Scouting Football Talent – Tight Ends required

Recently looked at the trending of the Tight End position in the National Football League.  It had been noted by one of the astute pundits on Monday Night Football the incredible athleticism and ability of Pittsburgh’s own Heath Miller.  Miller had made what we admit was a rather incredible move to create separation off the line of scrimmage and then make the over the shoulder grab to tie the score against the game Cincinnati Bengals.

Not so unique

Listening to the call you’d have thought that no other Tight Ends in the National Football League had the route running prowess or open field ability of the Steelers Y position.

But as we mentioned in the earlier post, Tight Ends are an integral part of any effective passing game in the NFL.  At the time of this post, 11 of the top 50 in total receptions are TE’s, with Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta sitting just outside at #51.

So to round out the look at all positions on the offensive side of the ball, keep these key indicators in mind as you prepare your own evaluations for scouting football talent at TE for the 2013 NFL Draft;

On average there are around 14 TE’s selected annually.  The High/Avg/Low pertains to the picks #1 through #7 at the position.  Since 2000, the first TE selected has gone as high as #6, as low as #43, and on average around #23.  Here’s the overall break down;

Rd/# Tot/Avg High Avg Low
1 16/1 6 23 43
2 19/1 21 42 71
3 29/2 28 64 89
4 28/2 53 88 144
5 34/3 61 99 179
6 29/2 72 115 196
7 42/3 86 126 198

Finding the starters

To find a top flight 56 game starter in the first 5 years, your luck is going to start drying up after pick #50.  That’s based once again on some dated data (’94-’03) and you probably should see more production pushed down in the draft from the likes of Chris Cooley, Jeff King, Owen Daniels, Brent Celek, and Kevin Boss.  This only furthers the notion that TE’s are becoming undervalued in both opportunity and financial costs to successful NFL clubs.  But based upon the premise, most clubs would be best to grab their franchise TE by middle of the 2nd round, and no later than the 3rd rated player on the board.

Sudden impact

Despite the expanding production of the TE in most passing attacks, rookies have struggled to make a “sudden impact” in the manner they have in the past.  From 2006-2012 Tight Ends have outperformed the average veteran at a 7.4% clip, ranked #9 amongst all position groups.  This is down from a 10% average in 2010, and substantially off that season’s individual 18% contribution (Gronkowski, Hernandez, Graham, Gresham, Maeaki, Hoomanawanui).

2-deep rosters

The latest 2-Deep roster study by our good friend Joe Landers still shows available depth at the position to fill out your 53.  With a myriad of multiple receiver sets in today’s offensive playbooks, many TE’s don’t actually start but do accumulate a healthy playtime percentage (all things considered).  From 2009-2011 NFL rosters were constructed like this;

  • 1st RD – 21%
  • 2nd RD – 14%
  • 3rd RD – 17%
  • 4th RD – 10%
  • 5th RD – 13%
  • 6th RD – 8%
  • 7th RD – 3%
  • FA – 14%

Exceeding your peers

You’ll find the NFL Combine study (Joe Landers again) in the earlier post.  But overall starting TE’s are expected to exceed peer average in 6 of the 7 skill events, requiring the 40-yard dash, Long Shuttle, and 3-Cone for a statistically significant correlation.

Back to Heath Miller.  It was a rather remarkable play and one you don’t often expect out of a 6’5” 256lb athlete.  But though not necessarily easy to find, Tight Ends of his caliber are increasingly prevalent in the top offenses of the National Football League.   Study the position closely this offseason and leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft.

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