Early Player Rankings for the NFL Draft: Top Five Tight End Prospects

Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) catches a touchdown pass against the Baylor Bears. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL Scouting Combine only a couple of weeks away, I would like to provide my early player rankings by position for the 2014 NFL Draft. This will be a brief look at who I believe are the top five players at each position. Granted, the draft landscape can change rather rapidly depending how well these players do in the combine and pro day workouts.

Earlier in the week we took a look at the top five cornerback and safety prospects. Today, I’ll share who I believe are the top five tight ends in this year’s class.

1. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

2. Eric Ebron, North Carolina

3. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

5. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa

For the most part, my top five tight ends don’t vary much from other tight end rankings around the web. It is pretty clear the top two players at the position are Ebron and Amaro; however, it seems like splitting hairs when determining which player of these two is the the better tight end.

I went with Amaro because I believe he will be the more reliable player at the next level. He has excellent hands, can really work the middle of the field, and has great size (6-5, 260) and athleticism to create mismatches on the field. He’s also a willing blocker but still needs to improve in this area.

North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85). Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85). Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Ebron on the other hand, is an elite athlete but is just not consistent. He has all the physical tools to be a playmaking tight end in the NFL, which is why he’ll probably be the first tight end off the board in May. However, if you watch several of his games you’ll see him drop relatively easy passes, struggle with concentration, and not always play with max effort.

The problem with Ebron is you don’t always know what you’re getting with him. He could end up being the best tight end that comes out of this draft, but there is just too many risks there to spend a first round pick on him, in my opinion.

The other three tight ends in my top five list are all great run blockers and play more physical than Ebron and Amaro, but aren’t quite the receiving threats as the underclassmen from Texas Tech and North Carolina.

Seferian-Jenkins is a big-name prospect that many have ranked third after Ebron and Amaro, but in my opinion, the Washington Husky is highly overrated. Sure, Seferian-Jenkins is a good player. He has good hands, great size (6-7. 270), and is a tough a run blocker, but I just don’t believe he’s worthy of a first or second round pick.

He lacks athleticism. He doesn’t have very good straight-line speed to be a real threat down the seam, and in watching more of his film, he seems slow in and out of his breaks. He could really struggle to get open at the next level. He can use his size and soft hands to be a threat in the red zone, so he has merit there. However, I just don’t think he’s going to be a real difference maker in the NFL and doesn’t warrant an early round selection.

I have Niklas rated higher on my board because the junior from Notre Dame is every bit a run blocker as Seferian-Jenkins and Fiedorowicz, but he also possesses better athleticism and speed to be a threat downfield in the passing game. He’s smooth getting in and out of his breaks and has great hands for a player his size (6-6, 260).

Nov 10, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Troy Niklas (85) catches a touchdown against the Boston College Eagles during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 10, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Troy Niklas (85) catches a touchdown against the Boston College Eagles during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Niklas may be the only underrated Notre Dame prospect in this draft. He was underused as a receiver in Notre Dame’s offense, so he doesn’t quite have the eye-popping collegiate stats as the other players at the position. However, he looks to have the natural movement and route-running ability to be a real receiving weapon on offense.

Fiedorowicz is a tough mauler in the run game. He’s an old-school tight end who blocks first and then catches passes second. He’s a reliable receiving target in the middle of the field, but he just won’t scare too many defenses down the seam.

Other tight end prospects that could break into the top five are Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen and California’s Richard Rodgers. They’re both athletic tight end prospects who can split out wide and be true downfield threats in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how fast they run at the Combine.

Georgia’s Arthur Lynch and Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore are two more tight ends to keep on eye on. They’re both players that can be effective as run blockers or receivers and could be sleeper picks in the middle rounds of the draft.

Look for these players and plenty more at the position to impress with their workouts as the NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis on Feb. 22-25th.

Check back here at Lombardiave.com for the next position’s top five draft prospects. Also, look for a more in-depth position-by-position breakdown later in the spring as we get closer to the NFL Draft in May.

Topics: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron, Green Bay Packers, Jace Amaro, NFL Draft, Troy Niklas

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