NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Tight End Prospects
By Dan Dahlke
Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Troy Niklas (85) dives into the end zone for a touchdown. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
3. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: 6-6, 270
Niklas is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft. You have to love a tight end who’s teammates nicknamed him “Hercules”.
Niklas is a tough, throwback type tight end that takes true joy in knocking defenders on their butts. He is that complete player at the position a team like Green Bay may be looking for as they look to both run and pass the ball effectively going forward.
The California native has the strength and technique to wash defensive ends out of the play in the run game, and he has the size and athleticism to get open downfield. He’s a better route runner than he gets credit for, and he has greats hands and a big catch radius to cause mismatch problems for defenses.
Niklas still needs to polish his game and take that next step as a receiver, but he’s still relatively new to the position and has tremendous upside.
(Draft Projection: Rounds 2-3)
Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88). Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: 6-6, 275
I’m not as high on Seferian-Jenkins as others. Some peg him as a first-round talent, which I don’t see at all.
Seferian-Jenkins does have the size and natural hands to be an effective weapon in the passing game. He caught 21 touchdown passes in his three years with the Huskies. He’s also a natural route runner and appears to have a good feel for finding that hole in the defense to exploit in the passing game.
However, I have my doubts on how well Seferian-Jenkins’ skills translate to the NFL. First, he lacks the straight-line speed teams look for in a pass-catching tight end to stretch the middle of the field.
Seferian-Jenkins also is a little slow in and out of his breaks, which could hinder his ability to create separation at the next level. Linebackers in the NFL shouldn’t have a problem sticking with him in coverage.
Much has also been made of the former Husky’s ability as a blocker in the running game, but a close look at the film shows a lot of inconsistency. Despite his size, Seferian-Jenkins lacks the strength to hold up well against bigger defensive ends.
Having said this, Seferian-Jenkins does seem to be better than the top two TEs, Ebron and Amaro, in this department.
Seferian-Jenkins is a nice talent at the tight end position and could be particularly effective in the redzone, but I don’t see the former Husky as anything more than an adequate starter in the NFL.
(Draft Projection: Round 3)
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (86). Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
5. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: 6-6, 262 (4.76)
Fiedorowicz is by far the best blocking tight end in this draft class. He is so sound in his technique it allows him to hold up well against defensive lineman much bigger than himself. He also does a great job getting to the second level and taking linebackers out of the action.
Fiedorowicz is also a better athlete and receiver than he gets credit for. He has a natural feel for finding an opening over the middle of the field, and he has soft hands that allow him to catch the ball in traffic.
If the Packers miss out on some of the early-round tight end talent in the draft, then Fiedorowicz just may be their guy in the third or fourth round.
(Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4)