Scout's Notebook: TE John Carlson

The Vikings will feature a pair of former Notre Dame tight ends this coming season with the addition of former Seattle Seahawk John Carlson, who agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract.

John Carlson, TE
(6051, 251, 4.67-4.88) Notre Dame

Notes: Born John David Carlson, May 12, 1984, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He is one of four children. His family moved to Litchfield, where he was an all-state football player as a senior. As a basketball player, he was a McDonald’s All-American and helped lead the Litchfield Dragons to three state basketball titles his freshman, junior and senior years. He was also an all-state tennis player. His father, John Sr., played basketball at St. Cloud State and coaches both basketball and tennis at Litchfield High School.

College: Two-year starter at tight end. Redshirted in 2003 but played in two games for the Irish basketball team. Started 2-of-12 games at fullback in 2004, catching 6 passes for 31 yards. Started 6-of-12 games alongside Anthony Fasano (Cowboys second-round pick in 2006, currently with Dolphins) in 2005; caught 7-56-1. He started 11-of-13 games in 2006 and caught 47-634-4 (13.5 avg.); missed two games with a sprained right knee. Started all 12 games in 2007 and caught 40-372-3 (9.3 avg.). He was a team captain as a junior and senior. He recorded 100 receptions for 1,093 yards (10.9 avg.) and 8 touchdowns during his career with the Fighting Irish.

Invited to the Senior Bowl, he was forced to withdraw after being stricken with a virus that caused him to lose 17 pounds in eight days. He graduated in May 2007 from the College of Arts and Letters, with a degree in history, earning a 3.917 grade-point average during the 2007 Spring semester. He finished with a cumulative 3.633 average as a Dean's List honoree.

Pre-Draft: Measured 6051 (6’-5 1/8”), 251 pounds at the Combine. Recorded 21 reps at 225 pounds, 1.63 10-yard dash, 2.74 20-yard dash, 4.72 40-yard dash, 35 ½-inch vertical jump, 9’-5” broad jump, 4.28 20-yard shuttle and 7.12 three-cone drill in workouts prior to the draft. Had a very impressive Wonderlic score of 39.

Pro: Selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the seventh pick in the second round (38th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. His rookie contract was a four-year deal woth $4.52 million, including $2.5 million guaranteed. He started 9-of-16 games as a rookie, catching 55 passes for 627 yards (11.4 avg.) and 5 touchdowns. Started all 16 games in 2009, catching 51-574-7 (11.3 avg.). Started 13-of-15 games played in 2010, caught 31-318-1 (10.3 avg.). Against the Saints in the playoffs, he caught a pair of touchdown passes. Unfortunately he was carted off the following week against the Bears after sustaining a concussion. He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum. He was able to rehab after injuring the shoulder in training camp, regaining strength. But unable to maintain stability, surgery was needed and he spent the entire season on injured reserve. “We were really counting on him having a fantastic year for us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the time. “So that’s a big loss for us.”

Despite interest by at least eight teams as an unrestricted free agent, the Vikings were able to lure him from a planned visit in Kansas City with the Chiefs and ultimately signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract on March 14, 2012.

Positives: Highly intelligent and mature beyond his years. Hard worker and intense competitor. Fine size, long arms and good athletic ability. Very effective moving around and lining up in multiple spots. Can line up on the line, flexed out, as a fullback in the backfield or as a move tight end. Gets off the line quickly. Very good maneuverability and feel for getting open. Adequate-plus downfield speed. Capable of exploiting man-to-man coverage. Natural pass catcher with extremely soft hands. Plucks the ball with his hands. Does a great job of utilizing his body to shield defenders from the ball. Can make difficult catches in traffic. Stays on his feet and fights for extra yardage after the catch. Competent blocker. Generally mirrors and maintains position on the defender.

Negatives: Has had some periods of inconsistency and is coming off missing the entire 2011 season due to injury. Is not as effective as a traditional, in-line blocking tight end. Lacks truly special suddenness and isn’t an elite, quick-twitch athlete. A bit narrow-based and lacking in bulk as a blocker. Isn’t overpowering. Durability is a concern.

Summary: An extremely nice fit for what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and the Vikings would like to do moving forward. Provides young quarterback Christian Ponder with another sure-handed short-to-intermediate pass-catching option. He and fellow Notre Dame graduate Kyle Rudolph should provide Ponder with a highly reliable tight end tandem during the early years of his development as a quarterback.

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