I’ve been following the 2012 NFL draft and have analyzed the Offensive Guard and Defensive Tackle positions. Two other large needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers are Inside Linebacker and Tight End. With such a small class of quality Tight Ends, I was able to take the time to analyze the few out there and if there is a chance the Steelers may draft one this offseason.
There are about 15 tight ends in this class that may be drafted. Very few of those will go in the early rounds (only about 4 in the first 4 rounds). In fact, there isn’t even a tight end that is projected to land in the first round. The 2011 season taught everyone something important, certain Tight Ends can create matchup nightmares for defenses. If you want proof, look at the team with the best stable of tight ends (New England). They had a powerful passing attack that brought them to the Super Bowl without any depth at receiver. Tight End receiving records were shattered in 2011. Jimmy Graham broke the yardage record, only to have Rob Gronkowski pass him and set the record for TD receptions as well.
Is there a possibility that this will lead to an irrational inflation in tight end value in this draft? That would depend on the talent available in this draft. Compared to the last 4 years or so, this draft is not as deep with talented, game changing type Tight Ends. Keep in mind, these team executives are all geniuses and can tell from tape if a guy has what it takes. What they’ll be looking for are two main things: unnatural speed and elite size.
There’s no better example of a speed demon Tight End than Aaron Hernandez. He has the frame of a Tight End (6’2, 245) but the speed of a Wide Receiver. It’s true that he actually only ran a 4.64 at the combine. While this is still a good time, it’s nowhere near what he’s probably capable of running today. Another great example is Vernon Davis who ran a ridiculous 4.38. Size is the hard to defend, and Gronkowski at 6’6 and Graham at 6’7 are great examples of big guys with long arms that can go get the ball.
The table below shows all the profile’s of every tight end projected to be drafted.
|Name||Proj Rank||School||Class||Height||Weight||Proj Round|
|Brian Linthicum||149||Michigan State||rSr||6\'4||249||4-5|
|George Bryan||185||North Carolina St||rSr||6\'5||265||5-6|
|Rhett Ellison||205||Southern Cali||rSr||6\'5||251||6|
|Chase Ford||240||Miami (Fla.)||Sr||6\'6||258||6-7|
It should be noted that I’ve included fullbacks in this analysis. I did this A) because the Steelers still don’t have a good fullback and B) most of the players considered have the ability to be a Fullback/Tight End hybrid.
There are six guy’s over 6’4, and three 6’4 prospects. Most of them weigh around 250 which is average for this position. The two that are on the lighter side are Coby Fleener and Ladarius Green who are the better pass catching options. Though there are a lot of larger options, very few are going to be drafted before the 4th, so there is a lot of value.
You can follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisdimarino