Senior Bowl: Evaluating the Tight Ends

2013 Senior Bowl NFL Draft
Fanspeak's Steve Shoup interviewing Vance McDonald.

One of the position groups that I was least excited about seeing this week was the tight ends. Not only was there no early round talent among this group, but there was even a question if some of these guys would get drafted. Many of the guys seemed one dimensional and weren’t highly touted, and could leave them undrafted at a position that doesn’t produce a lot of picks each year. That perception began to change with the first practice. Not only do I now believe that at least 5 of these guys will get selected, but I feel that many of them will have a chance for a bright future at the next level.

Mychal Rivera, Tennessee:

Rivera in many ways stole the show down here among the tight ends. He went from being a guy that no one really expected to be drafted, to being the top guy down here. He’s very much a move tight end and is a guy that you can split out wide or line-up in the backfield as well. He showed a real nice ability to separate and ran really good routes. He has really good speed, that will allow him to pick up extra yards after the catch and stretch the field some. His best strength may be his hands. He caught about everything thrown his way and just looked really natural doing so. The one question mark is his blocking and if he can hold up at the next level. He didn’t wow in that department here, but he didn’t hurt himself either.

Nick Kasa, Colorado:

Kasa is a former defensive lineman, who converted to tight end just two years ago. He’s big and physical at the point of attack, something that he showcased pretty well down here this week, but he’s more than just a blocking tight end. He really showed up as a receiver and a guy who can pick up big chunks of yards after the catch. His speed and quickness really surprised me for a guy his size. Kasa did have a couple drops this week, but overall did a nice job catching the ball with his hands and not always letting it get into his body.

Vance McDonald, Rice:

Fanspeak's Steve Shoup interviewing Vance McDonald.

Fanspeak’s Steve Shoup interviewing Vance McDonald.

McDonald  had been a featured part of the Rice offense the last few years, so it was pretty clear he could catch the ball. The questions that remained would be how was he as a blocker and could he separate against better competition. McDonald showed good form and technique blocking. He lost some battles, but for the most part was pretty impressive. He also showed better speed than I expected and ran really nice routes that left him an open target. He did drop a couple passes during the week, but he also made some highlight reel catches.

Michael Williams, Alabama:

Williams came in with a rep as being essentially a sixth offensive lineman. He’s lived up to that rep as being absolutely devastating when asked to block. He’s handled safeties, linebackers and defensive linemen with ease. The real thing that surprised me was just how good he was in the passing game. Now he won’t stretch the field or run away from anyone after the catch, but he’ll get open and be a big, safe target for his quarterback to get the ball too. He got more separation than you’d expect from linebackers and safeties this week, and even when they were on him, he just used his big body to shield them from the ball. Defenders had no chance to make a play on it, unless they committed pass interference. As a second tight end, or even a first tight end on a run first team, Williams could be a fantastic pick-up.

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