BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
With talent at the top of the class and a lack of overall depth, this is not the year to wait for a tight end if you are a team in the market. Securing a reliable receiving threat at the tight end position is a vital move for teams with a young quarterback, and this class offers some intriguing options.
The top three prospects, who I compared head-to-head earlier this year, are clear. Among them, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron offers teams the best chance to have a dynamic player with great size and athletic ability. Ebron would project perfectly as an explosive, big-bodied target for Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel and could possibly be the team’s first-round selection. He is a potential top-20 draft pick and the only tight end valued in this year’s first round.
First Round Grades
1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina: With his speed and explosiveness, Ebron brings a dimension to an offense that is difficult to defend. He has the makings of a game-changing tight end at the next level.
2. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: The leading receiver among all collegiate tight ends in 2013, Amaro is a matchup nightmare, willing blocker and physical after the catch.
3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins is an all-around talent with a basketball background. If he can put forth consistent effort, he can dominate.
4. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: Although raw, Niklas is extremely talented and his best football is ahead of him. He could have built off his junior season and been the top tight end in the 2015 draft by staying in school, but his potential is high.
5. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: One of the top blocking tight ends I have ever scouted, Fiedorowicz also provides a large catch radius as a receiver. He can be a solid starter as a classic, in-line tight end.
6. Arthur Lynch, Georgia: Lynch is a well-rounded tight end who can block and catch. He is a high-effort blocker who will continue blocking through the whistle on every down. Lynch’s game resembles that of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. He is not projected to be as good as Witten, but there are similarities in their styles of play.
7. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State: Gillmore is a big, long and athletic target. He had a tremendous showing at this year’s East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, and could be a excellent value pick in the middle rounds.
8. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin: Pedersen is the type of player you can move around in an H-back type role. He is a solid, functional blocker who can drive block defensive ends and get to the second level to seal off linebackers. He can be moved around to pull as a lead blocker or kept in to pass block with the quarterback in motion. He has receiving skills and could add depth to an offensive system.
9. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State: A big, broad-shouldered tight end, Jensen has sleeper potential. Jensen has good athletic ability for his excellent frame. He has shown he can catch the football away from his body with his soft hands. He was out of place in Fresno State’s spread attack but has a future in the NFL based on physical traits alone.
10. A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State: Leonard, a University of Florida transfer, has a great deal of potential as a receiving threat and move tight end. He needs more development as a blocker but has the athletic ability to excel in an H-back role.
11. Richard Rodgers, Cal: Rodgers flashed exciting potential as a receiver in college but was inconsistent. With continued progress, Rodgers could be a solid No. 2 tight end for an NFL offense.
12. Xavier Grimble, USC: Grimble is raw but has flashed promising upside. He ran a limited route tree in college but when he was utilized, his talent was evident. In time, Grimble could compete to be a starter if a team is patient.
13. Trey Burton, Florida: Burton didn’t have a defined role in college, but when he contributed his playmaking potential was apparent. He is an intriguing talent worth a flier late in the draft.
Top Undrafted Free Agents
14. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
15. Michael Flacco, New Haven
16. Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
17. Gator Hoskins, Marshall
18. Jake Murphy, Utah
19. Chris Coyle, Arizona State
20. Alex Bayer, Bowling Green
21. Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts
22. Nic Jacobs, McNeese State
23. Kaneakua Friel, BYU
24. Ted Bolser, Indiana
25. Justin Jones, East Carolina
26. Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western State
27. Anthony Denham, Utah
28. D.J. Tialavea, Utah State
29. Jordan Najvar, Baylor
30. Asa Watson, North Carolina State
Tags: A.C. Leonard, Alex Bayer, Anthony Denham, Arthur Lynch, Asa Watson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Chris Coyle, Colt Lyerla, Crockett Gillmore, D.J. Tialavea, Eric Ebron, Gator Hoskins, Jace Amaro, Jacob Pedersen, Jake Murphy, Joe Don Duncan, Jordan Najvar, Justin Jones, Kaneakua Friel, Marcel Jensen, Michael Flacco, Nic Jacobs, Reggie Jordan, Richard Rodgers, Rob Blanchflower, Ted Bolser, Trey Burton, Troy Niklas, Xavier Grimble