The tight end class for the 2014 NFL Draft is one of the weaker groups in recent memory, offering a true talent to behold at the top, a gamble or two near the end, and little in the middle.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina: There is not a lot to dislike with Ebron's game. He could stand to be more physical and improve his blocking along the line, but his future NFL team would be foolish to use him in that manner. Ebron's athleticism is unusual for a tight end. A seam player, the athletic pass catcher has plenty of speed (4.60 40 time) and moves like a wideout. Ebron (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) can play all over the field and create mismatches, which will make him a coveted option in the NFL's tight end-friendly landscape. He'll go in the first round and quite possibly in the top 10.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Standing 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Amaro is a fluid mover, creating separation with his footwork and route-running skills. Sure-handed and capable of playing a number of positions, Amaro is tough to bring down after the catch. He makes for a dangerous red-zone target. While he has some question marks surrounding his maturity, Amaro should come off the board in the neighborhood of the late first round or early second.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins is not your new-age tight end model who can split the seam and blow past defenders. He is slightly elusive and modestly difficult to bring down, but an exceptional athlete he is not. ASJ will have a fine NFL career as a reliable outlet over the middle of the field. His size (6-foot-6, 262 pounds) makes him more scheme-versatile, even if he is not as physically imposing as he could be. Seferian-Jenkins has a single-car DUI accident under his belt, which he owned up to and has vowed to learn from. He is an above-average route runner with a large catching radius and pretty good hands. Seferian-Jenkins is more of a third-round prospect to me, but his physical attributes may endear him to an NFL team earlier in the draft.
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: There is nothing truly elite about Niklas, but he is a well-rounded prospect with good size and has the makings of a reliable, long-term NFL starter. The nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Niklas is a powerful blocker and a viable weapon near the stripe. He high-points well enough, and being 6-foot-7 doesn't hurt, either. Niklas' athleticism is pedestrian, by NFL standards, and he is not a dynamic weapon. His route-running experience is rather limited. Teams looking for a safe, dependable, three-down tight end will consider Niklas as early as the second round.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: Versatile, Fiedorowicz (pronounced "feh-door-uh-wits") will have a spot on most any NFL roster. He is a very capable blocker and is also a pass-receiving threat. He isn't electric or flashy in any way. The 6-foot-6, 263-pounder is durable and fairly athletic. He can flex to the slot, if needed, although Fiedorowicz plays his best ball as an in-line tight end. He displays an understanding of the nuances used to create separation for a player of his mold. Fiedorowicz has a massive catching radius because of 33-inch arms and 10 1/4-inch mitts. He'll draw attention in the third round but probably comes off the board in the fourth.
Jake Murphy, Utah: Already 24 years old, moves fluidly, athletic build, seam potential, moves well through traffic, natural hands, reliable route runner, more finesse than beast in him, limited upside but has TE1 potential. Round 4 grade.
Colt Lyerla, Oregon: Extremely polarizing player ... Tremendous physical specimen, upside but equally as raw as a tight end and route runner. Explosive (39-inch vertical), fast (4.61 40 time), agile, aggressive, tough to bring down, passable size (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) as a seam player, major maturity and character concerns (arrests, quit the team). Round 2 talent, UDFA risk ... buyer beware.
Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State: Respectable hands, quality size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds), great sense of timing, tenacious blocker, lacks athleticism, slow off the line, average strength, limited upside. Midround pick.
Arthur Lynch, Georgia: Stronger than he looks, pretty good burst off the line, decent hands, high-motor guy, excellent blocking technique, average athleticism and speed, likely limited to TE2 status in the NFL. Midround grade.
Xavier Grimble, USC: Should have a long career as a TE2. Good run blocker. Little athleticism, poor straight-line speed, struggles to create separation, tough to bring down, looks the part off the field but rarely does on film. Late-round pick.
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State: Excelled versus inferior competition. Can move around, pretty good athleticism and hands ... might be at his best in traffic. Raw, largely inexperienced blocker. Poor man's Dallas Clark potential. Round 6-7 gamble.
Richard Rodgers, California: Experience in a pro-style offense, can move around, H-back potential, deceptive athlete. Suspect concentration, too much softness in his game. Limited potential, casual blocker. Late-round flier.