Dion Sims TE Michigan State #80
Size/Athleticism: Impressive all around size. Not an elite athlete compared to many of today’s tight ends, but for he has decent athleticism for his size. He’s surprisingly quick off the snap and can get over the top of the defense if they’re not paying attention.
Separation Skills: Definitely not a deep threat, but he is sneaky fast. He’s explodes off the snap and he will catch defenders napping occasionally and slip free on a go route. Not very crisp as a route runner. Struggles to separate from most athletic linebackers and safeties in man coverage. Overwhelming majority of his big plays at MSU came when he slipped into the soft spot in zone coverage – made a living finding that spot between linebackers and the deep safety.
Ball Skills: Fairly consistent hands. He’ll go up and pluck the ball at it’s high point and quickly secure it. Athletic enough to adjust to some poorly thrown balls and shows the quick reflexes to adjust to fastballs at short distances.
Blocking: A tough in-line blocker. Consistently finishes off his block. Needs to show more awareness and know whats happening around him. He can get to the second level easily, but he missed a lot of opportunities to pick up key blocks by losing focus. Overextends at times and ends up on the ground when more athletic linebackers avoid his initial pop.
Intangibles: Arrested and suspended in 2010 for his role in stealing over 100 laptops from Detroit Public School system.
Durability: Suffered a broken hand in 2011 but played through it. Missed time with an ankle injury in 2012.
Comments: Sims has an intriguing blend of size and athleticism. He isn’t the type of receiver who will consistently stretch the field or even establish himself as a consistent option in the passing game, but he does have the skills to potentially be a starter and a three-down tight end. If he can commit to developing as a blocker and really excel in that area, he’ll compare favorably to Martellus Bennett. His injuries and off-field issues could potentially concern some teams.
Vance McDonald TE Rice #88
Size/Athleticism: Lacks elite height but has the long arms and big hands to make up for it. Very well built. Among the strongest tight ends in this year’s class. Surprisingly dangerous after the catch. Rice frequently lined him up in the slot and used him on screens and quick passes in the flat.
Separation Skills: Lots of experience lining up in the slot helped develop his route running, but due to offensive system and quarterback play he wasn’t targeted downfield frequently.
Ball Skills: Shaky hands. He double catches the ball too often. On deeper routes, needs to do a better job high-pointing the ball. Lets the ball come to him and doesn’t always do a great job adjusting to the ball in the air.
Blocking: Limited experience as an in-line blocker, as he was frequently lined up in the slot at Rice. But he definitely has the strength and shows the effort to excel as a blocker against the run and in pass protection. He’s a physical blocker and really tries to finish guys off. Showed off his blocking skills at the Senior Bowl, and may have answered any questions that stemmed from his limited experience.
Intangibles: No positives or negatives of note.
Durability: Missed three games with toe injury in 2012.
Comments: McDonald has an intriguing skill set, but the way he was used at Rice raises some question as to how he’ll transition to the next level. He was basically a slot receiver at Rice, but built like an in-line tight end. But despite playing receiver, he was rarely targeted downfield. He lacks the athleticism to play the same role in the NFL, so he’ll need to improve upon his NFL tight end routes and also his in-line blocking skills. He also has very shaky hands, which further raises questions about his ability to contribute immediately. Overall, it’s easy to envision him developing into a quality starter, but he should be viewed as a developmental prospect.
Travis Kelce TE Cincinnati #18
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical build for a traditional tight end. He’s a tough, physical player and sort of a throwback tight end prospect. Not a great athlete, but he can contribute as a receiver. Lined up in the slot occasionally, but typically used as an h-back or traditional in-line tight end in Cincinnati’s offense.
Separation Skills: The vast majority of his receptions came on short and intermediate passes, he’s not a threat to stretch the field. Needs to give more effort coming back to the quarterback when a play breaks down. Noticed multiple times on film where he’ll basically give up on a play when his initial route doesn’t lead to anything, but the play is still continuing.
Ball Skills: He’ll drop a few passes, but he’s generally reliable. Not put in a lot of situations where he had to compete for the ball. Not one of the new-age tight ends who can be lined up wide as a red zone target, although he does use his size well and can shield defenders to make catches in traffic.
Blocking: Among a small handful of tight ends in this class that excel in this area. Lacks the size to really dominate, but he clearly takes pride in his blocking ability and he’s a nasty, physical player when he needs to be. He’s not one of these pass-catching tight ends that just tries to hold his own, he does his best to finish guys off.
Intangibles: A team leader. Intense player on the field.
Durability: Suffered an abdominal tear during 2013 offseason, forcing him to skip Senior Bowl and NFL Combine workouts.
Comments: Kelce is one of the most well-rounded tight end prospects in this year’s class and one of the few true three-down tight ends. He was on the field for just over 80 percent of Cincinnati’s snaps in 2012, demonstrating just how much the coaching staff trusted him in every aspect of the game. He won’t post the fantasy numbers to become a household name in the NFL, but he could be a Joel Dreessen-type player who is an asset as a blocker and a reliable target in the short passing game.
Gavin Escobar TE San Diego State #88
Size/Athleticism: Impressive height. Has a decent overall build and clearly has the strength to be an asset as a blocker. Not much of speed threat, but has the athleticism to adjust to the poorly thrown ball and shows nice body control on the sideline. Somewhat of a threat after the catch. SDSU used him on screens and quick passes in the flat occasionally to give him space to run.
Separation Skills: Straight-line speed is very average. He won’t run away from anyone, but he’s fast enough that you have to respect his ability to run the deeper routes. He’s shown the ability run crisp routes and does a nice job finding the weak spot in zone coverage.
Ball Skills: Reliable hands. Does a really nice job adjusting to poorly thrown balls. He’s shown the quick reaction skills to handle the quick release from a quarterback under pressure when he’s the check down option. Lacks the elite athleticism to be a real weapon in jump ball situations, but he does know how to use his size to shield defenders which makes him adequate in this area.
Blocking: Gives a strong effort, but like most college tight ends he struggles to sustain his blocks. Could benefit by adding a few pounds of muscle, so long as it doesn’t significantly cut down on his agility.
Intangibles: Nothing positive or negative of note.
Durability: Suffered a broken hand in 2011.
Comments: Escobar isn’t anything special as a prospect, but he’s fairly well rounded and can definitely contribute at the next level. His straight-line speed is very average, but he’s quick and agile for a guy his size, which he demonstrated at the combine with strong showings in the three-cone and short-shuttle drills. He’s not the next great pass-catching tight end, but if he improves his blocking, he could be a rare three-down tight end in this era.
Jordan Reed TE Florida #11
Size/Athleticism: Shorter than the average tight end. Won’t be great in red zone situations. Dangerous runner after the catch. He can break tackles but also has the athleticism and speed to make guys miss. Could be a dangerous weapon when used as an oversized receiver in the slot due to matchup issues.
Separation Skills: Route running is mediocre. He needs to be much quicker in his breaks to separate from more athletic linebackers. He also needs to show more awareness on the field, especially in zone coverage. He needs to recognize when he’s in the soft spot and make himself available to the quarterback. His routes are lazy when he knows he’s not the primary target.
Ball Skills: Reliable, but not elite hands. Has large hands for his size which undoubtedly helps. Not asked to compete for many jump balls in coverage, but seems to have the athleticism to excel in this area if given more opportunities.
Blocking: Blocking skills leave a lot to be desired. He’s just not big or strong enough to really be effective. Not very quick off the snap when blocking and struggles to get a consistent initial pop on the defender. He’s essentially an oversized receiver and will always struggle against defensive ends and bigger linebackers.
Intangibles: Benched during 2013 Sugar Bowl for his attitude. Showed a noticeable lack of effort at times during games and definitely isn’t the type of player you can rely on as a three-down tight end because he just doesn’t put in the effort when he’s not fully involved in the play.
Durability: Knocked out of 2012 Kentucky game with a shoulder injury but returned the following week. Missed time with a sprained ankle in 2011.
Comments: Reed is relatively new to the tight end position, after originally playing quarterback and then running back. With his size and athleticism, he’s essentially a clone of former Gator Aaron Hernandez. However, Reed lacks the maturity and fundamentals of Hernandez at this stage of his career. He definitely has the raw tools to be a weapon at the next level, but development is needed in multiple areas of his game. He would purely be a luxury pick if selected before the third day of the draft.