Since 2008, Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons front office have taken almost every position through the draft. One of the biggest positions yet to be drafted is tight end. Some thought the Falcons were ready to take Brandon Pettigrew in 2009. The trade for Gonzalez buried that idea and has mostly kept that need low on the priority scale ever since.
The recent news the future hall of fame tight end plans on hanging it up after this season has prompted many to think the Birds finally may draft a tight end, perhaps early, in this year’s draft.
In terms of the future, it does make a ton sense to draft a TE early and have them learn from the best for at least a year. However, two things cloud the picture for this draft. First, the Falcons don’t draft until the second round and they have a late pick at that (#55). Even if they wanted to get a top flight tight end, most of them would be gone by #55, especially if there happens to be a run on them with teams looking for the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski.
The second issue to cloud the picture is the fact that, much like safety, tight end is seen as an overall pretty weak group. Coby Fleener is undisputed as the best tight end in the group and is basically a unanimous 1st round talent. After that, there are some valuable prospects, but what round they are worth are anyone’s guess. A look at some of the candidates the Falcons may have their eye on…..
Thanks to the following excellent draft / scouting websites:
*Projected draft rounds vary widely depending on scouting sites
**Statistics represent career collegiate numbers
Clemson – 6’3 – 255 – Forty: 4.89 – Bench: 27 – Vertical: 32
Games: 39 – Rec: 89 – Yds: 1,041 – YPC: 11.7 – TDs: 12
Allen is heavily considered the next best tight end after Colby Fleener is likely taken in the 1st round. Allen won’t be confused with the next Jimmy Graham or tight end to stretch the field and change the game, but he’s a throwback, gritty tight end who gets the job done both in the passing game and blocking for the run. Some thought that Allen may even move up to first round territory after a blistering junior season that saw him catch almost 50 passes for 577 yards and 8 touchdowns. His very poor combine showing has definitely dropped him out of first round territory. Allen is one of the most complete and NFL-ready tight ends available and is an excellent red zone and 3rd down target. He may not be a game-breaker, but he’s an extremely well-rounded tight end.
Georgia – 6’2 – 251 – Forty: 4.73 – Bench: 35
Games: 40 – Rec: 94 – Yds: 1,370 – YPC: 14.6 – TDs: 10
Charles signed with Georgia as one of the top tight end prospects out of high school and some thought he may redefine the position. While Charles was very productive in Athens, he never became quite the game-breaker that some imagined. He may have simply suffered from the recruiting over-hype machine. Even though his height isn’t ideal for an NFL tight end, his speed and potential are. He had his best year in terms of yards and touchdowns as a junior, but his yards per catch average dropped below his excellent 16+ range. Charles likely was inhibited by a fairly stale offense that lacked much creativity. The Georgia tight end could go as early as the 2nd round or could drop to 3rd or possibly even 4th with his poor combine showing, dropped passes, slow 40 time, and recent DUI arrest. If he’s still there in the 3rd round, it will be hard for the Falcons to pass on the former Dawg.
Louisiana-Lafayette – 6’6 – 237 – Forty: 4.53 – Bench: 16 – Vertical: 34.5
Games: 45 – Rec: 149 – Yds: 2,201 – YPC: 14.8 – TDs: 22
Green has the buzz from many Falcons fans regarding the draft because of his size, potential, and the fact that there’s a chance the Birds could get him in the 3rd round. Green is very much a receiving tight end that needs to add bulk to his long frame. His career production is superb, going over 2,000 yards receiving and hauling in over 20 touchdowns in his career. He is definitely a project, though, and will need some time to add muscle and improve his blocking to be an every down tight end. Falcons fans would love to nab Green in the 3rd round, but may find themselves disappointed with NFL teams looking for the next Jimmy Graham to redefine the position. Of all the tight ends in this draft, Green seems to have the most upside.
Missouri – 6’5 – 252 – Forty: 4.62 – Bench: 21 – Vertical: 36
Games: 43 – Rec: 147 – Yds: 1,332 – YPC: 9.1 – TDs: 8
While Green may be getting all the buzz, Michael Egnew is quietly a very appealing prospect. Egnew had a very showing at the combine where he had a good bench (21), forty time (4.62), and excellent vertical leap (36). He had a very productive senior year with 50 receptions for over 500 yards, but only added 3 touchdowns. Egnew’s stock varies widely from scouting site to site. Draftcountdown has him ranked above Green. CBS Sports has him slotted to go somewhere between the 3rd and 4th rounds, but WalterFootball has him going in the 4th or even 5th round. Like Green, Egnew is a project with potential. While Egnew may be a little farther along than Green, his upside seems more limited. Most likely a big reach for the Falcons in the 3rd round, but will probably be gone by the time their 5th pick rolls around. Egnew would be a perfect selection if the Falcons had a 4th round pick this draft.
LSU – 6’3 – 243 – Forty: 4.76 – Bench: 18 – Vertical: 36
Games: 50 – Rec: 39 – Yds: 459 – YPC: 11.8 – TDs: 3
Around this territory, the Falcons may decide to simply pass on tight end altogether. Peterson hails from LSU, but had almost minimal impact and production while there. He has some decent measureables, but doesn’t really strike many with tons of potential to be starting tight end in the NFL. In four years at LSU, he only managed to haul in 3 touchdowns and not break 40 receptions or 500 yards receiving. Peterson, like many tight ends around this area, likely don’t project to much more than 2nd tight end option in many cases.
USC – 6’5 – 251 – Forty: 4.79 – Vertical: 31.5
Games: 47 – Rec: 52 – Yds: 461 – YPC: 8.9 – TDs: 6
Some sites actually project Ellison as moving to fullback, as he also worked out with the backs at the combine. Ellison’s stats won’t knock you down, and his upside is definitely limited, but this statement from CBS Draft Scout will get many teams to take another look at Ellison, “Ellison doesn’t excel in any one area, but is solid in all of them and has very good intangibles with very good character, work ethic and passion for the game. He is a third-day prospect who can wear several hats and will work his butt off for whichever team gives him a chance.”
Oklahoma – 6’4 – 252 – Forty: 4.49 – Bench: 24 – Vertical: 36
Games: 53 – Rec: 52 – Yds: 720 – YPC: 13.8 – TDs: 9
Hanna might be one of the best prospects with the most potential in the entire draft. His college production isn’t anything that will get him noticed, but he has all the measureables to do very well in the NFL. He was the fastest for all tight ends at the combine, running a sub 4.5 forty at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 252 lbs. That’s not something to sneeze at. People looking for the next Jimmy Graham may take Hanna much earlier than many scouts believe. Sure, he would be a project, but he has many tools that most tight ends do not.
Chase Ford – Miami
6’3 – 246 – Forty: 4.93 – Vertical: 32
Garrett Celek – Michigan State
6’4 – 250 – Forty: 4.73
Evan Rodriguez – Temple
6′2 – 239 – Forty: 4.49
(Thanks to waynester on the Evan Rodriguez mention)
Matt Veldman – North Dakota State
6-7 – 256 – Forty: 4.73
Cory Harkey – UCLA
6’4 – 260 – Forty: 4.86
George Bryan – NC State
6’5 – 258 – Forty: 4.96
Kevin Koger – Michigan
6’4 – 253 – 4.84
David Paulson – Oregon
6’3 – 246 – Forty: 4.93
1) Should the Falcons spend a 2nd rounder on tight end? A 3rd rounder?
2) Do you think this tight end class is worth looking at?
3) What TE prospects do you like and what round?
4) How many of these prospects immediately offer more than Michael Palmer?
5) What will Falcons do if they draft no TE this year and Gonzalez retires?