By Kyle Casey, Staff Writer
The 2013 group of tight end prospects is as deep and talented as the league has seen in a long time. With the tight end position growing in the NFL, many teams have started using two tight ends in full-time roles as pass catchers.
That’ll open up opportunities for several talented tight ends to get selected in April’s draft. At such a deep and talented position, several day two talents will fall to the third day of the draft. Around 15 tight ends could get drafted and there will surely be a few late round steals.
Here are a few late round sleeper tight ends:
Vance McDonald, Rice
Prior to January’s Senior Bowl, Vance McDonald wasn’t a household name at the tight end position. But after an impressive performance in the game’s practices against top level talent, McDonald will likely soar up draft boards. Once considered a day three pick, it’s possible that he could go in the third round because of his talent as a pass catcher. McDonald’s blocking skills aren’t as good as many of the other tight end prospects this year, but his ability as a receiver ranks him near the top. He caught 36 passes for 458 yards in 2012 despite missing three games due to injury. The most ideal NFL offense for McDonald would be a spread similar to what the New England Patriots or Green Bay Packers run. Lining up mainly in the slot, McDonald could turn out to be one of the best receiving tight ends in this year’s class.
Ryan Otten, San Jose State
Once considered a day two pick, Ryan Otten’s draft stock has declined recently mainly because the tight end position is so talented this year. Otten flew under the radar in 2012 playing for the San Jose State Spartans, but he still managed to catch 47 passes for four touchdowns. Otten’s 47 receptions went for 742 yards which led to an average of 15.8 yards per catch, an impressive average for a tight end. At 6’5 with good speed, Otten would excel in a spread offense similar to what he played in with the Spartans. Otten’s blocking skills in a pro-style offense are still unknown right now because he wasn’t asked to do much of that at San Jose State, but his impressive build and athleticism should lead to success as a blocker. Otten would be a valuable selection starting in the fourth round and is capable of assuming a large role in an NFL offense as a rookie.
Nick Kasa, Colorado
The 6’6 athletic tight end from Colorado is the definition of a project. Nick Kasa arrived to Colorado as a five-star prospect in 2008. However, Kasa was recruited as a defensive end instead of at his current position of tight end. Kasa shuffled around the defensive line until his junior season, when he asked the coaching staff is he could switch positions. He spent his entire junior season learning the tight end position and only caught one pass for eight yards. With more experience in 2012, Kasa was able to catch 20 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Kasa still has a long way to go at tight end and will unlikely contribute much in the passing game as a rookie. But his athleticism and strength make him a good blocker, solid special teams contributor and potential starter at tight end down the road. A team with not many needs that can afford to let Kasa sit until he learns the position should take a flier on him in rounds five through seven.