By Shane Hallam – 4/3/10
Something I have discussed ad nauseam with draft experts, fans, and friends is the Tight End crop in this year’s draft class. The group as a whole is diverse, talented, and one of the best crops we have seen in years. I break down the class into four distinct groups:
1. Pass-Catchers: Guys who are purely there to catch balls and be match-up nightmares. No blocking for the group here. Players in this group are Aaron Hernandez, Dorin Dickerson, Jimmy Graham, Dennis Pitta, Garrett Graham, Ed Dickson, etc.
2. Blockers: Guys who will be the inline blockers that teams look for to contribute in run and pass blocking. Likely #2 TEs whose contributions go unseen by many fans. Players in this group are Michael Hoomanawanui, Colin Peek, Brody Eldridge, Nate Byham, etc.
3. Complete Package: Guys who can block as well as catch passes. Your tried and true #1 TEs who can do it all, but likely have other issues (often medical,) Players in this group are: Jermaine Gresham, Rob Gronkowski, Tony Moeaki, Clay Harbor, etc.
Now that we have these groupings, where do they all go? This question remains because the talent is absurd. There is very little difference between Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta as pass catching TEs. There is very little difference between Michael Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, and Colin Peek as blockers. There is very little difference between Rob Gronkowski and Tony Moeaki from the players in the other two groups if a team is looking for a specialized player. This is why on draft day, these Tight Ends may fall, and it could look very similar to last season
Jermaine Gresham will play the Brandon Pettigrew role here. A Tight End whose value is easily in the Top 20 of the draft. A Physical player who is an underrated blocker, both Gresham and Pettigrew could be game changers for the offense that selects them. Gresham is probably a more polished receiving threat as well, and without injury, could have been a Top 15 pick. Instead, he may end up in the late 1st round to a team like the Bengals, Patriots, or Ravens as a steal for years to come.
Now imagine you are a team like the Miami Dolphins. You addressed defense in the first round, and know that you want to grab a Tight End at some point to bring in and compete. Also, imagine you are the Baltimore Ravens who missed out on Jermaine Gresham in the first, but want to find a starting TE in this draft. Do you take Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski in Round 2? Or do you wait two rounds and see who falls?
This is where value comes into play. Yes, in most drafts, a complete player like Gronkowski or an elite pass catcher like Hernandez are early 2nd round values, in this draft, these teams will wait until their horizontal board is almost up. They will wait for teams to snatch Hernandez, Gronkowski, Dickerson, and Jimmy Graham in the 3rd round. Then in the 4th or 5th, they can get Dennis Pitta or Tony Moeaki and be perfectly content. Does this mean the players going in the 4th or 5th aren’t very talented? Not at all, it is all about value.
Compare this to the weak Quarterback or Cornerback class at the top, and you’ll see those positions flying off the board much earlier than value indicates. Don’t be fooled if a good Tight End is selected in the 5th round, it only means that team was smart to wait.