I heard it through that Grapevine known as the Twitterverse, the Denver Broncos had interviewed another Tight End during the Senior Bowl event. now I don’t know if that means the Broncos Front Office is applying pressure to Virgil Green and Julius Thomas to develop, making plans for life after Dreessen and Tamme or merely doing their due diligence for their Big Board. I do know however, that all four Tight Ends are under contract through the 2014 season. So let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this.
The Tight End in question, is Vance McDonald. A 3 year Letterman out of Rice University, Vance is a 6’4", 262 lb. playmaker for the Owls. He is ranked 4th out of 109 Tight End prospects nationwide and the 74th overall in 2013. His pre-Combine 40 Time is listed as 4.83 seconds. McDonald is projected as a 2nd to 3rd round draft pick in April. He was also interviewed by the Bills, Buccaneers, Colts and Rams at the Senior Bowl
#88 Vance McDonald
Born: June 13, 1990 (age 22)
Senior Bowl: Yes
Combine Invite: Yes
Arm Length-34 3/8"
Hand Length-10 1/8"
Vance staked his claim as one of the top Tight Ends in the country thanks to a productive senior season. He was a consensus All C-USA selection at TE and an invitee to the 2013 Senior Bowl after catching 36 passes for 458 yards and 2 Touchdowns despite missing three games late in the season. McDonald finished his college career ranking 6th all-time with 119 catches, 7th on the Rice career list with 1,504 receiving yards and tied for 5th with 15 career Touchdown receptions. He played in the first seven games then missed three before returning vs. SMU. Vance made a career-high 9 catches vs. UTEP, 5 of which came on 3rd down conversions. 28 of his 36 catches resulted in 1st downs, including three 4th down conversions. McDonald also averaged 7.4 yards on seven career carries and filled in as the Long Snapper on Punts during the last two regular season games.
In 2011, he went over the 1,000 receiving yard mark for his career with four catches for 48 yards at SMU. Vance shattered his previous career-highs with a monster effort in the Owls Homecoming win over UTEP, catching 8 balls for 157 yards and a Touchdown. That score was the 13th of his career, moving him into a tie for 6th on the Rice career chart. He had at least three catches in the last 15 of his last 19 games over the last two seasons.
2010 saw McDonald named the Owls' top receiver after earning the George R. Brown Award for receivers. He caught five Touchdowns over the final three games to finish with eight, the 6th-best season total in school history. Vance also caught 14 passes for 223 yards and rushed the ball three times for 19 more the final three games. He became the sixth Owl to catch at least 3 TD passes in the same game when he grabbed three at Tulane. He returned to action vs. SMU after missing 2 games with an injury sustained at North Texas.
In 2009, McDonald earned C-USA All Freshman honors after catching 12 pass in his first season. He missed two games due to an injury sustained vs. Tulsa, but returned to action with a catch against UCF. Made his debut in the opener at UAB and partially blocked a punt on the first series of the season.
Interestingly enough, in High School Vance was not only a 3 year Letterman in Football, he also competed in basketball and track. He qualified for regionals in track for 3 seasons, competing in the long jump, triple jump and anchoring the sprint relay teams.
NFL.COM DRAFT GRADE-76.0
STRENGTHS: Vance was utilized all over the formation but mainly as a slot receiver. A Smooth athlete, comfortable in space for someone his size, McDonald has good hand placement when blocking, uses body to shield off running lane. He possesses very long arms and uses them to his advantage when run blocking. He is fluid after the catch and looks natural with the ball in his hands, reading upfield blocks and cutting off of them. Knows how to finish off runs. Vance plays through the whistle and routinely makes multiple blocks on the same play. He makes the most of each play, can make contested catches and catches with his hands away from his body.
WEAKNESSES: While he shows the effort as a blocker, questions remain about his ability to hold up in-line. This seems to be the main complaint about McDonald. He lacks strength on first contact and the majority of his blocking assignments took place in space, not inline. Vance had a few drops at the Senior Bowl and it seems that they occur when he has to adjust or move off his stationary spot.
NFL COMPARISON: Todd Heap
In 2012, McDonald missed three games the second half of the season due to a toe injury.
Vance sat out in 2008, rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. The injury would have guaranteed a red-shirt season for him in 2008 anyway, so rather than enroll at Rice and "lose" a season of eligibility he waited.
"I grew really fast and had to have my shoulder worked on to be able to play football in college. I've had both shoulders done now and the doctors tell me they are stronger than before."
BOTTOM LINE: Despite his size and NFL projection, McDonald was mostly used as a slot receiver throughout his career, creating a size and physical mismatch in both the passing and running games.
Rice-Tulane 2010 first Rice TD drive
Vance McDonald vs Texas, Baylor, & Houston (2011)
Vance McDonald vs Louisiana Tech 2012
Senior Bowl Day 2 (SOUTH PRACTICE - WRs).mp4
As a Wide Receiver/Tight End at Rice, Vance has the makeup to be successful in today's NFL offenses that increasingly rely on their Tight Ends to work the seam and underneath routes. It is possible that the Broncos are looking at him to be a Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez-type player since he has experience as a Wideout, slot receiver and an End Around runner. He may not be as fast as those two, but McDonald knows how to get upfield and reads his blocks very well.
Take a look at how he measures up to the pair and also to the Broncos starting Tight End duo.
- Rob Gronkowski, 6-6, 265, 40 Time: 4.68
- Aaron Hernandez, 6-1, 245, 40 Time: 4.64
- Vance McDonald, 6-4, 262, 40 Time: 4.83* (low is 4.72) Pre-combine
- Joel Dreessen, 6-4, 245, 40 Time: 4.72
- Jacob Tamme, 6-3, 236, 40 Time: 4.58
As you can see, he is close to the prototype. I think he will need to develop better blocking technique, but he can contribute right away as a pass catching playmaker at Tight End. You can pick apart every single draft prospect and find something to complain about, but as a 3rd round prospect, this guy is a keeper. And perhaps, just perhaps--the Broncos envision him as their new slot machine. Only time will tell.
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