The 2011 tight end class left an awful lot to be desired, especially compared to the previous year’s class, but even though there was a lack of blue chip talent, there’s still more than a few players to keep your eye on this off-season.
With the lockout nearing an end, each NFL Team’s first order of business will be to sign the undrafted free agents they have targeted and begin filling out the rest of their roster before a frenzied period of veteran free agency.
We’ll cover each position and tell you who the players to know are during the undrafted rookie signing period so you’ll be ready to break them down in the pre-season.
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- Mike McNeil-TE-Nebraska: McNeil is a very crafty pass catching tight end that has a great handle on the offense and he is extremely consistent at finding a way to get open despite his limited athleticism. He has terrific ball skills and great route running ability but his lack of speed and strength hurt his draft stock immensely. He’s a poor man’s version of Dallas Clark that can’t stay healthy but if he finds the right team, he could make an impact as a receiving tight end.
- Weslye Saunders-TE-South Carolina: Saunders famously was dismissed from the Gamecocks’ football program after improper contact with an agent and then failed to submit his paperwork on time for the NFL combine. He was invited to participate but then found a broken bone in his foot during the medical evaluations. There’s an awful lot of “IFs” with this guy but if he has his head screwed on straight and he has a clean bill of health, he could be big time player in the NFL.
- Cameron Graham-TE-Louisville: Graham is an up and coming player who came to Louisville by way of El Camino Community College and while he’s still a bit of a raw prospect, he is a very physical player that has great after the catch ability. Look for him to make a roster because of his consistently reliable hands and smarts finding the open spaces in coverage.
- Kyle Adams-TE-Purdue: Adams is a pro ready tight end that has great ball skills and prototype size for the position. He is involved in the running game and while he may not have elite speed to beat defensive backs, he has enough smarts to find the openings in a zone. High character type player that will pose mismatches on the field and secure a spot on somebody’s roster.
- Charlie Gantt-TE-Michigan State: Gantt is a smart player who has been a three year starter for the Spartans and a team leader. He doesn’t have great athleticism but he is a strong runner after the catch and his combination of size, strength and reliable ball skills will grab somebody’s attention.
- Zack Pianalto-TE-North Carolina: If it weren’t for his durability issues, Pianalto would probably have been a late round selection but the man just can’t stay healthy. He dislocated his right foot last year and fractured his left leg the year before but he has been a very effective pass catcher when his health permits.
- Schuylar Oordt-TE-Northern Iowa: Oordt is a very athletic pass catcher that not only has the ideal combination of size and speed but he also shows the willingness to go after his opponent in the running game. He can pluck the football out of the air with ease and he gives excellent effort after the catch, fighting for extra yards. He’ll stick on somebody’s roster as a developmental player.
- Stephen Skelton-TE-Fordham: The brother of John Skelton, Cardinals QB, Stephen is a prototypical tight end with big hands and very reliable ball skills to be an effective pass catching option in a teamâ€™s offense. He needs to bulk up and be more of a presence in the running game but some team could be very interested another pass catching option in their offense.
- Greg Smith-TE-Texas: Smith doesnâ€™t have great ball skills and wonâ€™t be a teamâ€™s receiving option at the position but heâ€™ll get on the field thanks to his smarts. Ultra competitive player that will do everything a coach asks of him and will fight to stay on a roster.
- Allen Reisner-TE-Iowa: This guy is a try hard over achiever on the field that gives great effort when his number is called and works to sustain his blocks in the running game. Unfortunately, he’s an extremely limited athlete with only average ball skills. His money will be made in the running game as a blocker.