The tight end position has changed over the years for multiple reasons. First, the landscape of college football has placed a heavy emphasis on spread offenses. The position has moved from the traditional in-line alignment to a flex or slot, which allows a high percentage of college teams to maximize players’ athletic skill sets and take advantage of the position in the form of multiple receiver Sets.
Secondly, several years ago the NFL started to both see an influx of athletic tight ends being drafted, like New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham and San Diego Chargers Antonio Gates (both basketball player with limited football experience in college), and value the production and stress these type of athletes put on a defense.
The complete package or traditional tight end is productive as both a blocker and receiver, which I label TE. Because these tight ends don’t grow on trees, and are not being developed at the collegiate level on a consistent basis, I break down the position into three specialized categories, blocker and receiver. TEA is an athletic tight end who excels as a receiver but is inconsistent with blocking skills, has adequate in-line toughness, power and explosiveness to attack and finish. TEB is a blocking tight end who lacks natural receiving skills to release into routes down field, flashed awareness in space and the ability to catch the ball outside his frame with RAC (run after catch) production, but excels more as a blocker both in-line and in space. Finally, there’s the H-Bac – according to many, at least. I refer to this player as the MTE (move tight end), who aligns at the fullback position as the lead blocker in the I-formation, offset I-formation, or in flex motion to wham block or trap the unblocked defensive linemen.
All four tight end positions should be given the grade they deserve based on the skill sets they bring to the table, and placed on the draft board based on the value they bring to a club’s scheme. A special thanks goes out to the juniors who declared early for the 2015 NFL draft, too. Without them, this would be a very suspect class indeed.
Character: Off-field issues (arrests, drug abuse, assaulting women, guns, tickets, etc.).
Football Intelligence: Student of the game, film study, playbook memorization, ability to process and regurgitate information with recall.
Mental Awareness: Intelligence, ability to take hard coaching, understanding role on team and position assignments.
Leadership: Natural-born leader, locker-room guy, community involvement.
Competitiveness: A clutch player with a win-at-all-cost attitude, with a high level of intensity. He is at his best under adverse situations. He is confident in himself, and his teammates have confidence in him.
Toughness: A clutch player to consistently deliver under pressure. His ability to play both injured and hurt when the team needs him.
Production: Produce under pressure in critical situations as a runner, receiver or blocker.
Blocking: Attitude and temperament, strength/explosion; lead blocker; in-line; pass blocking; blocking on the move; toughness; aggressiveness; willingness; 3-E (eye, ear, elbow), flat back, strong UOH (use of hands), runs feet to finish, works well with offensive tackles on combination blocking, second-level blocking, effort; physical toughness; aggressiveness, balance; on the move from FBB or wing position; finish, ankle flex, wall off/shield blocker, falls off blocks,
Durability: Stamina; endurance; injury history for position and the ability to play hurt.
Receiving Skills: RAC (run after catch) elusiveness; vision in open space; playmaker; catch in a crowd toughness; burst to separate from defender.
Athletic Skill Set
Start: Quickness and explosiveness, late out of stance.
Initial quickness: Initial movement out of stance, explosion.
Release: Escapability off LOS (line of scrimmage) to avoid defender.
Burst/Acceleration: Increase acceleration into route.
Speed: Playing speed in pads; one speed; long strider; gear change with acceleration; short strider; sluggish in movement.
Concentration: Courage in a crowd, across the middle; running alone; high point, diving effort.
Routes: Stride; speed and quickness in/out of cuts; sharp; round off; awareness of coverage recognition.
Separation: Quickness out of break from defender with burst; speed to run away in space.
Catching Ability: Make the tough catch, high/low, competitive, outside frame.
Ball Reaction: Find and adjust to ball in flight; track on the move.
Toughness: Ability to want and make the tough catch, mentally and physically to play in-line at a high level.
Adjustments: Physical; over shoulders; contort with body balance, jumping ability, diving effort.
Hands: Hard/soft; sure; extend arms; body or cradle catcher, snatch, one handed snag.
Run after Catch: Vision; burst/acceleration; playmaker; elusiveness in space; cutting, straight line, productive.
Durability: Stamina/endurance; injury history for position.
Special Teams: Coverage skills.
Rutgers Tyler Kroft 6’5 – 249* (TE) 1st Rd
Minnesota Max Willams 6’3 – 250* (TEA) 1st – 2nd Rd
Southern Illinois MyCole Pruitt 6’2 – 251 (TEA) 3rd Rd
Miami Clive Walford 6’4 – 251 (TEA) 3rd Rd
Florida State Nick O’Leary 6’3 – 252 (MTE) 4th Rd – 5th Rd