A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State:Early entrant. Leonard (6-4, 245) started his career at Florida but transferred to Tennessee State after his freshman season due to a suspension stemming from being charged with misdemeanor battery in February 2012. During his junior year at Tennessee State, Leonard caught 34 receptions for 444 and five touchdowns to earn second-team Little All-American honors from the AP. In 2012, he caught 51 passes for 733 yards and six scores, earning first-team FCS All-American accolades. Leonard was a highly touted tight end but also excelled as a defensive end in high school. During his senior year, he averaged 20 yards per catch at tight end and recorded 21 sacks as a defensive end.
Colt Lyerla, Oregon: Early entrant. Lyerla (6-5, 250) was arrested in October and plead guilty to possession of cocaine. He was dismissed from the Oregon program at that time and sentenced to 10 days in jail. He will pose a major dilemma for scouts. In his last full season at Oregon (2012), he averaged 15.7 yards-per-catch and shared the Pac-12 lead for touchdowns at his position. He also rushed 13 times for 77 yards and a touchdown in 2012.
Arthur Lynch, Georgia: Lynch (6-5, 254) appeared in 12 of 13 games and tallied 30 receptions as a senior. His career ended in disappointing fashion with a dropped pass on fourth down as Georgia was closing in for the winning touchdown in the bowl game against Nebraska. He was named to the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award and finished the season earning first-team all-SEC. When Lynch was considering transferring from Georgia following his freshman season, coach Mark Richt made his sales pitch for him to stay at a local Dairy Queen. In addition to football, Lynch is an active in politics and a gay-rights activist.
Jake Murphy, Utah: Early entrant. Murphy (6-4, 254) is the son of former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy. Not only did Jake Murphy follow his dad's sporting path, but he didn't follow the family college path, either. Murphy is a dynamic receiving option, as evidenced by his 16.7 average yards-per-reception in 2013. Murphy's brother, Shawn, played football at Utah State, and spent some time with the Denver Broncos. Jake Murphy spent time on Mormon missions to Sydney, Australia, and Boston.
Jordan Najvar, Baylor: Najvar (6-6, 265) was a three-year starter and three-year all-Big 12 choice. He did not catch a lot of passes at Baylor (35 in the three seasons) in its wide-open spread offense under Art Briles, but he is a willing blocker in the run game and a good pass blocker. Najvar was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, aka the Academic Heisman, who earned a degree in distribution management technology in May. Despite not catching many passes at Baylor, Najvar caught the eyes of NFL scouts at the East-West Shrine Game. He showed impressive movement in the open field, and made two really nice catches on deep drag routes. Despite the spelling of his last name, it is pronounced Nye-vuhr, like diver. He started his career at Stanford.
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: Early entrant. Niklas (6-6, 270) transitioned from outside linebacker to tight end in 2012, and spent most that year behind current Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert. Niklas got his chance on the field in 2013. He responded to increased playing time with 32 receptions and five touchdowns. Niklas is the nephew of former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, and cousins with current Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews. He also played at the same high school as former Carolina Panthers quarterback and current CBS analyst Steve Beuerlein. Manti Te'o called Niklas "Hercules," with Niklas known for his personality and generosity with his time.
Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin: Pedersen (6-5, 240) was an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team as a senior, when he caught 39 passes for 551 yard, and three touchdowns. As a junior, he was named the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year with his 27 receptions for 355 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 104 passes and scored 17 times in his career. Pedersen's roommate since his freshman year was Brian Wozniak, his competition at the position. Pedersen's career ended up more productive than Wozniak despite not being as highly touted. Pedersen told FOX Sports, "I knew who he was, he was a heavily recruited kid, so I was just trying to outwork him. That's what I've done my whole life." Despite the competition at the position, Wozniak and Pedersen share a close friendship.
Richard Rodgers, California: Early entrant. Rodgers (6-4, 245) started just 11 games during his three seasons on campus but caught 39 passes for 608 yards in 2013. Rodgers' father, Richard Sr., is a former player at California and took a big part of "The Play" of the famous California vs. Stanford game in 1982. Rodgers Sr. made the final of five laterals that took place on a play that ended up being the game-winning touchdown. In 2012, Rodgers received the highest praise from his coach, Jeff Tedford, who told The Columbus Dispatch he believed that Rodgers could be the best tight end in college football.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: Early entrant. Seferian-Jenkins (6-6, 276) needed just three years to produce the best career of a tight end in school history. He won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end in 2013 after being one of three finalists in 2012. After catching 69 passes in 2012 – to give him a school record among tight ends with 110 career grabs -- Seferian-Jenkins' production dipped to 36 catches in 2013. Seferian-Jenkins ran into some legal trouble during his time at Washington. He was cited for a DUI in March 2013 and was suspended for one game. Since his arrest, Seferian-Jenkins has called the experience both humbling and embarrassing. He told MyNorthwest.com, "That was an experience I never will and never want to go through again."
D.J. Tialavea, Utah State: Tialavea (6-4, 260) is a punishing blocker that developed skills as a reliable receiver by the end of his career. Tialavea caught 17 passes during an adversity-filled senior campaign that included a season-ending broken foot. Tialavea came to Utah State as a defensive lineman but made the switch to tight end after the 2010 season. Tialavea has two cousins that played football at BYU. Tialavea is described by his coach, Matt Wells as a football junkie. He told The Salt Lake Tribune, "He cares a lot about the sport, he's spent a lot of time in the building the last three months up in the building. It's neat to see that paying off for him."