Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame was the only tight end selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, and it’s entirely possible that there will be a repeat this year. Eric Ebron from the University of North Carolina is considered the only likely first-round choice in a tight end class that appears to fall off after the first few prospects.
Jace Amaro from Texas Tech and Austin Seferian-Jenkins from the University of Washington are the two tight ends most often mentioned after Ebron, and both have an outside chance of getting selected in the first round. A total of 16 tight ends were drafted last year, with Eifert and Houston Texans sixth-round pick Ryan Griffin the only two to start eight games or more in 2013.
The Dolphins have drafted a tight end each of the last three years — Dion Sims
in the fourth round in 2013, Michael Egnew
in 2012 and Charles Clay
in 2011. In their history, the Dolphins have taken 35 tight ends in the draft, but none in the first round. Miami has drafted three tight ends in the second round — Jim Mandich in 1970, Andre Tillman in 1974 and Loaird McCreary in 1976. BREAKING DOWN THE TOP TIGHT END PROSPECTS (In Alphabetical Order)
Jace Amaro entered the draft as an underclassman after enjoying a breakthrough, record-breaking performance in 2013. After catching 32 passes in his first two seasons at Texas Tech, Amaro set a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) single-season record for a tight end in 2013 with 1,352 receiving yards. He caught 106 passes on the season and finished with seven touchdowns. A first-team All-American selection, as well as a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award (best tight end) and Biletnikoff Award (best receiver), Amaro is an elite pass-catcher who’s at his best when lined up in the slot. His numbers in 2013, though, were boosted by Texas Tech’s wide-open offensive scheme.
Like Amaro, Eric Ebron entered the draft as an underclassman. Ebron was a two-year starter at North Carolina and last season he set an ACC record for tight ends with 973 receiving yards, breaking the mark that belonged to Vernon Davis. Ebron actually has been compared to Davis, although he doesn’t quite have the freakish athletic ability that made Davis the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. A second-team All-American and John Mackey Award semifinalist last season, Ebron enjoyed his best college performance against the University of Miami in 2013 when he had eight catches for 199 yards and a touchdown.
C.J. Fiedorowicz may not be an elite athlete, but he’s dependable and he’s consistent. The 2013 first-team All-Big Ten selection ended his four-year career at the University of Iowa with a 31-game streak with at least one reception, the second-longest streak among active FBS tight ends. Fiedorowicz followed that up by being named the Most Outstanding Receiver during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Fiedorowicz’s reception total dropped from 45 to 30 between his junior and senior years at Iowa, but he had a career-best six touchdown catches last fall. Fiedorowicz does not have great speed, but he’s got reliable hands and he’s among the better blocking tight ends in this year’s draft.
While he’s not yet considered on a par with the top three tight ends in this class, Troy Niklas just might have the most upside of anybody available at the position. Niklas is a relative novice at the position, having moved from outside linebacker in the spring of 2012. After starting seven games as a sophomore that fall, Niklas started all 13 games in 2013 and caught 32 passes for 498 yards and five touchdowns while earning a nod as a John Mackey Award semifinalist. Niklas has NFL bloodlines — his uncle is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews. While it was a surprise that he declared for the draft as an underclassman given his lack of experience at the position, Niklas should continue the Notre Dame tradition of producing quality NFL tight ends.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been viewed as a bona fide NFL prospect from the time he arrived at the University of Washington as a two-sport star. Even though he won the John Mackey Award last season as a junior, Seferian-Jenkins actually saw his production dip as he went from 69 catches for 852 yards in 2012 to 36 catches for 450 yards. Seferian-Jenkins had to undergo foot surgery in the offseason after medical testing at the scouting combine discovered a stress fracture. Seferian-Jenkins, the first athlete in almost a decade to play football and basketball for the University of Washington, is a gifted pass-catcher with the size to create matchup problems even though he doesn’t possess elite speed. THE BEST OF THE REST (In Alphabetical Order)Joe Don Duncan
Dixie State Crockett Gillmore
Colorado State Xavier Gimble
USC Arthur Lynch
Georgia Marcel Jensen
Fresno State BREAKING DOWN THE TIGHT END CLASSOther small-school prospects to watch:
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State; Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts NFL bloodlines:
Utah’s Jake Murphy is the son of former baseball star Dale Murphy and the brother of former Dolphins draft pick Shawn Murphy … New Haven’s Michael Flacco is the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco … Cal’s Richard Rodgers is the son of Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers, who was one of the Cal players involved in “The Play,” the five-lateral kickoff return at the end of John Elway’s last game at Stanford in 1982. Long shot to watch:
Colt Lyerla was considered a blue-chip prospect entering the 2013 season, but he was suspended for a game by Oregon for a violation of team rules, later left the team, then was arrested in October on cocaine possession charges. Despite all that, Lyerla was invited to the scouting combine.