Hello, friends. To kick off this weekends draft prospect analysis I will be providing details on some of the best tight ends available in the Class of 2014. Thanks to a strong amount of underclassmen declarations, this position is quite deep and offers the potential for a lot of quality players to be selected both early and late.
Eric Ebron, TE - Junior - North Carolina
Combine Measurables: 6'4, 250 pounds, 4.6 40 yard dash
College Production: 34 GP, 112 receptions, 1,805 yards, 8 touchdowns
It is unlikely that the Broncos will have a shot at obtaining junior sensation Eric Ebron, but his ability and skill as a player is worth highlighting as he is the premier prospect available in this years draft at the tight end position. In his final season with the Tar Heels, Ebron posted astounding numbers -- accumulating 62 receptions for 973 receiving yards which were school records leading him to All-ACC Honors.
Ebron is in the mold of versatile NFL tight ends such as Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham, who use their top-shelf athleticism and size to overpower defenders and cause mismatches on a consistent basis. Considering the evolution of the modern passing game in today's NFL -- there is no doubt that Ebron will be a highly sought after commodity in this years draft. He has a lot of experience split out wide, where he uses his athleticism and speed to spread defenses and create mismatches through the seam. He has terrific body control and field awareness. His quick release off the line and smoothness and savvy as a route runner help him gain quality separation against defenders.
Some areas of improvement for Ebron's game would be the following: First and foremost, Ebron needs to get stronger and continue to develop his frame. As mentioned earlier, he is mostly flexed out wide, so his inline experience at tight and and blocking prowess needs development. Additionally, Ebron needs to improve consistency with his hands and concentration to avoid dropping passes.
Outlook: Ebron's last season with the Tar Heels displayed the kind of impact potential he can have in the NFL. He might have not had the biggest numbers career wise in comparison to others in this class, but his potential is through the roof and it is hard to bet against him becoming a Pro-Bowl caliber player in the NFL. Will likely be a first round draft selection going to a team who lacks a quality player at the position -- some have even considered him to have Top 10 potential.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE - Junior - Washington
Combine Measurables: 6'5, 262 pounds, 4.65 40 yard dash
College Production: 38 GP, 146 catches, 1,838 yards, 21 touchdowns
After an exciting 2013 campaign where Austin Seferian-Jenkins won the John Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end in college football, he decided to forego his final eligibility with the Washington Huskies to go into the NFL Draft. One of the most decorated players in Huskies history, holding virtually all school records at the position.
There are a lot of qualities to admire in regards to Seferian-Jenkins. He has great size, with the length and body control to make catches with ease. Great leaper and is a huge mismatch in the open field. Shows the toughness to go over the middle and leave himself vulnerable, but often uses his large body to shield himself against big blows imposed by linebackers or safeties. Doesn’t go down easy while being tackled and has the ability to grind out yards after the catch. One of the better blockers at the position in the class, and improved in this regard by leaps and bounds as a senior. Good, but not great speed — but should still be able to get separation at the NFL level. Absolute terror in the redzone, nobody in college football could stop him inside the 20.
Seferian-Jenkins for all his positives, does have a few faults. He isn’t as athletic as some of the other tight ends in this class and won’t be the deep vertical threat a la Vernon Davis or Julius Thomas. Needs to spend time in an NFL weight training program to fill out his frame and max out his physical potential — could use some refinement in blocking technique and might need a coach who can motivate him to consistently play at the "big" level his size would indicate he should.
Outlook: According to the Seattle Times, Seferian-Jenkins was given a second round grade by the NFL Advisory Committee. Doesn’t have the speed or deep seam ability like Ebron or Amaro, but is likely more NFL ready due to his combination of size and strength and ability to come in and block in-line right away. Character concerns stemming from a DUI last March exist and a foot injury revealed at the Combine might cause him to be red flagged on team boards. Despite that, undoubtedly a Top 64 selection who can contribute immediately and will likely endure a long and successful pro career.
, TE - Junior - Texas Tech
Combine Measurables: 6'5, 262 pounds, 4.65 40 yard dash
College Production: 32 GP, 138 catches, 1,831 yards, 13 touchdowns
Another tight end that has the potential to make an immediate impact as a rookie is Jace Amaro. After a sensational junior campaign where he tallied an impeccable 106 catches for over 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns -- Amaro decided to make the leap to the NFL.
Like Ebron, Amaro saw most of his time lined up in the slot instead of being an inline tight end. His large frame and soft hands allow him to pluck passes out of the air with ease. Shows the grit and determination to go across the middle and make the big play. Very smooth coming in and out of his breaks and is one of the better route runners available at the position, showing good timing, precision and change of direction skills. Productive after the catch and a resilient runner with the ball who is tough to bring down. Consistent player who has a track record of improvement. Will be a good fit for any team looking for a vertical threat at the position.
Amaro’s game is very well-rounded, so there are few criticisms I can bring up. The foremost criticism would be the need for him to bulk up to be able to be an effective blocker at the NFL level. At this point in time, he is more of a finesse tight end — which may not make him a fit for everyone. Additionally, some rumors and reports from the Combine and off-season process have shown that he might be a bit of a primadonna. Personal interviews with teams during the round of allowable visits will be important for him to keep a high draft grade. Also a one year wonder, despite having a pretty solid sophomore campaign.
Outlook: One of the better players to wear the Texas Tech uniform, Jace Amaro is a likely second or third round pick in this years NFL Draft. While tight end isn’t the biggest need on the roster with the emergence of Julius Thomas, contract ambiguity with Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme might allow for the Broncos to cut one of them and seek a cheaper alternative for the long-term in the draft. Amaro would be a lethal option in our offense with Peyton Manning at the helm and would be a great safety valve for whatever QB replaces him down the road.
Keep An Eye On. . .
Crockett Gilmore, TE - Senior - Colorado State
Combine Measurables: 6'5, 260 pounds, 4.89 40 yard dash
College Production: 47 GP, 111 catches, 1308 yards, 8 touchdowns
Unique prospect who was initially recruited as a defensive end and started out there with the Rams back in 2010. Imposing physical specimen with great size for the position, with a large wingspan that helps him screen off defenders and use his length to his advantage. Soft hands and doesn’t drop many catches. Reliable option in the redzone and near the endzone. Plays with toughness and grit that is desired at the position. Only an average route-runner and doesn’t consistently create separation due to only having above-average athleticism.
Has a thick lower body that helps him with his drive while blocking. High effort blocker who displays good technique and the ability to sustain blocks. Also sneaky in this regard and has the penchant for spotting off-balance defenders and knocking them to the ground. Won’t ever be a vertical threat, but looks the part as a #2 tight end who can block well and take advantage of opportunities near the goal when presented. Mid-to-late round selection who is rising up draft boards after an impressive display at the Senior Bowl. Local program prospect who could be a good reserve option for the Broncos late in the draft.
Joe Don Duncan, TE - 6th Year Senior - Dixie State
Combine Measurables: 6'3, 268 pounds, 4.75 40 yard dash
College Production: 20 GP, 135 catches, 1,994 yards, 22 touchdowns
Interesting small school prospect who played two years at community college before transferring to Dixie State. Has extraordinary production and measurables, but has a history of injuries in his legs and knees that have cost him two seasons. There is no doubt that his draft grade will be lowered due to this and his age. Experience at the Y and X positions, as well as H-Back. Has the ability to be a productive NFL player, but needs to be more consistent in his play, especially learning the full route tree to be able to reach his full potential. A sleeper candidate who may get selected higher than you'd think based off a strong combine.
Which of these players, if any, would you like to see the Broncos add to their passing attack for 2014?