Raymond Summerlin

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NFL Draft Cheatsheet: TEs

Friday, May 02, 2014

NFL draft season is an exciting time filled with DraftBreakdown cut-ups, egocentric Twitter wars, and ridiculous anonymous “scout” quotes. There are very few things I love more.

It is difficult at times, however, to wade through the oceans of scouting reports to find the pearls of useful fantasy information. To that end, I have created this NFL Draft Cheat Sheet to answer every important question about the wide receivers that will hear their names called this May.

In case you missed it, here are my Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver Cheat Sheets.

Who is the best?

North Carolina TE Eric Ebron is the best tight end in this year’s draft and I do not think it is particularly close.

Before I even saw Ebron my ears were perked by the comparisons to Vernon Davis, and thankfully Ebron did not disappoint once the tape came on. He is a fluid, smooth athlete with speed to threaten the defense vertically, though he does not even come close to the speed Davis possesses. Ebron is dynamic after the catch and has the ability to turn catches underneath the coverage into home-run plays.

My one concern with Ebron centers on his consistency. He has the ability to make highlight reel catches and has done so on many occasions, but he needs to catch the ball more consistently. He had a tendency to drop contested catches and showed a lack of concentration at times. These concerns are not minor, but they can be fixed.

Even with the concerns, Ebron is easily the best tight end in this class and should come off the board early in the first round.

Who will contribute most as a fantasy player in year one?

There will obviously be a top fantasy contributor from the tight end position, but the real answer to this question is no one. Very rarely do rookie tight ends make a big impact in the NFL, and even more rarely do they make an impact in fantasy football.

Since 2000, only two rookie tight ends have managed to crack the 100-fantasy-points barrier. Rob Gronkowski did it in 2010 on the back of ten touchdowns, and Jeremy Shockey just inched past the line in 2002 with a 74-894-2 campaign. John Carlson put up 92 points in 2008, and that was matched by Aaron Hernandez’ 92 in 2010. After that, the rookie tight end record book is bleak.

This is not to say rookie tight ends cannot succeed. The NFL is utilizing the tight end much more today than ever, and many of these rookies will be viewed as plug-in weapons. Jordan Reed, for instance, was likely on his way to 100 points last season before a concussion derailed his season, and Tim Wright and Zach Ertz both had solid campaigns.

The bigger point is not to overvalue these tight ends in redraft leagues. It is extremely unlikely any of them turn into consistent fantasy performers in 2014.

Who has the most upside?

There are a ton of reasons not to trust Oregon TE Colt Lyerla, but on talent alone he may be the best tight end in this draft.

Lyerla is on par with anyone in this class in terms of athleticism. He has excellent speed for the tight end position and great agility and burst for his size. Lyerla does not have a ton of experience running routes, but he is smooth and quick enough to gain separation. He has all the speed necessary to threaten the seam and has the body control and ball skills to be a threat in the red zone.

Lyerla played running back in high school, and you can see that in his game as he is the best of this tight end group after the catch. Lyerla obviously has the size to run over people, but he also flashes some lateral agility you would not expect from a big man. He used these skills to average 5.8 yards per carry at Oregon.

All of these impressive skills come with the huge caveat that he may never actually see an NFL field. He missed a game in 2013 due to what his coach called “circumstances,” missed another for violation of team rules, quit on his team halfway through the season, and was convicted of cocaine possession in December of 2013.

That is a bucket full of issues and may be enough for him to slide out of the draft all together. If he can clean up his act, however, Lyerla has the talent to be an impact weapon in the passing game and an impact player in fantasy football.

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Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
Email :Raymond Summerlin

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