6 foot 6, 265 lbs, running at you with a speed of 4.65 secs for his 40 time. Those stats are for the #1 tight end in football last year, Rob Gronkowski (TE, Patriots). At the combine, “Gronk” (as he is called) knocked out 22 reps of the 225lb bench press event. In 2011, Gronk shattered records for tight ends, setting the record for most receiving yards in a single season by a tight end (1,327 yards), and also breaking the record for the most touchdown catches in a single season by a tight end (17 TD’s). Gronk did not accomplish this all by himself, and had help from Three-time Superbowl Champion QB Tom Brady, but more importantly from fellow TE, Aaron Hernandez.
Having two equally talented passing threats as tight ends allows for multiple mismatches in the secondary. Although Gronk is not faster than many safeties, or corner backs, he’s much taller at 6’6″. Aaron Hernandez aids in the mismatches with his large frame (6’1″, 245lbs) and his receiving ability. Having one all-star tight end can help a team, but having two will completely obliterate opponents, like the Patriots did. I’m not one to take away from someone elses victory, but this past Superbowl would have been a different story if Gronk would have had a healthy ankle.
There are two prospects that intrigue me that will hear their name called April 26th or 27th (these two won’t last the 3rd day).
Coby Fleener, 2nd team All-American tight end out of Stanford has the size (6’6″, 245lbs) and speed (4.45″ 40 yard dash) of an elite WR. He averaged just under 20 yards a catch his senior season, and can line up in the slot, out wide, or in line. His hands are amazing, full of one handed grabs in traffic. What really impressed me as I watched his film against Norte Dame this year, was his hustle. His QB, Andrew Luck threw a duck as he was hit, that ended up being intercepted. Using that 4.45 speed, Fleener chased down the linebacker that intercepted it, and tried to strip the ball as he tackled him, preventing a touchdown.
Later in that game, Fleener caught a pass about 14 yards short of the end zone and carried his would-be tackler along for a six-point ride. Later in the game, Fleener runs a vertical route and gives the covering safety a small outside move, causing the safety to trip over himself and Fleener caught a pass for another 6 points.
The only way I see our Dallas Cowboys drafting Fleener, is if they trade down in the draft. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea, but they might be able to get a deal that’s too good to refuse to move up. Simple economics, more teams want to move down in the draft to gain picks gives more advantage to teams wanting to move up at better deals. Fleener would be an excellent pair with Jason Witten, however it might be a luxury that we are unable to afford; especially with needs in our defensive secondary that need to be addressed.
Our 2nd draft prospect is Dwayne Allen, tight end from Clemson. He earned 1st team All-American honors this past year, but his combine performance (especially a disappointing 4.89″ 40 time) dropped his draft stock behind Fleener. Watching his tape reel, he reminds my of Antonio Gates (without the injuries). His playing speed looks a lot faster than the 4.89″ he ran at the combine. His leaping ability is incredible as well. Clemson used him a lot as an H back, having him run routes out of the backfield and sometimes chipping the DE or rushing OLB. His blocking seems to be a little bit better than Fleeners, and probably due to his bulkier frame (6’3″, 255lbs).
Now we also have John Phillips penciled in as the #2 tight end, and had it not been for a pre-season ACL tear in 2010, Phillips might have overtaken recently departed Martellus Bennett sooner. Phillips has good size (6’5″, 261) and has been with TE coach John Garrett (yes, Jason Garrett’s brother) since 2005 when John Garrett was coaching at Virginia. Roster churn is always a good thing, and I’ve always thought that Phillips was a decent pass catcher, but hardly had the opportunity with Bennett getting most of the 2nd TE reps.
All three are possibilities for our 2nd TE, and only time will tell who will get the backup nod to future Hall of Famer, Jason Witten.