Tight end rankings for the 2013 NFL Draft

2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Tight Ends

3/18/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

With the evolution of players like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Jimmy Graham, general managers in the NFL are always on the lookout for the next versatile weapon at tight end. The 2013 draft class boasts a deep group of tight ends, and we could even see two selected in the first round - that hasn't happened since 2006 (Vernon Davis and Marcedes Lewis). Here are my rankings for the tight ends in this year's draft:

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Blog Photo - Tight end rankings for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame): Always considered one of the top prospects at his position, Eifert really separated himself from Stanford's Zach Ertz at the combine. Eifert finished top-five among tight ends in every drill, displaying his speed, strength, explosiveness, and quickness. When you throw in his 6'5'', 250 pound frame, it's easy to see why he is a nightmare to game plan against. He can line up all over the formation, overpowering defensive backs and blowing by linebackers. He's great at high-pointing the football, and will be a strong red zone option for whichever quarterback is fortunate enough to play with him at the next level. His blocking needs work, but he has the frame and effort level to become a viable in-line blocker.

2. Zach Ertz (Stanford): Though Eifert pulled away as the top prospect at the combine, it had nothing to do with Ertz giving a poor showing. Finishing second in bench press and third in the three-cone drill, Ertz displayed his combination of strength and quickness. He doesn't have the straight-line speed of Eifert, but is still capable of stretching the field. He uses his size (6'5'', 249) well to shield defenders from the ball and provide an easy target for the quarterback. He has a quick first step and is great at finding the soft spots in zone coverage. Like Eifert, he needs to work on his blocking, but has shown the willingness that scouts like to see.

3. Jordan Reed (Florida): It always seems annoying and cliche when a prospect is compared to a pro who played the same position at the same school, but I have to do it anyway. Reed reminded me of Aaron Hernandez from the moment I first saw him play. He's an extremely smooth athlete who can take a short pass and turn it into a big play. He does a great job of catching the ball while smoothly transitioning to an after-the-catch move. He doesn't have ideal size at 6'2'', but Hernandez is the same height and is obviously effective in the NFL. He is a relatively capable blocker and should get better if he can add some strength as a pro. He's a versatile player who will make a difference for an NFL offense.

4. Travis Kelce (Cincinnati): It was tough ranking Kelce, as he is not the same quality athlete as many of these other tight ends, but he is the second-best blocking tight end in this draft class. His biggest strength is creating holes in the run game, and a run-first team would be lucky to have him. His ability in the passing game is solid as well. While he doesn't have the explosiveness to effortlessly get open, he does have a wide catching radius and strong hands. He should be a viable security blanket at the next level, as well as a strong asset in the run game.

5. Gavin Escobar (San Diego State): Escobar is one of the most polarizing prospects at the tight end position. He's got great size at 6'6'', 254 and has fantastic hands, but is not explosive and lacks straight-line speed. His style in the passing game sort of reminds me of Jason Witten, who has obviously found plenty of success in the NFL. He may not blow past defenders, but he provides a large target, catches anything within range, and tows defenders as far as he can after the catch. Will he side-step a defender and blaze up the sideline for a big play? Absolutely not, but he is still a weapon due to his size and hands. He is a poor blocker, however, and hasn't shown much potential in that area.
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