The tight end position is one that the Baltimore Ravens may take a closer look at during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. They drafted Crockett Gillmore in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He made the best of the opportunity that was presented to him after incumbent tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a season ending hip injury. Pitta’s status for next season is still uncertain. Owen Daniels was the leading receiver from the tight end position last season and he is set to become a free agent. The tight end situation definitely warrants a lot of attention at the Combine.
There are a number of tight ends in this draft that can come in and contribute right away. Here are the top five tight ends for the Ravens to watch at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine:
Clive Walford, Miami. Walford is a player that fits in with the Ravens in a variety of ways. He is a capable blocker that can be a presence in the zone scheme. There were times when Walford literally drove linebackers off of the ball, opening up a crease for Duke Johnson. Scoring in the red zone was one of the areas that needed improvement for the Ravens. Walford is a red zone threat because of his big body. He has long arms and very strong hands. Walford completely dominated during red zone one on one segments at Senior Bowl practices. When asked about it after practice, he simply said; “It’s too easy. It’s like stealing candy from a baby.” He can line up in numerous places on the field and would give the Ravens a viable double tight end package. His performance in the gauntlet drill will be key for him as he needs to show that he is able to catch the ball consistently and more naturally.
Maxx Williams, Minnesota. Williams is another red zone improvement for the Ravens. He can be used in a Rob Gronkowski type of role by lining him up over top of the numbers. He has the combination of size and athleticism to muscle up smaller defensive backs or outrun most linebackers. Williams will stretch defenses because of his ability to get open down field on seam routes as well. His blocking could use some improvement as he often times makes blocks by simply getting in the defender’s way. Williams could really improve his stock if he is able to run in the 4.5 range when he is clocked in the 40 yard dash.
Nick O’Leary, Florida State. O’Leary is one of those players that is good at almost everything. He won’t jump out to people in any particular area but he was a steady option in the Florida State passing game over his career. O’Leary can line up in the slot or in line. He would be a target especially on third downs because of his sure hands and ability to get open quickly within his route. O’Leary is able to block well in both the running and passing game.
Ben Koyack, Notre Dame. Koyack wasn’t used on seam routes as much as he should have been while at Notre Dame. He has a big body (6-5, 254lbs) that naturally creates a pocket for the quarterback to drop the ball into. He does a very good job of catching the ball with his hands. Koyack won’t give you too much after the catch but could be a weapon to move the chains. He should be able to create separation on underneath routes especially against man defense. He seemed to be a reliable part of the run blocking game as well. Koyack was able to seal the edge for running backs, allowing them to get to the outside. It would not be a surprise if his career as a pro is more accomplished than his college career. It will take him landing on the right team for that to happen.
Tyler Kroft, Rutgers. Kroft is 6-6, 240 pounds but moves like a wide receiver. He was used a lot in a tight flex position up on the line of scrimmage. That allowed him to take advantage of his ability to get a good release off the line of scrimmage. Kroft could be a big time threat running the skinny post from the flex position. He has surprising speed that may catch defenders off guard because he will get up on them quicker than they think. Kroft is also a willing blocker. Although he is aggressive, Kroft may want to add more weight to fill out his frame. That would have to have over a time so as to not lose speed.
Wildcard: Devin Funchess, Michigan. Funchess is a wildcard because it is still unclear where he will play at the next level. His size allows him to be a big receiver but he could also be one of the better move tight ends in this class. He is truly a hybrid player.
Don’t forget: Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State. Heuerman is a vertical threat that can be used to work the seams. He could also use his natural ability to go up and get the ball on back shoulder throws when he lines up on the outside.
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