Monday, April 14, 2008

Solving Our Problems-Second Round Tight Ends

Unless anyone has any requests for profiles, I'm going to move on to the second round, which will likely be the most interesting round for the Vikings. I could see them drafting a defensive end, an offensive tackle, a corner back, a safety, a tight end or a wide receiver. I could also see them taking a quarterback, but if they picked one that high, it'd be an admission that the Tarvaris Revolution was a failure, something I doubt they're ready to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a quarterback in the later rounds, however, and see if they can catch Brady lightning in a bottle.

But I digress. One of the positional needs the Vikings could address in the second round is tight end. The passing game Brad Childress runs becomes a lot more potent with an effective tight end, something the Vikings did not have last year. Visanthe Siancoe only caught 27 passes for 323 yards and 1 touchdown, dropped some key catches, and generally didn't provide the value that the Vikings wanted from the position, with only a -10.9% DVOA and 0.5 DPAR. Luckily for the Purple, there are three good tight ends who might be available to them in the second round, Dustin Keller from Purdue, Martellus Bennett from Texas A & M and John Carlson from Notre Dame.

Dustin Keller, 6'3", 242 LBs, Purdue

Keller is a great athlete, with the strength you'd want from a lineman (2nd best bench press at the combine) and the body control and speed of a receiver. He's a little small for a tight end, but he's about the same size as Chris Cooley, so his height isn't that big of a deal. He has great speed for a tight end, running the fastest forty by a tight end at the combine (4.55 seconds) and has the agility and change of direction that you'd want out of a receiver, with a 4.14 second 20 yard shuttle, best amongst tight ends and better than all but three wide receivers. He's also shown the ability to make big plays after the catch, using his speed, strength and agility to break tackles and make defenders miss. He doesn't run the best routes though, and his hands are good, not great, as he didn't bring in every catch he should have. Still, he caught 68 passes for 881 yards and 7 touchdowns his senior year. His blocking needs a lot of work, however, as he doesn't attack defenders so much as catch them, and his cut blocking is sub par. Keller also has had some nagging injuries in college, but he was always willing to play through pain, showing off some of the intangibles that you want, and his work ethic and leadership skills are top notch.

Martellus Bennett, 6'7", 248 LBs-Texas A & M

Bennett might have the highest upside of any tight end in the draft. He's tall, has long arms and is still developing, having only recently dropped basketball (he declared for the NBA draft out of high school) to focus on football. Bennett has good hands and adjusts well to the ball, even if he still catches too many balls with his body, rather than his hands. Despite being raw, the combination of his height, good hands and good speed (4.68 forty, 7th amongst Tight Ends) allowed Bennett to have a productive junior year in 2007, catching 49 passes for 587 yards and 4 touchdowns. He isn't easy to bring down either, and he can get low and run over defenders or run right through arm tackles. His routes still need a ton of work, as he tends to round off his breaks, and isn't explosive going into or out of his routes. He is quick off the line, however, even when chipping a linebacker or end, which isn't surprising, as he is already a quality blocker, able to take on defensive linemen and linebackers, and he can still get better at it as his strength and technique improve. He's shown the work ethic that you want out of a raw player as well, and if he continues to improve in the NFL, he could be an elite tight end.

John Carlson, 6'5", 256 LBs, Notre Dame

Carlson, a Litchfield, MN native, would be the local favorite if chosen by the Vikings, but he had the least impressive season of the tight ends profiled here. After a junior year in which he caught 47 passes for 634 yards and 4 touchdowns, his senior year was disappointing. He only caught 40 passes for 372 yards and 3 touchdowns. How much of that was the massive decline in the players on Notre Dame's offense (including the graduation of Brady Quinn) and how much was due to his own poor play is the main question surrounding Carlson. He's got the height, long arms, athleticism, good hands and strength to be a very good tight end in the NFL. He isn't as fast as you'd like, however, only running a 4.72 forty at the combine. NFL safeties and linebackers won't have any trouble keeping up with him in the open field at that speed, even with his ability to run quality routes. He has good hands, but has a tendency to drop the ball because he doesn't secure it before starting to run with it, even though he isn't much of a threat in the open field. Also, he doesn't use his leverage that well in blocking, and needs to improve his technique. He should improve, because he is a hard worker and a leader, serving as a captain his senior year, but the question is whether his ceiling is high enough.

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