2013 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

Much like last year, the 2013 TE draft class boasts guys who could excel in the NFL's new way of using them mostly as receiving weapons. But also like last year, there may not be one guy who provides an immediate impact. It's just hard to tell. The top 2 TE's from last season (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) both ended up playing with a rookie QB and their production wasn't what was hoped for. The same thing could happen again this year where the expectations are higher than the actual production. It may take another year or two before any of these guys become forces for fantasy purposes.  

1) Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame: Eifert grades out as this draft's top TE prospect possessing both the requisite size (6'6", 250 lbs) and better than average speed for the position (4.68 in the 40). Eifert is a natural hands catcher who can line up in the slot or set out wide. He uses his physical nature to catch the ball in traffic. Good effort blocking, but not as strong a blocker as what has been considered from the traditional TE's of yore. He'll give top effort and while he isn't an elite type of prospect, he's the best bet to immediately challenge for TE1 status on fantasy football rankings. At the very least, he should be a high upside backup depending on what team drafts him.  
Projected round: 1

2) Zach Ertz, Stanford: At 6'5", 249 lbs, Ertz is more a ramped up WR in a TE's body. He improved his poor 4.76 combine 40 time at his pro day by running in the mid 4.6's. Many think he is a better overall prospect than former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener, but Ertz lacks the experience Fleener had. Ertz is a willing blocker, but not lacks the strength to line up and take on outside DE/LB's consistently. He is definitely more of a pass catching TE and can beat smaller DB's, and slower LB's with his athleticism. Ertz is very much like many of the current NFL TE's who excel at catching passes.
Projected round: 1-2

3) Vance McDonald, Rice: McDonald is a guy to watch out for on draft day as he is likely to be the 2nd or 3rd TE drafted. He possesses excellent size (6'4", 267 lbs) and speed (4.69 in the 40) for the position. Often line up in the slot or out wide, McDonald runs good routes and is strong with the ball in his hands. There's the one thing about McDonald that needs work though: his hands. They are inconsistent as he drops too many easily catchable balls. Might need a little bit of time, but McDonald has a lot of the physical traits teams are looking for in having a receiving weapon at the TE position.
Projected round: 2

4) Gavin Escobar, San Diego State: Excellent size at 6'6", 254 lbs, Escobar is yet another of the new generation of TE's who are better pass catchers than they are blockers. Escobar could have ranked higher than this if not for a surprisingly slow 4.84 in the 40. It's believed that he plays faster than his timed speed and will be used to stretch the seam in the middle of the field anyway. If he proves his 40 time is irrelevant, he could be on the field as a receiving weapon a lot. But despite his size, he is not a good blocker and will need work on that.
Projected round: 2-3

5) Jordan Reed, Florida: Draws many comparisons to another former Florida Gator TE, Aaron Hernandez. At 6'3", 236 lbs, Reed lacks traditional TE size but will excel as a move TE shifting between being a WR and a TE. Has excellent after the catch running abilities and can be used occasionally as a rushing threat even. Reed isn't much of a blocker though (as you would expect from his lack of size) and is still a bit raw for the position after bouncing around throughout college. But with time and patience, he could be even better for fantasy stats than some of those ranked above him.
Projected round: 3

Others to keep an eye on:

Travis Kelce, Cincinnati: Good overall skills and flashes speed, but character concerns could make teams wary of drafting him too high.

Dion Sims, Michigan State: Big frame but slow footed, Sims has size to both block and be a red zone threat, but not likely to move the chains as a pass catcher regularly.

Chris Gragg, Arkansas: Fastest TE at the combine, Gragg has H-Back/TE capabilities and could be a later round steal

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