by David Syvertsen
The tight end market in this year’s class will be heavy on underclassmen. The senior group, however, is under the radar at this point. I’ve had some difficulty locating the guys that have the big time potential to be consistent receiving threats as the position is becoming a vital component to the league’s top aerial attacks. There are a few of those senior prospects that have raised my eyebrows on a couple of occasions though.
Travis Kelce – Cincinnati – 6’6/260
Huge frame, NFL ready. Carries the weight comfortably and moves exceptionally well when in full stride. Can run away from most linebackers, even some safeties. Natural pass catcher, makes it look easy with big, strong hands that swallow the football. A guy you can send downfield in to the seam and come down with the ball. Tough runner after the catch, really makes it tough for a defensive back to bring him down alone. Not a savvy route runner that finds the vacant windows against a zone defense on third down. Can block linebackers in space, but not a guy that dominates the defensive ends. Kelce plays Friday night against South Florida.
Joseph Fauria – UCLA – 6’7/255
The best red zone threat I’ve seen in college football this year. Incredibly long with big hands. Not a smooth pass catcher but gets the job done. Does not have the balance to get in and out of breaks with any sort of quickness, almost looks awkward at times. Understands how to use the size difference to his advantage and almost looks like he can toy with whoever he wants. Guys that show this kind of dominance here and there, even though not consistent, are always worth a hard look. Right now a limited weapon to the offense but upside is enormous. UCLA faces off against Stanford Saturday night. You can watch junior Zach Ertz as well, whom many consider to be the top tight end in the country.
Justice Cunningham – South Carolina – 6’4/264
Known for his blocking abilities. Plays with a lot of low power. Great usew of leverage and gets a strong initial punch. Understands a lot of the little nuances of blocking on the edge. Valuable asset there. Has been used more and more as the season progressed as a receiver. Formerly a simple 1 catch for 7 yards kind of receiver. Now a guy that can make incredible catch on a week in, week out basis. Tough as nails over the middle. Sneaky quickness about him. Very good at finding the holes of a defense when running up the seam or across the linebackers. Nothing overly special about Cunningham, but he does all the little things well. Has a true, NFL ready physical presence about him.
Ryan Griffin – Connecticut – 6’6/247
Has graded out as the top run blocking tight end in the class to this point. Has much more potential than that however. Lacks the fluidity in his lower half to run sharp routes, but he has tremendous body control in traffic when the ball is thrown his way. Has been making big plays throughout the season. Strong presence over the middle that can play a physical style. Will be one of those rookies that has the impact right away. He’ll be playing at Louisville Saturday afternoon.