24

February

2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking Packers Tight End Prospects

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert

The 2013 NFL Draft offers a deep crop of tight ends, headlined by Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz. Both players can do everything NFL teams ask tight ends to do, but the class is much deeper than just the top two.

A handful of NFL-ready tight ends figure to come off the board on day two. And with the uncertain future of Jermichael Finley in Green Bay, the Packers could be in the market for a tight end at some point in this year’s draft.

Let’s take a closer look at the top ten tight ends in this year’s draft. There aren’t many surprises, although one player in my top ten wasn’t even invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-5 250)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st
  • 40 time: 4.68, Vertical: 35.5″, 225-pound bench: 22 reps
  • Two-year starter, averaged 55.5 receptions, 713.5 yards and 4.5 touchdowns per year as a starter.
  • Backed up current Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph as a sophomore but still managed to find the field, recording 27 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-5 249)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st / Early 2nd
  • 40 time: 4.76, Vertical: 30.5″, 225-pound bench: 24 reps
  • One-year starter, caught 66 passes for 837 yards and six touchdowns as the starter in 2012.
  • Until his senior season, Ertz played behind current Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener at Stanford. As a reserve during his sophomore and junior campaign, Ertz caught a combined 43 passes for 536 yards and nine touchdowns.

3. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati (6-4 255)

  • Draft stock: 2nd Round
  • Kelce did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine.
  • One-year starter, caught 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns as the starter in 2012.
  • Caught 13 passes as a junior in 2011, after being forced to sit out the 2010 season due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.

4. Gavin Escobar, San Diego St. (6-5 254)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 40 time: 4.84, Vertical: 32″, 225-pound bench: DNP
  • Three year-starter, averaged 40.6 catches for 548.6 yards and 5.6 touchdowns per year.
  • Appeared in all 13 games as a junior but started only six after a midseason hand injury, started the final 12 games of his sophomore season.

5. Vance McDonald, Rice (6-4 267)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 40 time: 4.69, Vertical: 33.5″, 225-pound bench: 31 reps
  • Three-year starter, averaged 36 receptions for 465 yards and five touchdowns per year as the starter.
  • Played a hybrid wide receiver/tight end position at Rice and translates well to an in-line tight end at the NFL level.

6. Jordan Reed, Florida (6-2 236)

  • Draft stock: Late 3rd / Early 4th
  • 40 time: 4.72, Vertical: DNP, 225-pound bench: 16 reps
  • Two-year starter, averaged 36.5 catches for 443 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per season as the Gators’ starting tight end.
  • Started 26 of the 35 games he appeared in at quarterback and tight end, figures to play as an H-back at the professional level.

7. Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 244)

  • Draft stock: 4th Round
  • 40 time: 4.50, Vertical: 37.5″, 225-pound bench: 18 reps
  • Two-year starter, averaged 31.5 receptions for 403.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns as the starter in 2011 and 2012.
  • Gragg missed seven games a senior but his stock has risen after an impressive showing at the Scouting Combine.

8. Zach Sudfeld, Nevada (6-6 251)

  • Draft stock: Late 4th / Early 5th
  • Sudfeld was not invited to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
  • One-year starter, caught 45 passes for 598 yards and eight touchdowns as a sixth-year senior starter.
  • Redshirted as a true freshman at Nevada, before sitting out his redshirt freshman season with an injury. He played in every game in 2010 behind current Denver Broncos backup tight end Virgil Green. Sudfeld started the 2011 season opener before suffering a broken leg which ended his season. He received a medical redshirt for the 2012 season.
  • Sudfeld wasn’t invited to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine after being one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award.

9. Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6 269)

  • Draft stock: 5th Round
  • 40 time: 4.71, Vertical: 31.5″, 225-pound bench: 22 reps
  • One-year starter, caught 25 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns as Colorado’s starter in 2012.
  • Converted from defensive end to tight end eight games into the 2011 season.

10. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 259)

  • Draft stock: 5th Round
  • 40 time: DNP, Vertical: DNP, 225-pound bench: 17 reps
  • Two-year starter, averaged 42.5 receptions for 559 yards and nine touchdowns as the Bruins’ starter.
  • Fauria began his college career at Notre Dame before transferring to UCLA. His uncle, Christian, played tight end for 13 seasons in the NFL.

Current state of the Packers’ TEs: Beyond starter Jermichael Finley, there isn’t a starting-caliber tight end on the Packers’ roster. In all likelihood, Finley will return for the 2012 season but his future is cloudy after this season.

Tom Crabtree is a solid No. 2 tight end, Andrew Quarless has a very questionable future health-wise after missing the entire 2012 season, D.J. Williams has failed to make a significant impact outside of training camp and Ryan Taylor’s impact is primarily on special teams.

If Finley maximizes his potential in 2013, the Packers will almost certainly look to lock him up long-term. But given Finley’s up-and-down nature, it’s a distinct possibility that the team could bring in another tight end to compete for playing time.

When might the Packers address TE in the draft? Tyler Eifert looks like a surefire first-round pick. Perhaps he’ll be there when the Packers are on the clock at No. 26, but there’s a good chance he’ll be off the board. Bleacher Report NFL Draft columnist Dan Hope says Eifert is clearly better than any of the tight ends in last year’s draft.

 

The team could consider Stanford’s Zach Ertz in round one, but a more likely scenario would be for the team to wait until day two or three to select a tight end.

Late in the second round, the Packers could consider Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce. He is widely-considered as the best blocking tight end in the draft and would be a nice complement to Finley. However, not much detail has been provided in regard’s to Kelce’s suspension that force him to sit out of the 2010 season. If he has any serious character concerns, Kelce’s draft stock will suffer.

In the third round, Green Bay could look at Vance McDonald, Gavin Escobar or Jordan Reed. Each player brings something different to the table, but McDonald is likely the most complete tight end of the bunch. Reed has some similarities to current Packers tight end D.J. Williams, who is similarly undersized and doesn’t have much value as an in-line blocker.

Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld is an intriguing prospect. He battled a plethora of injuries at the college level, but after his impressive senior campaign, it’s a bit surprising that he wasn’t invited to this year’s Scouting Combine. Watching him on tape, Sudfeld appears to be a complete tight end prospect. He’s one to keep an eye on for the Packers on day three of the draft.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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17 Responses to “2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking Packers Tight End Prospects”

  1. Dobber says:

    I like the idea of a second TE to build a combo with Finley (or an eventual replacement). Maybe I’m too enamored with the Pats’ combo of Gronk/Hernandez, but look at what they’re doing in the running game playing that base set and a back like Stevan Ridley.

    I think it would be hard to pass on Eifert at 26, but I like the idea of a value pick in the middle rounds (McDonald, Sudfield or Escobar).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Personally, if my BPA in round one is a TE, I’m looking to trade down…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

        Fair enough, but it takes two to tango.

        How much value is lost by taking Eifert at 26? What I mean is, how “bad” of deal would TT be willing to take if his other option, according to his board, is to draft Eifert?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • Dobber says:

        It comes down to whether or not the decision-makers believe that player to be a difference-maker. You can never have enough of those players. I’m not a talent-evaluator, but I tend to agree that Eifert’s probably not that guy…doesn’t mean that someone else won’t make that leap.

        Still, given how this draft looks like it may shake out, teams may not be wanting to part with second-day picks to move up into the late first/early second round.

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    • QOTSA1 says:

      I think that’s what the Packers might of been hoping for when they drafted DJ Williams. Finley in the Gronk roll and Williams in the Hernandez roll. Williams and Hernandez are almost identical in size and both had productive college careers, but unfortunately, Williams has not shown much in the NFL so far.

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  2. QOTSA1 says:

    I would love the Packers take a guy like Fauria or Levine Toilolo out of Stanford, in the 5th or 6th round.

    A 6’7″ or 6’8″ red zone target for Rodgers would be nice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

    Can Vance McDonald catch?

    I’ve read that he has at least one bad drop per game, and he missed a few easy ones at the combine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Dobber says:

      That means that after 4-5 seasons he’ll lead the league in TDs (a la James Jones)

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  4. Ron LC says:

    Did anyone listen to what MM said at his presser? Finley is going to be back. TE maybe on day 3 of the draft.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

      Problem solved! All we have to do is listen to what the GMs are saying at their combine pressers, and we will be able to know their draft strategies.

      That makes things much easier.

      I know that your post was in jest, but if anything I would be inclined to think that it would be less likely for TT to retain Finley with his public “vote of confidence.”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Dobber says:

        All this says to me is that the Packers will try to keep Finley OR Jennings. Given Finley’s contract situation, he’s the easy choice for another year.

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  5. [...] Looking ahead to the draft & Ranking Packers Tight End Prospects. [...]

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  6. BubbaOne says:

    And don’t forget converted WR Brandon Bostick…6-3 1/2 245 who runs 4.6 has spent a year on PS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Dobber says:

      I’d prefer a guy who has a reasonable chance of playing with his hand on the ground on occasion.

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      • BubbaOne says:

        TE’s Crabby and Q already fill that role. Bostik is potentially a TE who can put stress on the D downfield. Some writers and bloggers are pretty high (figuratively) on him.

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