by Russ Bliss (4/26/11)

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

This isn't a great class of pro prospects. Kyle Rudolph is the only one who appears to be ready to step in and start right away. The others are developmental prospects who either need to work on key areas of their game or lack the skills to really wow in the NFL. It's believed that some of the TE's in this draft class will be converted to FB or H-back instead of being asked to line up on the line of scrimmage. It's likely going to take a few years before we know if any of these TE's are going to make an impact in both the NFL and in fantasy football.  

1) Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame, 6'6", 259 lbs

Great size for the position and a natural hands catcher, Rudolph is the best TE in this class. He is a good blocker and won't just be a pass catcher. Has proven he's over a hamstring injury that derailed his 2010 season. While not speedy (4.79 in the 40) enough to really stretch the seam, his ball skills and size will make him a solid addition to a team's arsenal of weapons in the passing game.

Draft Projection: Late 1st/Early 2nd round

2) Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin, 6'3", 243 lbs

A former WR, Kendricks is a bit small for a traditional TE role in the NFL. But he is an excellent athlete with decent speed, good body control, and sure hands. Lacks strength for blocking on the line of scrimmage though and that makes him likely to be purely a pass catching TE at the pro level.

Draft Projection: Late 2nd/Early 3rd round

3) Luke Stocker, Tennessee, 6'5", 258 lbs

Good size and strength for the position, Stocker doesn't have any special traits that make him likely to become a great NFL TE. But he works hard, plays thru injury, has good hands, isn't afraid to take a hit, is a good blocker, and has the ability to get a little bigger. Not an impressive athlete, and doesn't have the speed to be a real threat deep, but should excel working underneath routes making more important NFL catches than fantasy catches.

Draft Projection: 3rd round

4) D.J. Williams, Arkansas, 6'2", 245 lbs

Few stories off the field for players in this draft are as compelling as Williams'. Struggling thru an abusive childhood you just cheer for this man to succeed in the NFL. His physical skill set is pretty impressive as he has excellent speed, is elusive after the catch, runs good routes, works hard to be a better blocker despite being smaller than traditional TE's, and has excellent character. The knock on Williams is that he is a bit smaller than you would like and while he gives good effort as a blocker he isn't as strong as bigger TE prospects. There's talk he could move to H-back or fullback, but his natural receiving abilities leads me to think he'll be a pass catching TE in the NFL.

Draft Projection: 3rd or 4th round

5) Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic, 6'5", 248 lbs

Housler has added some weight this off-season to improve his functional strength, but only time will tell if it worked as he is not known for his blocking ability. What he is known for is his rare timed speed for the position (4.55 in the 40) meaning he can stretch the seam. He'll be a clear mismatch for LB's and Safeties, but he needs to work on proving he can block before he'll be more than just a situational pass catching TE.

Draft Projection: Round 4


Check out Russ's other draft articles:

2011 NFL Draft Quarterbacks Preview

2011 NFL Draft Running Backs Preview

2011 NFL Draft Wide Receivers Preview