Deep draft analysis: Tight ends

As the tight ends begin their Combine journeys, NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas breaks down stats, skills and comparisons of the top 16 tight ends in the draft. You’ll be wiser for having spent the time to read his in-depth analysis.

36 | WILLIAMS, Maxx (H-B) | Minnesota | TE | rSo | 06:03.6 | 254 | 4.87
In a year where the tight end position is sorely lacking in quality talent, the Mackey Award finalist might see this as his best opportunity for securing an early round draft pick. While some might unfairly be labeling him as the “next Rob Gronkowski,” one can only imagine what he might be capable of doing with a pro-style quarterback. The Gophers are usually a ground-oriented attack and Williams does not get the high amount of targeted balls as others, but he’s pulled in close to 80% of those tosses, averaging 16.4 yards with 12 touchdowns on 54 catches in 24 career games, tallying 29 catches for 471 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Williams demonstrates very good balance and body control, with good timed speed and quickness for his position. He has soft, natural hands and loose hips to adjust to the off-target throws. He runs with a normal stride and shows the functional strength to get a clean release vs. the press. Because of a lack of explosion, he does not appear as fast as his timed speed indicates, but he has the agility to adjust and get under the pass once he is on the move. Much like Greg Olsen, look for Miami, the Giants and St. Louis to all seriously consider the Gopher, in order to improve their tight end position. If he does declare for the draft, there is every reason to think that he will be the first tight end taken in the draft.

41 | KOYACK, Benjamin | Notre Dame | TE | Sr | 06:04.2 | 254 | 4.71
Lots of folks in the NFL scouting industry feel that Koyack is the best tight end in the 2015 draft class, but they might change that with Minnesota’s Maxx Williams declaring. If not for the late season knee injury suffered by Miami’s Clive Walford, Koyack might also be taking a “back seat” among seniors at this position. Call Koyack a “safe bet,” as he will move the chains, just not make the big plays teams have come to expect from early round tight end candidates.

The senior has recorded 43 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns in 49 games, pulling in 29 balls for 305 yards and just two scores this season. Still, if you look at the school’s recent track record, the Irish seemed to have joined the Wisconsin Badgers in becoming the NFL’s “port of call” to find blue-collar type of tight ends. Koyack was utilized more as a blocker in 2013 with Troy Niklas handling receiving duties (32). As a blocker, Koyack will consistently position and wall off the defender, showing above average leg drive and lateral agility to sustain when blocking in-line. He will stalk, wall off and finish with lots of power behind his hand jolt. He seems to be a punishing blocker on the move and while he does not have a sudden burst on his release, he runs with a normal stride once he gets into his routes. In limited receiving chances, he appears to be an effective inside and short area receiver, as he shows good timing and ability to catch the ball in traffic, but lacks the initial burst to elude and the second gear to pull away from even second level defenders after the catch. Buffalo and the giants will lkely be in the hunt for a tight end during the draft’s second day. NFL Combine Coverage
Get the latest Combine news, video and rumors from the team!

46 | JAMES, Jesse | Penn State | TE | Jr | 06:06.2 | 257 | 4.89
You will rarely hear James’ name bandied about by the media, but in scoring circles, many analysts feel that he could be on the verge of emerging. There is no indication that he will declare for the draft, but if he does, he will not last past the third round on draft day. James has offensive lineman-like size and is regarded as one of the most punishing blockers in college at his position. He also made great strides as a receiver this season, ranking third on the team with 35 receptions for 369 yards and three scores, adding 74 knockdowns and nine touchdown-resulting blocks. At 6:06, 257, he has the size, skill set and football IQ of a player that presents a mismatch on every snap when he lines up. His long reach lets him adjust to off-target throws, showing ease of movement extending to catch away from the body. He shows a good burst and balance out of his cuts, but is not the type that will win too many long distance foot races. He is more suited for being a big target in the short area, as he has the large hands and big body to secure the ball and shield it from defenders. He also knows how to use his frame to sink his pads and come up with the underneath throws. He is tough to bring down in isolated coverage due to his size and strength, reminding me of former Raiders standout, Dave Casper and Giants great Mark Bavaro for his drive-through-the-pack mentality. He runs hard and gets most of his yardage after contact. He just doesn’t appear to have any elusiveness, but is a load to bring down in one-on-one situations. With the Bavaro comparisons, the Giants would be well-advised to make several trips to State College and see if he might be the perfect fit to solve their tight end needs.

47 | O’LEARY, Nick (H-B) | Florida State | TE | Sr | 06:03.1 | 244 | 4.74
Nothing about O’Leary’s game is flashy, but he plays old school” football – no gloves, no protective gear during bad weather and a “search and destroy” attitude as a blocker. That combination convinced former tight end greats on the Mackey Award committee to name O’Leary the 2014 recipient. He snatched a career-high 47 passes for 614 yards and six scores, as his 17 touchdowns as a Seminole rank third on the Atlantic Coast Conference career-record chart for tight end, ranking second on that list with 1,587 yards gained (from 113 catches). The 2013 Mackey Award finalist is more suited to play in motion than as a classic tight end, but the grandson of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, called “tough as nails,” by his coaches, has also proven to be lucky, at least off the field, after he walked away from an almost devastating motorcycle accident at the end of his sophomore semester. He snared 33 passes for 557 yards and seven scores as a junior. Opposing coaches regard him as a hard-nosed, old-school player who doesn’t wear gloves and possesses strong hands with a knack for finding the ball whenever it comes in his direction. He displays great versatility which allows him to flex out wide as a receiver, line-up close on the line or be used in the backfield as an H-Back, qualities that the Patriots will be looking for if they add tight end depth in the third round.

64 | KROFT, Tyler | Rutgers | TE | rJr | 06:04.5 | 240 | 4.82
After another long season of dealing with the team’s mediocre quarterbacks, the red-shirt junior is expected to bolt to the NFL next season. Coincidentally, the Pennsylvania native is being eyed by both of the NFL teams in that state (Steelers and Eagles), as both look to bring in a youngster to groom as a future starter. Kroft ranked third on the team, but caught just 23 passes and none for touchdowns this season. He has 69 catches for 879 yards, but only five scoring through three seasons with the Scarlet Knights. The 2014 campaign was not what the tight end expected. The only Rutgers player to catch a pass in every game during 2013, his team-best 43 catches for 573 yards were the most by a Scarlet Knights tight end since 1995 Marco Battaglia – 69 for 874), as he also became the first RU tight end to earn All-Conference honors since 2006. While he could certainly use more bulk, he is a powerfully built athlete with good arm length and V-shaped torso. The junior is not really a sudden player off the snap, but he is an athletic mover with above average change of direction agility, foot quickness and a built-up stride to stretch the field. He shows fine balance throughout the route’s progression and strong hands to jolt smaller defenders when cut blocking and stalking in the second level.

72 | #HEUERMAN, Jeff | Ohio State | TE | Sr | 06:05.0 | 252 | 4.68
Heuerman is never going to be confused for Dave Casper (former Raiders great), but there is a bit of Mark Bavaro (former Giants great) in him with his “search and destroy” blocking style. He is never going to be anything more than a second- or third option for a quarterback in a passing game, even though he pulled in 52 balls for 792 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons. He is exactly what the young OSU passers needed this year – an outstanding blocker, a safety valve receiver and also the unquestioned offensive leader. Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti calls the tight end the “ringleader of what we want in terms of work ethic.” The owner of a team-best 33 bench press reps of 225 pounds and with the second highest vertical leap - 36.5 inches - on the team, Heuerman is a talented athlete from a house full of talented athletes (father, Paul, was a basketball captain at Michigan and brother, Mike, is a sophomore tight end at Notre Dame). He missed most of spring drills this year with two injuries - broken nose and mid-foot sprain - but that isn’t a concern. The senior might not be used much as a receiver, but those scouts who attended practice noticed that he runs disciplined routes, finds his marks, breaks cleanly and gets his head turned around in time to look the ball in. He is a big target over the middle and has a feel for coverage, doing a nice job of getting open in time for the quarterback to get the ball to him. He makes good body adjustments to the ball in flight and has the ability to uncover.

73 | BIBBS, Emmanuel (H-B) | Iowa State | TE | Sr | 06:01.6 | 255 | 4.75
If the Broncos make some changes to their receiving unit due to impending free agency, Bibbs is the ideal H-Back type that will reap huge benefits from having a quarterback like Peyton Manning give him a “few looks.” The Mackey Award semi-finalist played in ten games, missing the final two contests after leaving Game Ten vs. Texas Tech when he reinjured his knee that underwent surgery in mid-August due to a meniscus tear. He still managed to score eight times on 45 receptions for 382 yards playing most of the year on one leg. A clean medical at the NFL Scouting Combine will determine his draft status, but if he gets a clean bill of health, he’s targeted as a mid-round project. The junior college transfer posted one of the best seasons by a tight end in ISU history, ranking second on the team in catches (39) and receiving yards (462) in 2013. Projected as H-Back at the next level, E.J. has very good change of direction agility and balance. He has excellent body control through his routes and the hand/eye coordination to maintain relationship with the ball in flight. He runs with good forward body lean and has the ability to get open and run under the ball in flight. He has a physical nature attacking the seam and is well balanced through the route’s progression.

98 | SAXTON, William (H-B) | South Alabama | TE | Sr | 06:03.6 | 238 | 4.63
The only tight end to rank among the Sun Belt’s Top Ten in receptions (50) and receiving yards (635) in 2013, Saxton is the classic H-Back, chain-moving pass catcher that NFL teams are looking for to stretch defenses. He has room to add more bulk, as he has a long torso and a developing frame with narrow hips and long limbs, reminding scouts of Titans breakout star Delanie Walker. As a senior, he started the first eight and final two games, as he lost his job during the second half while struggling to pull down 20 passes for 155 yards with no touchdowns.

Saxton is a little undersized for a traditional tight end, but has very good acceleration and timed speed to compensate. He shows the ability to adjust easily to the poorly thrown pass and looks agile and alert running his routes. He has adequate muscle definition, but needs to add more bulk and can carry at least another fifteen pounds. He has good speed for his position, along with a smooth stride that lets him build to top acceleration. He has good short area quickness, but is not a threat to challenge the deep secondary. He has hip stiffness that is noticeable when having to change direction or redirect to the ball.

He is lined up wide on several occasions due to his ability to settle in the short area’s soft spots. When asked to attack the deep secondary, he tends to round and gather on his cuts, as his marginal hip snap prevents him from opening up or planting and driving well in and out of his breaks. He does a much better job on drag and option routes than when working up the seam. He is effective with delays too set up his routes, but doesn’t have the second gear to clear through the deep zones. He won’t make sharp cuts, but does move effectively to settle underneath. If he can reduce his long stride, he won’t have to gather so much when trying to get past the second level.

118 | CHRISTIAN, Gerald (H-B) | Louisville | TE | rSr | 06:02.7 | 248 | 4.75
It was fortunate for Christian that he bolted out of Florida before the Gators program went through their downslide. Having red-shirted at UF in 2010, he appeared in seven games as a reserve tight end the next year, seeing action mostly with the field goal unit. He did manage to score once and gain 72 yards on four catches in 2011. After the season, Christian transferred to Louisville, sitting out the 2012 schedule under NCAA rules. In 26 games for the Cardinals, he caught at least one pass in all but one contest, finishing with 60 grabs for 810 yards and nine touch-downs for the Cardinals. During his UL debut, he pulled in 28 balls for 426 yards (15.21 ypc) and four scores, adding 32 receptions for 384 yards (12.0 ypc) and five touchdowns as a senior in 2014.

Christian has a growing frame, built more for speed than power, but he won’t embarrass himself in the strength department. He is a smooth open field runner who can easily torque his frame and elevate for the high passes. He shows good quickness off the line to uncover, as he is a sudden mover with above average speed and decent strength for his position. He has large, soft hands, good change of direction agility, quickness and hand/eye coordination. As a blocker, he shows good balance to get out and strike down field, but seems to lack effort to perform in that area.

Christian is a nice target for the quarterback on short routes. He is still learning to use his size to shade a defender, but The Cardinals senior is capable of handling that task with more reps. He has the acceleration to create mismatches vs. linebackers and slower safeties, but lacks that second gear to climb into the deep part of the field. He appears to understand leverage and just needs to learn how to sit in the zone. He has natural hands, but must do a better job of not getting distracted.

Christian runs with good knee bend and a low pad level. He shows good thrust moving up field once he escapes the line of scrimmage, using his body well to shield defenders from the ball. He comes off his plant foot with good precision and is smooth in and out of his cuts, showing the balance and flexibility to drop his weight to separate. His route running is generally crisp vs. man coverage, with a good stem, stick and leverage for this position.

121 | UZOMAH, C.J. | Auburn | TE | Sr | 06:04.0 | 264 | 4.76
An experienced tight end, Uzomah was used in a variety of roles for the Tigers in 2014. He appeared in every game, starting twice at tight end, two more times at split end and once at H-Back, finishing his senior season with 11 catches for 145 yards (13.2 ypc) and three scores, as he also delivered 51 knockdowns and made eight touchdown-resulting blocks. Uzomah began his Auburn career mostly playing on the field goal/extra point units through thirteen games in 2011, but did not catch any passes. He did toss a 4-yard touchdown on a trick play in the Georgia clash. He started three times while alternating between tight end and the slot, appearing in 10 games in 2012, as he snatched seven balls for 136 yards and a score. He earned five starting assignments as a junior, receiving All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors from the Associated Press after he made 11 catches for 154 yards (14.0 ypc) and three scores.

Uzomah is more quick than fast. He is more productive in the short areas, as his craftiness, change of direction and lateral agility allows him to create separation needed to generate yards after the catch, but he does not have the explosive burst to escape past the second level. He is good at finding the holes in the zone and settling underneath. With his big hands and body, he is capable of making the tough catch in traffic. He understands how to leverage and sit in the zones, but needs to be quicker in coming back when the quarterback is pressured.

Even though he is sometimes aligned wide as a split end, Uzomah lacks the top speed to be a vertical threat, and fails to cover ground quickly with his long stride. On short routes, he displays the ability to get open and adjust to the ball in flight, as he is crisp running drag or stop routes when working underneath. You just don’t see good acceleration to find the space working in the zone.

Uzomah needs to develop more strength in attempts to sustain blocks as an in-line blocker, but on the move, he has a strong concept for taking angles and stalking second level defenders as a cut blocker. He gives good effort at the line of scrimmage, but when he leads with his head, he can be pulled out of his stance and jerked to the ground. On the edge, he can get out and mirror in space, as he works hard to lock up and sustain.

127 | SIFRIN, Jean | Massachusetts | TE | rJr | 06:06.3 | 257 | 4.55
Sifrin is this year’s “Cinderella” story. Having left high school before his 2004 semester would conclude, he joined the work force for the next six years. Hoping to revive his athletic career, Sifrin left Miami and ventured to Brooklyn, New York, where he enrolled at ASA College. He appeared in six games during the 2011 season, posting five receptions for 52 yards (10.4 ypc) and one touchdown. He had issues with the coaching staff and again gave up the sport, returning to Miami for the 2012 semester.

Still hungry to play the game, Sifrin again left home and went to California, joining the El Camino College Warriors, as the tight end finished third on the team with eighteen catches for 328 yards (18.22 ypc) and five touchdowns. The 2014 season found Sifrin as a late enrollee at Massachusetts. He missed the season opener while awaiting eligibility clearance from the NCAA, but would go on to start nine contests, recording 42 grabs for 642 yards (15.3 ypc) and six scores, earning All-Mid American Conference first-team honors. At age 27, he decided to bypass his senior year with the Minutemen and recently announced that he was entering his name into the 2015 draft pool.

Thanks to his impressive quickness and lack of experience as a blocker, Sifrin has been utilized strictly as a pass-catching tight end who is not heavily involved in the blocking assignments usually associated with his position. He could easily add 15-20 pounds of bulk and convert to the traditional tight end, but with his large hands, long arms and exceptional leaping ability, he is a definite mismatch for safeties and linebackers in jump ball situations.

Sifrin is still a neophyte when it comes to blocking, but in limited opportunities handling that role, he has shown an efficient hand punch to shock and jolt and shows the loose hips and quick feet needed to mirror and sustain blocks (all he needs is reps to refine his technique). He comes off the snap with good explosion and has the burst to escape second level defenders to challenge the deep secondary, once he learns how to properly transition in and out of his cuts at the stem. His excellent change of direction agility, along with his acceleration, allows him to easily get behind second level defenders and he has the valid foot speed to stretch the field.

Sifrin is still a work in progress, but you can see his rapid development in becoming a real polished route runner. He is developing savvy and moves, always working hard to get open consistently. He continues to improve his route recognition and in finding the empty spots in the zones. He is best when used on outs, ups and shallow crossing routes and he also does a nice job of extending to pluck the ball away from his frame, evident by the eye-opening one-handed touchdown grab in the 2014 Colorado clash. He has shown good progression in knowing how to adjust to oncoming defenders and no longer short-arms when working in a crowd.

128 | #BELL, Blake | Oklahoma | TE | Sr | 06:06.0 | 260 | 4.85
Bell was a coveted five-star recruit from Wichita’s Bishop Carroll High, where he passed for 2,752 yards and 32 touch-downs while completing 66.6% of his attempts, adding 839 yards on the ground as a prep senior. He red-shirted in 2010 at Oklahoma and saw brief action as a reserve quarterback the following year, running for thirteen touchdowns on 44 carries from the “Wildcat” formation. He was on the field in thirteen games in 2012, connecting on 9-of-16 tosses for 107 yards, again being the designated ball carrier in the “wildcat,” scoring eleven times on the ground.

In 2013, Bell started eight games, but was benched late in the season. In his final tour as a Sooners quarterback, he completed 140-of-233 throws (60.09%) for 1,648 yards, twelve touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 3.4 yards on 75 carries, but failed to run for any scores. As a senior, he returned as a tight end, missing spring drills with a knee injury (was also hampered by leg woes in 2013). He later sat out the Kansas clash when he re-injured the knee vs. Texas Tech, finishing the year with 16 receptions for 214 yards (13.4 ypc) and four touchdowns.

Bell also has the athletic “pedigree” to carry on the “family business.” His father, Mark, was a defensive end who played seven seasons in the NFL for Seattle and the Colts. His uncle, Mike Bell, was a standout defensive end for twelve seasons as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Both father and uncle were All-Conference and All-Americans during their college days at Colorado State.

The athletically-gifted athlete has received quite a bit of attention from pro scouts this off-season, as it is evident that he has the classic size to make the move to tight end. He accelerates well with above average speed up the seam. Once he learns how to use his hands better to avoid the hold-up, he could be even better here. He can quickly find the seam in the short area zones, doing a nice job of sitting and coming back for the ball. His speed allows him to get deep often (not evident by his figures, as Oklahoma did not have a QB with deep arm strength). His quickness makes defenses very conscious of his position on the field. If given space, he can take the ball to the house.

Bell is not sudden, but shows above average quickness in his movements. When left uncontested, he generates a quick get-off on his routes. His speed gets negated a bit when he takes soft angle cuts, though. He displays good ball concentration, catching well when working through traffic or when contested. He’s learning how to utilize his strength better, doing a nice job of making the catch with defenders hanging on to him. He’s not super flexible, but he has good body control to adjust. He shows the ability to adjust and react to the ball outside the framework and his size makes an inviting target. He still needs to do a better job of getting his feet down along the sidelines.

Bell shows very good pluck and snatch hands, but will also body catch and drop a couple. He appears natural catching away from the body’s frame and really impresses with his ability to adjust to the over the shoulder balls. Even with his speed, he has only average elusiveness, but can break some tackles. If given room, he has above average speed to go the distance with the ball. The thing I like about him is his steady improvement turning it up hard after the catch, making one cut after another in his quest to break free from the pile.

145 | BOYLE, Nicholas | Delaware | TE | Sr | 06:04.3 | 271 | 4.7
The four-year standout at tight end for Delaware enjoyed one of the finest careers ever for a tight end in UD history, as he earned All-American honors and was selected to play in the Senior Bowl as a senior. The two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association selection played in 41 career games with 36 starts and caught 101 passes for 984 yards (9.7 ypc.) and 12 touchdowns. Delaware’s all-time leader among tight ends for receptions and second in yards and touchdowns, he also returned three kickoffs for 27 yards (9.0 avg.) during his career.

Boyle started five games as one of five true freshman to letter for the Blue Hens in 2011, but managed just two catches for 25 yayds and a touchdown. In seven starting assignments (missed Bucknell clash with an injury), he pulled down 20 balls for 181 yards, but failed to reach the end zone. He emerged as one of the nation’s top tight ends, leading the CAA and ranking seventh in the nation with 42 catches for 474 yards and seven scores in 2013. His senior season came to a close after he collected 37 passes for 304 yards (8.22 ypc) and four touchdowns.

Boyle has great size and is an outstanding blocker. He’s a tough and athletic pass catcher who can be a punishing hitter as well as an elusive runner after the catch. While he did not serve in that capacity while at Delaware, he also has the ability to deep snap. His offensive line-man-like frame has scouts likening him to former Blue Hen Ben Patrick (Arizona). He knows how to use his size and reach to get a clean push off the jam and is too big for second level defenders to attempt to try and reroute him. He is best when sitting down underneath, as he has a good feel for finding the soft areas.

Boyle does a good job of squaring his shoulders after the catch and has the flexibility to turn and run with the ball. With his size, he excels at framing all of the off-target throws and he has the body control to catch and run without breaking stride. The tight end has natural hands, good arm extension and leaping ability and a powerful looking frame. He shows above average balance and functional quickness off the line of scrimmage, coming out of his breaks with no false steps. He is never going to win long distance foot races. He is quick off the snap, but his speed trails off when having to run long distances. He is very quick to position as a blocker, though. He uses strength to gain advantage over a defender in his way of compensating for a lack of sustained speed.

Boyle knows that the only way he is going to separate is by getting physical, as he lacks the burst. He does have good change of direction agility and smoothness in his short area breaks. He is just not quick or explosive with the ball in his hands. He can be flexed out and beat the jam with his raw power, though. His frame is one of his best weapons, as he uses it to shield the ball from the defender, but while he can be smooth and balanced turning and running with the ball one moment, the next, he is running sloppy patterns and not showing urgency to get to the ball.

148 | #ANDERSON, Rory “Busta” | South Carolina | TE | Sr | 06:04.4 | 242 | 4.7
Considering that quarterback Dylan Thompson is not that mobile, having a capable safety valve receiver at tight end was crucial for the Gamecocks’ attempts to stretch the defense. Coach Steve Spurrier was hoping that he would have Anderson available this season. He struggled with hamstring issues early last year, limiting him to 13 catches for 235 yards and no scores in 2013. During 2014 spring camp, he tried to stiff arm a defender on a pass play and suffered a partial triceps muscle tear.

The lanky pass catcher had started twice while appearing in every game as a freshman, making eight catches, three that were good for touchdowns, as he tallied 188 yards. Two more starting assignments as a sophomore saw him produce five more scores from 14 receptions, tacking on 271 yards, as his average of 19.36 yards per grab was the best for any tight end in the Southeastern Conference during the 2012 campaign. His 2014 offseason injury lingered throughout the season, forcing him to sit out two late season games (Auburn and Tennessee) and miss the Independence Bowl tilt vs. Miami. In six starts, he amassed 260 yards with a score on a career-high 22 grabs.

Anderson reminds scouts of former Bills’ Kevin Everett, as he is an athletic, sudden mover with above average speed and good strength for his position. His frame gives the quarterback a nice target on short routes. He appears to understand leverage and how to sit in the zone. He has natural hands, but would have more success catching the ball once he does a better job of not getting distracted.

Anderson is an athletic, sudden mover with above average speed and good strength for his position. He has large, soft hands, good change of direction agility, quickness and hand/eye coordination. As a blocker, he shows good balance to get out and strike down field. His route running is generally crisp vs. man coverage, with a good stem, stick and leverage for this position. He uses his quickness to create off the snap. He still needs to develop better moves to separate, but he has a strong burst to run away from defenders. He usually does a decent job of concentrating, but does have a few mental lapses. He will sacrifice himself to make the big catch in front of defenders over the middle, but tends to look to run with the ball before securing it. He is able to catch outside his frame, but can be surprised by the ball in his face, but fails to look the ball in, some of the times.


Prospects by: OVERALL RANK | Position | College | Home State | Name

Scout NFL Network Top Stories