NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
2015 DRAFT PREVIEW: TE/FB
Overview: The 2014 draft was a tale of two drafts for the TE position. On the one hand, the position had one of its best runs ever within the first three rounds. In particular, former North Carolina TE Eric Ebron became just the third player at the position to be a top 10 selection this century. At the same time, a total of 7 TEs were selected within the first three rounds; just one short of the all-time figure for the position. On the other hand, just three other TEs were selected within the final four rounds. That made it just 10 players selected at the position overall, tying 2005 for the fewest number of TEs drafted since the league went to the 7-round draft.
And unfortuately, it doesn't look like things are going to get much better for the position this year. Indeed, Florida State's Nick O'Leary is currently the only even remotely close to carrying a first-round grade and even he's no lock to be taken in the opening round. O'Leary, who for the record is the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus' grandson, actually isn't all that big, while he lacks the explosive speed and athleticism of an Eric Ebron type field-stretching receiving threat; plus, there are going to be health concerns after O'Leary was involved in a second serious motorcycle accident this past spring. If healthy, though, O'Leary is a throwback football player with a nasty streak who is an effective blocker and skilled receiver. Meanwhile, Ben Koyack of Notre Dame and Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman are both solid two-way TE prospects with prototype size and decent athleticism, although neither has been all that consistently productive to date in their college career. In fact, neither is considered to be much more than a late second, or early third-day prospect this coming spring, although both do have the all-around skill to go high substantially higher.
Meanwhile, there is another drop-off to the next level of TEs which includes pass-receiving specialsits like Rutgers junior Tyler Kraft, unheralded Wes Saxton of unheralded South Alabama, Rory Anderson of South Carolina, MyCole Pruitt of FCS Southern Illinois, Clive Walford of Miami and Gerald Christian of Louisville, while E.J. Bibbs of Iowa State and USC's Randall Telfer are the next best two-way type TEs. Note that this list includes only one underclassman in Rutgers' Tyler Kraft which is not to say that other juniors won't be entering the draft, but it does not look like a real strong class at this time. Other juniors with some tools who could be tempted to take their chances on the pros this winter include Jesse James and Kyle Carter of Penn State, Oregon's Pharaoh Brown of Oregon, Jay Rome of Georgia, Sean Price of South Florida, and LSU's Dillon Gordon.
Top 15 TE Prospects
Sleeper file: Sleeper is probably something of a misnomer, but Oklahoma's Blake Bell will at least be a storyline at the 2015 draft after switching to TE from QB with the emergence of Trevor Knight as the Sooners' #1 QB. In fact, Bell started 8 games last fall and put up decent numbers, but his best days at the position were actually when he became the 'Belldozer' in the Sooners' short yardage jumbo packages. And at 6-6, 260 with soft hands and a QB's understanding of the passing game, Bell certainly has the tools to be a productive TE, although there are some questions about his long speed. Meanwhile, along with SIU's oddly named MyCole Pruitt, the top TE prospects outside the ranks of D1A football include Jeff Lepak from Eastern Illinois, Fordham's Dan Light, Kevin Vaadeland of North Dakota State,Nick Boyle of Delaware, Faysal Shafaat of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Matt Lengel of Eastern Kentucky.
Future file: While many college football are in the process of either phasing out the TE, or at least de-emphasizing the position, there are still some very good young players at position starting with the O.J. Howard of Alabama. Indeed, Howard is arguably the best pro prospect in the country, though, as a true sophomore won't be draft eligible until 2016. Other top young emerging TEs include true sophs Hunter Henry of Arkansas and Oregon's John Mundt and redshirts Billy Freeman of San Jose State and Rice's Connor Cella. One other player who would normally be on that list is Penn State sophomore TE Adam Breneman, however, he won't play in 2014 because of an unspecified knee injury that requiredseason-ending surgery earlier this month.
FULLBACKS: Talk about a position being devalued at the draft. In 2014, for example, only three FBs were selected at all with none being taken in the first 200 picks. In fact, the last FB taken within the first three rounds was Jacob Hester who was a 3rd round pick by San Diego back in 2008, although even Hester had played a lot of RB in his days at LSU. And its not likely to get a whole lot better for the position at the upcoming draft, although there are some potentially useful prosects at the position including Jalston Fowler or Alabama, Florida's Hunter Joyer, Mark Weisman of Iowa, Zack Zwiniak of Penn State and Trayion Durham of Kent State.
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