by Russ Bliss (4/19/12)

This isn't a banner class for Tight Ends this year. More NFL teams are looking for taller, faster guys who catch the ball really well instead of the traditional blocking TE's who also catch a couple of passes and while there are a few like that in this class, there's only one that is a top prospect of that type. There are a couple of guys who could develop into surprises, but they also carry a bit of bust factor to them as well. There are a few who will be in the NFL for a long time, and maybe have a good year or two, but most have the feel of being non-factors for fantasy football purposes.  

1) Coby Fleener, Stanford: Fleener is almost the prototype for the new type of receiving TE in the NFL. Tall, fast, great hands, good route runner; Fleener can stretch the seam and will expose soft spots in opposing defenses and will be difficult for LB's to cover because of his speed while DB's will have a hard time with his height. The only problem is that while he is willing to block, he lacks the physicality to be a drive blocker and that could mean he is a situational player. If he adds a little more weight and gets more physical blocking opponents, Fleener can be a complete TE. The way the position has developed the last couple of seasons in the NFL, Fleener's skills means he has a chance to make an immediate fantasy impact as a borderline starting TE as a rookie if he gets drafted by the right team. Likely to be drafted somewhere between the late first round and middle second round.

2) Dwayne Allen, Clemson: A more complete TE than Fleener, but not nearly as threatening as a receiver. Possesses good, but not great size, very reliable hands, and an ability to be a competent blocker, but lacks the speed to be a true downfield threat. Is a bull after making the catch and fights hard to not go down. Lacks the wow factor of an impact player, but should be a serviceable, reliable TE in the NFL with a chance to surprise. Probably will be drafted somewhere between the middle second round to the early third round.

3) Michael Egnew, Missouri: While he'll likely be compared to other former Missouri TE's that were supposed to succeed in the NFL but face-planted (Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker) Egnew stands a good chance to stick and be productive in the NFL. Egnew possesses very good size and excellent speed to go with reliable hands. His route running is a question as he often lined up as a slot receiver in college instead of an on the line TE, but you can't teach great pass catching ability and he has that. Not a tenacious blocker at all and unless he dedicates himself to becoming a more complete TE he could end up just being a receiving TE who isn't on the field as often as he should be. Very intriguing boom prospect as a receiving TE who could be worth keeping an eye in fantasy circles depending on where he ends up. Projected to go late round 2 to the middle of round 3.

4) Orson Charles, Georgia: Once considered the best TE in this draft class, poor workouts and an arrest for DUI have likely derailed his chances of being one of the first 3 TE's drafted. Charles simply lacks speed and is shorter than ideal for the position. His measurables just aren't that impressive. He does have good hands though, runs good routes, and is a solid blocker. However his limitations make him a better NFL TE prospect with low ceiling stats wise than a guy who will make noise in fantasy football.

5) Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette: Green could be the super sleeper of this TE draft class. Tall, exceptionally fast, long arms, all combine to make him a legitimate receiving threat at the position that NFL teams are leaning towards now. The problem is he is raw as a route runner and lacks the bulk or attitude to be an effective blocker at all. Green is more like a king sized WR at 6'5", 238 lbs than he is a true TE. He has the body type to put on weight though and if he does, along with learning how to run better routes and not be as lazy making his cuts, watch out for this guy. Likely to be a third round pick in the NFL Draft.