Top Tight Ends in 2011 NFL Draft
by Eric Caldwell
(Melbourne, Florida )
The class of 2011 provides several intriguing prospects at the TE position. The top talents in this class excel primarily in possession situations, displaying soft hands and keen awareness. This class doesn’t include much depth, and I’d be surprised if more than 8 prospects are selected during the draft. Without further ado, here are my top-5 Tight Ends on the 2011 draft board.
(*Indicates an underclassman yet to declare)
1. Kyle Rudolph, Junior – Notre Dame
Rudolph was possibly the flashiest TE in college football during his tenure at Notre Dame, recording 90 receptions and over 1,000 receiving yards despite having his Junior season being slowed drastically by a hamstring injury. Rudolph’s 6’6”, 265lb frame makes him a remarkable physical specimen that will leave scouts drooling. The one blemish on Rudolph’s resume is his uninspired blocking, which will have to be corrected if he’s going to get over that coach’s hump at the next level. In a tight end class that features few prospects with a lot of potential, Rudolph is the lone exception that may be a first round pick.
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2. D.J. Williams, Senior – Arkansas
The Razorbacks’ slightly undersized safety-blanket turned in an especially impressive season in 2010, catching 54 balls for 627 yards and 4 scores while helping the Hogs to a berth in the Sugar Bowl. While Williams may be the most sure-handed TE we’ve seen in a while, I have major concerns about his speed and height. I see him as a late 3rd rounder at best, but he should excel if he lands in the right system.
3. Tyler Shoemaker, Junior – Boise St.*
Here we have another severely undersized prospect whose instinctive demeanor is his biggest asset. Standing at only 6’1”, he won’t be effective as a red-zone threat but Shoemaker has been rather dangerous in the screen game, showcasing surprising agility considering his stature.
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4. Weslye Saunders, Senior – South Carolina
Saunders was widely acclaimed the top tight end prospect during the 2010 off-season, but a cloudy disciplinary history and a Senior season in which his highlight real contains a lot of footage of him in street clothes on the sidelines has created a whole new dimension of concerns. On the upside, his quickness is unquestioned and he is a walking mismatch for opposing linebackers. I expect someone to take a chance on this redzone marauder early in the 5th round.
5. Lance Kendricks, Senior – Wisconsin
Lance Kendricks excelled during his Senior season, catching 43 balls for 663 yards and 5 touchdowns. He functioned primarily as a safety blanket for Scott Tolzien, displaying bold confidence and fabric-soft hands while leading the Badgers in receiving yards en route to an 11-1 regular season record.
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Here's some more NFL draft articles by Eric Caldwell: Draft Prospects for Patrick Peterson and Stevan Ridley
and SEC Offensive Line Prospects in 2011 NFL Draft