Following in similar fashion to the previous articles highlighting the potential defensive line and offensive line prospects, lets take a look at five of the best tight end prospects available in the 2012 NFL Draft, and which players the Falcons should target this weekend:
Coby Fleener-Stanford. Fleener is the ideal tight end prospect. He reminds me a lot of another very good tight end, Dallas Clark. He’s a smart player, he has good speed, good ball skills, is a good route runner, and has excellent size and height. Fleener is the type of player who epitomizes the position as it is used today. Like Clark, he would probably be better suited to receiving and sometimes playing the slot as high blocking skills aren’t fantastic. He also benefited from being a prime target of Andrew Luck at Stanford. That being said, he would be a huge asset for the Falcons. The problem is that with the huge demand of the TE position in the NFL today, Fleener will probably get drafted higher that he really ought to go. As the link provided says, Fleener has the potential to not only crack the 1st round, but to end up going in the 1st half of the 1st round. The Falcons couldn’t really miss by taking Fleener if he fell to them late in the 2nd round, although depth along both lines might be a bigger need overall. If he did slip in the draft, it would be interesting to see who the Falcons take ahead of Fleener.
Dwayne Allen-Clemson. Allen is another prospect with interesting possibilities, but who I’m not particularly high on. Allen is a good receiver, and does everything well but not outstanding in that aspect (like Fleener does). However he has increased size over Fleener, although he isn’t as tall, and is a great blocker. He is exactly the type of tight end that would have been perfect for a team about ten years ago. He reminds me eerily of Alge Crumpler–huge guy, good blocker for the running game, and a reliable yet unspectacular receiver. Allen fits the mold of player the Falcons try to draft, but this reigning Mackey Award winner is probably not the stretch-the-field type TE the Falcons need going forward. At least not with their 2nd round pick. If he slipped to them in the 3rd or later, which is extraordinarily unlikely, he would be a terrific value.
Orson Charles-Georgia. Charles is an intriguing prospect. He is a terrific receiver from the tight end position, stretches the field vertically very well, uses his size to block defenders from the ball, and easily makes catches away from his body and at the highest point. He is also very good after the catch, runs routes well, and is extremely strong (35 reps of 225 at the NFL Combine!). However, despite his tremendous strength, he is not the greatest blocker in the world. That could be forgiven if he is put in the right offensive system, and I presume that he would fit VERY well with the Falcons under Dirk Koetter. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Charles is not supposed to be as good a prospect as Fleener. He has some slow times at his pro-day in Athens, but I don’t think that really matters a whole lot. Playing speed is very important, and he has plenty of that. I think that this is simply a case of him being at Georgia, them running the ball a lot combined with spreading the ball around to all of the receiving targets. Charles is a weapon, but he wasn’t the guy Aaron Murray threw to every single time. 44 catches for 5 TDs in 2011 I guess are making some shuffle him down their draft boards, but I wouldn’t complain too much if the Falcons took Charles in the 2nd. I’d rather them take him in the 3rd if they can get him there.
Ladarius Green-Louisiana Lafayette. Green is Orson Charles-Lite. He is an excellent receiver, a good vertical threat down the seam of the defense, and runs routes very well. Like everyone that we have highlighted here, he is nothing special as far as blocking. Green had 51 receptions and 8 touchdowns, but also played against much lesser competition in the Sun Belt Conference. That being said, Green is a great player, and I legitimately think the Falcons WILL take him. I think the Falcons will take him with their No. 84 pick.
Michael Egnew-Missouri. Michael Egnew is a really big receiver. He is basically the same type of player that Jermichael Finley was coming out of Texas a few years ago. He is a really tall jacked-up receiver at 6’6, 250 lbs. He runs really well, and caught a lot of passes at Missouri. But there has been a tradition in the past few seasons of Missouri producing an obscenely productive TE who ends up being a huge bust in the NFL (see Chase Coffman). He played a lot of slot receiver and was rarely asked to block. He could be a huge hit; Egnew could also be a huge miss. It would be much better for a team to miss on him late in the draft rather than early. The Falcons would be foolish to take him in the 2nd or 3rd round, and since they don’t have a 4th round pick this year, Egnew would have to be taken in the 5th or later. If he was available there, I could see the Falcons taking a flyer on him.
What are your thoughts on the tight ends of this draft class, those included, and those excluded from this list?