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2011 NFL Rookie Profiles: Tight Ends

A Dynasty look at the group of 2011 NFL Draft Tight Ends

The Tight End position is becoming popular again in the NFL...and on Fantasy rosters.  Teams are spreading the ball out more and we are seeing an emergence of TE's producing WR1-2 type numbers.  Beasts in the 6'5" - 260 lb range are abundant these days and their speed and overall athleticism make them matchup nightmares.  We are even seeing teams like the New England Patriots lining up in 2 TE sets, one as the traditional end (Rob Gronkowski) and the other who serves as more of an H-Back type (Aaron Hernandez).  This years class is considerably weak compared to the last few, but there is talent in this group and the trick in 2011 will be to decide when or if to make a move on one of these players in your Dynasty Rookie Draft.

Beast Potential
 
- A cornerstone only reserved for the truly elite prospects. Example from 2010 - Jermaine Gresham
Starter Potential - Will never be elite but a long term, reliable starter is a high probability. Example - Aaron Hernandez
Raw Product - This player has tremendous upside, but also comes with a huge amount of risk. If things break right, though, a Beast or definite starter could be had. Example - Jimmy Graham
Developmental Product - These players are extremely raw talents but possess the upside necessary to eventually grow into legit flex options and maybe someday weekly starters on your Dynasty roster. Example - Tony Moeaki

Kyle Rudolph

College:
 Notre Dame (Junior)
Height-Weight: 6'6" 259 lbs.
Upside: Starter Potential
Player Comparison: Brandon Pettigrew
Comments: Rudolph is currently considered the top TE in this year's group.  While he remains the TE with the most promising upside, we would have like to see him find the end zone more often (only 8 trips to the end zone in 3 seasons at ND) before we crown him the Beast of the 2011 TE group.  He missed the final 7 games of 2010 following hamstring surgery.  Add this to the 3 games he missed in 2009 and we begin to question his durability.  He is the most polished player in this group and you can expect someone in your league to reach for him some due to the overall lack of elite potential across the TE spectrum.
Tools/Skillset:  Rudolph did not participate in Combine workouts, however a quick look at game action and it's easy to see he is an big time field presence with noticeable measurables and a receiver type presence.  Rudolph is not a good blocker compared to his smooth receiving skills, so expect his role to be more focused on the passing game.  
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 2nd/3rd Round - Top 25 Selection

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Lance Kendricks

College:
 Wisconsin (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'3" 243 lbs.
Upside: Raw Product
Player Comparison: Owen Daniels
Comments: A superbly athletic Tight End, Lance Kendricks has the upside to be a legit receiving threat at the next level.  Kendricks will be appealing to a team looking for a TE that can line up all over the field filling the matchup nightmare role nicely.  Kendricks does not have the size to fill a role as a traditional in-line run blocker, so if he is to find the field early he will need to show exemplary receiving skills.  
Tools/Skillset:  As more of an H-Back rather than a traditional TE, Kendricks could grow to be a nice receiving option.  His 4.6 40 yard dash at the combine is no joke but his learning curve is surely a steep one.  He is an intelligent player however and shouldn't have a difficult time picking up complicated NFL schemes.  
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 3rd Round Selection

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Jordan Cameron

College:
 USC (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'5" 254 lbs.
Upside: Developmental Product
Player Comparison: Jimmy Graham
Comments: Jordan Cameron only caught 16 passes during his time at USC.  A transfer from BYU, Cameron brings his background in Basketball to the gridiron, where he will compete to carve himself a role at the next level.  Superbly athletic he was a top performer in nearly every event at the combine.  Cameron is a a pure upside pick that shouldn't be selected until late in your Dynasty Rookie Draft where he could, in three seasons, be considered a steal.  
Tools/Skillset:  Quicker than he is fast, we were most impressed by his 4.09 Short Shuttle at the Combine.  We compare him to Jimmy Graham based on his measurables, basketball background and limited collegiate football experience.  These two players have similar upside and we have always been very high on Jimmy Graham, so feel comfortable taking a late round shot on Cameron.    
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 3rd Round Selection

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Virgil Green

College:
 Nevada (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'3" 249 lbs.
Upside: Developmental Product
Player Comparison: Vernon Davis
Comments: Whoa!  Big time freak athlete here with underrated receiving skills.  Likely the most athletic of all TE's in this group.  While Green has plenty of upside, he is yet another H-Back type that won't likely establish himself without getting a grasp on the blocking aspect of the game.  
Tools/Skillset:  A great athlete that will not be prepared to handle blocking assignments at the next level.  He is a very intelligent player that is devoted to working hard and establishing himself as a leader in the locker room and not just a workout warrior at the combine - the primary reason for his comparison to Vernon Davis.  This player is surely worth taking a shot on, and maybe even reaching on a bit in the latest rounds of your Dynasty Rookie Draft.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 4th Round Selection

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Rob Housler

College:
 Florida Atlantic (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'5" 248 lbs.
Upside: Starter Potential
Player Comparison: John Carlson
Comments: Housler had a productive career at Florida Atlantic, but will need to continue to evolve his game as he makes a big talent jump to the NFL. He has the size, speed and athletic ability necessary to be a TE1 in the league, but lacks the upside to be a reliable blocker. That could limit his every down upside, but if he can be even passable, his receiving upside more than makes up for it. He can make plays after the catch and is a potential mismatch over the middle. 
Tools/Skillset: He needs to get stronger and concentrate more on route running, but the tools are in place for him to be a reliable receiving tight end. Possesses very good body control with the speed to burn linebackers and size to overpower safeties. 
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 4th Round Selection

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Luke Stocker

College:
 Tennessee (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'5" 258 lbs.
Upside: Raw Product
Player Comparison: Jason Witten
Comments: Luke Stocker will be drafted more for his overall skill set rather than any one particular significant asset. He has a good understanding of route concepts, but his overall lack of straight line speed will likely have him limited to short to mid range routes where he uses his football IQ to find seams in the defense rather than using pure athletcisim.  He's a tough player that is a struggle to tackle. 
Tools/Skillset: Reliable hands and a solid understanding of route concepts are the biggest upside factors for Stocker.  At the prototypical height weight for a TE, his 4.7 40 yard dash at the Combine was impressive.  He is currently not a reliable blocker, and his receiving skills are decent but not great.  There is a legit learning curve here, but Stocker is a big time leader in the locker room that will earn the respect of his teammates by playing through injury.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 4th Round Selection

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D.J. Williams

College:
 Arkansas (Senior)
Height-Weight: 6'2" 245 lbs.
Upside: Developmental Product
Player Comparison: Heath Miller
Comments: Williams is another member of this year's plethora of H-Back type TE players.  While there is some value here, the importance as a blocker at the TE position is still a must.  Williams, like many of the other top prospects in this year's TE class are going to have to work hard to improve their blocking just to stay on the field long enough to make a fantasy impact.
Tools/Skillset:  Not the fastest or most athletic player, but his hands provide his best intangible.  In a situation where Williams would fall to a team not looking for a traditional TE, Williams has the opportunity to grow into a decent fantasy asset.  Pay attention to how his blocking ability progresses.  Should he get decent in this skill set, his fantasy value will definitely increase, however we don't see his upside as high as most of the other TE's in this group.  
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 4th Round Selection

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Best of the Rest

Julius Thomas (Portland State) - Another of the trendy "Basketball" to "Tight End" prospects, Thomas has an ideal blend of size and speed. He led Portland State to two NCAA Tournaments and ended his career as their leading field goal leader.  He has the athleticism to make the leap and become one of this year's TE prospects to watch as the season (hopefully) goes on. Still raw in many facets of his game, he'll likely need a few seasons before making a significant impact, but Dynasty owners looking for the next big thing might want to take a shot. 
Player Comparison: Fendi Onobun
Upside: Raw Product
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 4th Round Selection

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Weslye Saunders (South Carolina) - Saunders has the bulk and athletic ability to be a solid TE, along with the baggage to flame out quickly. He's not very explosive and will not give you much after the catch, but he can block and has enough receiving upside to take a chance on. The past year has not been kind to Saunders, as his Draft stock has taken a nose dive. He was kicked off the Gamecocks in 2010 for lying to the NCAA twice during an investigation. Then, this offseason he fractured his foot and had surgery, which has had him once again on the sidelines. Some team will take a chance on his talent, likely in the latter half of the Draft. Never going to be a star, but a lunch pale type that could carve out a solid career.
Player Comparison: Daniel Graham
Upside: Developmental Product
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 5th Round Selection

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Daniel Hardy (Idaho) - Versatile threat that might be miscast as a true TE. He was one of the best tight ends in college football this past season, until he broke his arm midway through. Has less than adequate size and bulk, although athleticism is a big plus. He didn't play against many talented prospects in college and a learning curve can be expected. He does bring excellent hands, after the catch ability and speed to the field. He is a solid route runner that could develop into a pass catching weapon.
Player Comparison: Dustin Keller
Upside: Developmental Product
Dynasty Rookie Draft Grade: 5th Round Selection