Top 10 Prospects: Tight Ends

Over the next couple of weeks and leading up to the draft, I will be taking a look at each position, if the Dolphins have a need to upgrade that position in the draft, and who are the top 10 prospects going in. Remember, this is only one man’s opinion. This is the fourth of such posts and today we will look at the tight end position.

Anybody interested in talking about football? Not sure about you, but all this glum, players vs. owners, everybody sucks talk is just depressing. There is a still a draft in the near future, and I’d prefer to focus on that.

It’s actually pretty amazing when you look at it. Dol-Phans like to tell people that the Miami Dolphins are right there, so close to being a contender, they can taste it. As much as I want to look on the bright side, I’ve now written (counting this one) four Top 10 Prospect articles and every single one of them was a need for the Dolphins. Even worse, those 4 positions were all on offense (and when I write my offensive lineman one, that’ll make 5) that the Dolphins need. I realize we can probably get by without a speedy receiver and a new tight end, but will we really be Super Bowl contenders without them? Doubtful. Sorry die hards, the Dolphins are further away from being contender then any of us care to admit.

With that said, I will move onto the tight ends. By pretty much the accounts of all draft experts, this is an extremely weak tight end class. Many of them aren’t sure if there will even be one tight end drafted in first round. Anthony Fasano has performed admirably for the Dolphins, but he isn’t the big threat this team needs. More and more these days, the tight end is becoming a bigger part of offensive game plans, and I’m sorry but Fasano isn’t a player that needs to be game planned for. I expect the Dolphins to look for a tight end somewhere in the draft, and therefore I give you the top 10 tight end prospects of the 2011 NFL Draft:

1. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame 6’6, 265 lbs

Even while missing the final 7 games of the season with a hamstring season, Rudolph took advantage of a weak draft class and declared early. While not the “can’t-miss” prospect that we’ve seen in years past, Rudolph is a solid playmaker. He has great size and uses it to his advantage. He can catch the ball well and is an excellent route runner. He has the ability to go up the seam and make plays. He does have good size, but needs to bulk up a little to be consistent blocker in the NFL. He also is a leader in the locker room and has a good character. Concerns go back to his injury history. He missed nine games in three seasons with shoulder and hamstring problems. In a weak class, Rudolph could sneak into the first round, but more likely will  be an early second round selection.

2. D.J. Williams, Arkansas 6’2, 251 lbs

Winner of the Mackey Award (nation’s top TE), Williams is a seam stretcher. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you want to look at it that way), his size will keep him from going too high or being an every down player in the NFL. However, that could be just what the Dolphins are looking for. Even at 6’2, Williams is a tenacious blocker. He won’t be able to overpower the big defensive linemen, but he won’t have to. With the NFL moving away from the traditional tight end and more towards the pass catching, fast tight ends, Williams could end up a star. He could be a perfect fit for the Dolphins, who have Fasano to run the short routes and stay in and block, and Williams to run the intermediate routes and catch the longer passes. He has great hands and isn’t afraid to take a hit. If Williams is around in the 2nd or 3rd round, the Dolphins should not overlook him.

3. Luke Stocker, Tennessee 6’6, 253 lbs

For a guy Stocker’s size, you’d expect him to be an excellent blocker and not so great with his hands. The exact opposite is true of Stocker. He has soft hands and has shown he can be a good pass-catcher. He has the ability to come back towards the ball and at 6’6, he is a load for defensive backs to bring down. In the open field, he is a long-strider and can leap defenders. Unfortunately for Stocker, his downfall is his blocking. He has good initial burst, but lack of upper body strength makes it difficult for him to sustain blocks and set the edge. Stocker will prove a valuable asset to a team that needs a tight end to get them first downs. However, he is pretty slow and cannot stretch the seam. He will probably be a mid-second, early-third rounder.

4. Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin 6’3, 247 lbs

Kendricks needed to improve upon his combine results at his pro day, and he did just that. He ran a 4.50 (4.66 at the combine) and improved his vertical from 34 1/2 to 38 inches. He is undersized for a tight end, but is a good blocker and a decent receiver. He won’t wow you with his speed and doesn’t make many people miss in the open field, but he is consistent. He projects as a third rounder at the moment.

5. Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic 6’5, 248 lbs

Housler could be a sneaky name on the second day of the draft. As a freshman at FAU, Housler arrived on campus as a 218 pound wide receiver. Since then, he has put on 30 pounds and now looks the part of a tight end. Also, he managed to run an impressive 4.46 at the combine and notched a 38 inch vertical. Housler is ideally what the Dolphins are looking for. He is strong enough to be a decent blocker, but certainly has the speed to be a threat down the middle as well. What impresses me most about him though, is his maturity. In 2009, at his team’s request he sat the entire season because of a logjam at the tight end position. While most college players would be upset, Housler dedicated himself to the practice squad and worked hard, and was named the starter for the 2010 season. He is still raw though, and would not be an every down player in the NFL. He could go anytime between the 3rd-5th rounds.

6. Jordan Cameron, USC 6’5, 254 lbs

Cameron has only played the position for one year, but he has excellent hands and has been impressive in pre-draft workouts. He will be taken between the 3rd-5th rounds

7. Virgil Green, Nevada 6’3, 249 lbs

Green is another who has had some excellent workouts. He had a productive career at Nevada, and certainly has the frame to be a tight end at the next level. He can catch the ball, but is going to need some work as a blocker. Another tight end to be taken between the 3rd-5th rounds.

8. Andre Smith, Virginia Tech 6’5, 269 lbs

Smith can block with the best of them, but he is slow and probably won’t be the featured tight end on any team. However, for any team that uses a lot of two tight end sets, Smith will fit right in. He will go between the 4th-6th rounds.

9. Julius Thomas, Portland State 6’4, 246 lbs

Thomas spent most of his time playing for the Portland State basketball team. In his one and only year of college football, he managed almost 500 yards receiving and two TD’s. He will be a 5th-6th rounder.

10. Weslye Saunders, South Carolina 6’5, 270 lbs

Saunders is an absolute monster, and some reading may wonder why he isn’t higher. He was suspended and kicked off the Gamecock team in 2010. While he can be a matchup nightmare for some defenses, his character concerns and lack of a workout at the combine have taken him off some boards. For a team willing to take a shot in the late rounds, this could be a high risk/high reward type of pick.

The Dolphins need somebody who can stretch the field, and we know Anthony Fasano is not that guy. I love D.J. Williams, but he’ll probably be off the board too early for the Dolphins to realistically take him. If they decide in the middle rounds that they want to draft a TE, I hope they go after Rob Housler. His character and work ethic make him not only an ideal teammate on the field, but off it as well. He is certainly fast enough to stretch the field, and that is what the Dolphins need. He should be available in the middle of the draft for the Dolphins to grab.

This may be the most forgotten position of this entire offseason, but I believe it is one of the most important for the Dolphins to address. What do you think?

Other Top 10 Prospects:

Quarterback

Running Back

Wide Receiver

Twitter – @notquiterosey

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Tags: Andre' Smith Anthony Fasano D.J. Williams Jordan Cameron Julius Thomas Kyle Rudolph Lance Kendricks Luke Stocker Miami Dolphins Rob Housler Tight Ends Top 10 Prospects Virgil Green Weslye Saunders

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