 yards and two TD's only give an indication of the type of productivity he can bring to the passing game. With experience splitting out wide or going in motion already, he probably won't need a whole lot of work before entering the starting line-up and he should have an impact in his first year. At nearly 6'6" and 265lb's with 4.7 speed, he can make big plays in the passing game as well as open a few holes at the point of attack and I consider him a fairly safe bet to be drafted in the late 1st round, possibly the 15-20 area due to the needs of some teams drafting there (the Saints spring immediately to mind).

Dallas Clark (Iowa) is a great prospect for teams looking to create match-up problems in coverage due to his combination of size and speed – he's 6'4", 257lb's with 4.6 speed and the smoothness into and out of cuts of a receiver – but I'd say he was deficient as a blocker as opposed to solid in that area of his game. While he has quick feet and works hard, he spins his wheels a lot on contact and usually ends up on the ground so he's more suited to the H-Back role than blocking at the LOS. Also, he played at around the 240lb mark so while he can run well at the new weight, whether he can maintain it during training camp and throughout the season is another matter. Regardless, he makes far too many plays in the receiving game – has 77 catches for 1,251 yards and eight TD's the last two years – to be ignored for long. Expect to see him split out as a receiver the same way that the Giants have used Shockey and utilised heavily as a 3rd down and red-zone weapon. He may be selected in the late 1st round but even if not selected there, I can't see any way he wouldn't be snapped up in the first few picks of the 2nd.

Despite his Wolverines ties, I am not a big fan of Bennie Joppru (Michigan). He catches the ball well very well in the short range – set a school single-season record with 53 receptions for 578 yards & 5TD's this past year – but he's not a great route runner and he isn't going to run away from defenders in the open field (has 4.78 speed) once he catches it. That said, he could certainly more than fill Campbell's role in the passing game. However, despite being 6'4", 272lb's, his blocking isn't great, losing his balance and falling off of contact too easily and not really sustaining his initial hit against bigger players. He blocks better coming off the line and getting into the LB's though and can seal the edge and create running lanes when doing so but I'd be looking for someone a little more powerful in-line. Though I don't rate him quite that highly, I expect him to be drafted somewhere in the early-mid 2nd round and that is too early for the Giants to spend a draft choice at the position. The Giants were said to have shown interest in him at the Senior Bowl so, despite my reservations, if he lasted to the late 3rd round he may be chosen by them.

LJ Johnson (Rutgers) isn't a player I've seen lately and isn't one I've ever really studied (lets face it, Rutgers games are normally only competitive until they kick-off!) but I don't remember him as a particularly good in-line blocker though he looks imposing physically – is a muscle-bound 6'3"and 258lb's – and has the tools to develop further in that phase of his game. Like Clark, he is better suited to the H-Back role – made 122 catches, 1,458 yards and 10TD's during his career –and he will be able to get deep down the seam if covered by an LB. After a solid Senior Bowl and great Combine, his ‘stock' is on the upswing and he could well be taken earlier than the late 2nd round area I am projecting him to go in. What he offers doesn't fit the Giants needs though.

At just under 6'6" and 278lb's, Robert Johnson (Auburn) has excellent size for the position and though not at all fast – he runs in the very high 4.8 range – he can make plays down the field because his height, long arms and big body enable him to shield the defender from the ball and creates mismatches in coverage. Not the most consistent receiver, he's proved capable of both spectacular catches and drops that make you shake your head in disbelief but he has big play ability in the passing game – had 30 catches for 365 yards and 3TD's this past season – despite his lack of ideal speed. Mostly though, the Tigers took advantage of his skills as a crushing in-line blocker, capable of moving DE's off the line of scrimmage and sustaining his blocks to open huge cut back lanes. He destroyed PSU's Michael Haynes, one of this years better DE prospects this year, at times when matched up one-on-one in the Capital One Bowl on more than one occasion leading to a big run. Because teams have a tendency to draft ‘athletes' over ‘players', he could hang around longer than expected. There also doesn't seem to be a consensus of opinion on his rating with anywhere from late 2nd to late 4th being speculated upon. Personally, were the Giants to have the opportunity to draft him at the end of the 3rd round, I'd be happy if they ‘pulled the trigger' as he'd be a ‘steal' at that point. Of those I've seen, he's by far the best blocker available at the position and that would fit our needs extremely well.

Mike Seidman (UCLA) is considered by some as the second best dual-threat TE after Witten in this draft and at 6'4", 261lb's with sub-4.8 speed he has both the size to be a blocker and speed/athletic ability to do more than just contribute in the passing game. Ourlad's Guides considered him the best all-around TE at the Senior Bowl practices I haven't seen him as yet in the all-around role. He actually came to my attention the previous year as the blocking TE in the 2-TE sets, doing a nice job of sealing the corner on a couple of long runs by RB DeShaun Foster (Panthers #2 pick last year). While not considered a great blocker just yet – there is a consensus of opinion that he is sometimes a little slow out of the gates into his blocks – he is felt able to get the job done in-line now and with experience should continue to get better. Though really only a starter for one season, he flashed his talent on his way to All PAC-10 honours, snagging 41 receptions for 631 yards and 5TD's. Considered to have soft hands, a knack of finding the openings in the zone and adjusting to the poorly thrown ball as well as a burst up the seam, he should be able to contribute in the intermediate zones, proving a problem for the defenses. As with Johnson, there doesn't appear to be a consensus on his draft value either with projections from the 2nd round through to the 5th round. Were Johnson taken when the Giants look for TE help, he may be a viable alternative but I will check him out myself at the Senior Bowl before deciding on his rating as I simply haven't seen enough of him to make an educated guess.

Aaron Walker (Florida) has pretty good size at 6'5", 252lb's and decent speed for the position (runs a 4.72) but is probably not as good a player as an athlete and he can be a bit frustrating to watch at times. As you'd expect from a Gators TE, he wasn't used extensively as a receiver (had just 25-365 and 3TD's this year – his most productive season) and he split out a fair bit away from the LOS so he's still developing his blocking skills. Watching him play against Georgia and Kentucky this past season, he made enough catches to establish himself as a threat in the short passing game and broke tackles after the catch on a few occasions (though he's not dynamic after the catch by any means). However, he also dropped a few very catchable passes and appeared to ‘fight the ball' on receptions at times, more of a ‘body catcher' than a ‘hands' guy. I watched his blocking closely in the Georgia game as he was matched up frequently with the top OLB prospect in the draft, Boss Bailey, and did a solid job of keeping the LB out of the play on WR screen passes until the runner/receiver was past him, able to get in front of his man and extend his arms to keep him occupied. As an in-line blocker, he isn't nearly as impressive or as consistent. While tall and with the frame to get bigger, he relies more on balance and quick feet to get position rather than power and aggressiveness and I've seen plays stuffed in the backfield by his man at the point of attack as well as plays when he has sealed the corner to let the RB escape for a big gain. To me he looks like a late 3rd/early 4th round pick but he's not a player I think would be an ideal fit for the Giants.

Zach Hilton (North Carolina) has an excellent size/speed ratio at 6'7", 262lb's with 4.8 speed and proved pretty athletic in his workouts at both the Combine and at his more recent Pro Day after impressing at the East-West Shrine Bowl. He hasn't been especially productive in the receiving game – had 19 receptions for 258 yards and 1TD this past season – but that appears to be more due to the nature of the offense than his lack of skill. Not a player I've seen this year or noticed previously, fellow draftniks tell me that he is a better receiver than blocker despite his size – they tell me has has very good hands and is a strong runner after the catch – but is promising in the latter regard and could develop into a solid all-around type with good coaching (which Mike Pope would certainly give him were he selected). The consensus appears to be that he is considered a solid 4th round pick based on potential and athletic ability more so than production. As with Seidman, I haven't seen enough of him to decide for myself whether he would be a good fit for the Giants until I've got around to watching the East-West game but he may well be one to keep in mind. To me, he sounds like a bit more of a project than I'd want the Giants to take on as I don't think he'll help immediately.

Donald Lee (Mississippi State) is the smallest of all the top TE prospects at 6'3", 245lb's but has surprisingly earned a reputation as one of the best in-line blockers at the position in the entire draft. However, coming from an option type of offense, he hasn't been extensively used in the receiving game (had 22 receptions for 161 yards and 1TD this past season – his most productive) but is said to run good routes and run well after the catch. On the downside, he's felt to have ‘hands of stone' at times, dropping too many routine balls. Not a player I've seen this year, he was widely felt to have stood out at the East-West game in a dual-threat role and his stock is definitely rising on the boards of teams looking for blockers who can add to the passing game when called upon. The consensus of opinion on him points to his being selected at some point in the 4th round but as with Seidman and Hilton, I can't verify that rating until I've seen him perform myself. He could well be of interest to the Giants.

Mike Pinkard (Arizona State) is another well-built guy at 6'5", 259lb's and has proven very athletic for his size, clocking 4.68 over 40 yards on the track at the recent Pro Day which is very fast for his size. A former DL, he stepped up his game last year, proving productive in the receiving game this past season when he grabbed 30 receptions for 503 yards and 5TD's but he isn't felt to adjust well to the ball or run particularly good routes. He's considered to have potential as a blocker but the big knock on him isn't that he can't block, just that he is an underachiever in that regard trying to get by on finesse rather than using the size and power he surely has. Some also feel he doesn't give full effort on every play. Again, there isn't much consensus on where he warrants selection with the highest rating pointing to the 3rd round and others towards the 5th round. I'll watch him closely at the Senior Bowl before giving my view of him. A real ‘boom or bust' prospect and probably not one that will appeal to the Giants who will probably want a little more blocking and intensity than he offers.

I haven't seen Spencer Nead (BYU) this season but he seemed like a very solid #2 type of blocker/.receiver when I saw him against Hawaii as a junior in tandem with Doug Jolley (a star with the Raiders as a rookie). A big guy at 6'4", 260lb's, he's neither fast (runs 40 yards in just under 4.9 seconds) or athletic but he has been productive throughout his two year BYU career as a receiver, snagging 62 receptions for 715 yards and 6 TD's in that time. Surprisingly, all but one of his TD's came as a junior when the second TE in 2-TE sets which appeals to me greatly for obvious reasons! As a blocker, he looked more of a ‘wall off' type than an in-line dominator but he gave good effort and generally stayed on his feet. His age (25), combined with his lack of top athletic skills will count against him but I think he's one of those mid-late round picks that will stick around and, though I'd prefer a better blocker, he'd certainly be acceptable were he grabbed in the 5th/6th round.

Lorenzo Diamond (Auburn) was the starter before Johnson but even though he lost his starting spot and playing time to a heralded freshman, he saw plenty of action as the Tigers make frequent use of 2-TE sets with an H-Back positioning him in-line as a blocker (often at the opposite end of the line to Johnson) and also asking him to lead block on the move at times from the H-back position, something that Campbell was also asked to do last season. Watching him play a few times this season, he certainly didn't show the speed on the field that he showed the scouts at the Pro Day workout (he wasn't invited to the Combine but ran an eye-opening 4.6 on campus) and didn't look the smoothest route runner in the world but he blocked DE's with some success at times and he has enough size at 6'2", 255lb's to be expected to continue to have some success in the pro's. While he hasn't been used much as a receiver, he can catch (46-532 & 4TD's during his career) and he impressed scouts enough at the Pro Day workout. In my opinion he rates as one of the better ‘big college sleepers' in the draft and I think he can expect to be chosen in either the 6th or 7th round. If the Giants haven't got a TE by that stage, he may well appeal to them.


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