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2011 NFL Draft Predictions – Tight End Rankings

2011 NFL Draft Coverage – TE Preview

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The NFL draft moves to primetime for the second time in 2011. The first round will be in PRIMETIME, and is scheduled to take place Thursday, April 28, 2011; the second and third rounds on Friday, April 29; and the final four rounds on Saturday, April 30, 2011.

The Panthers with the worst record for 2010 have the right to the 1st pick in 2011. Note: A provision in the current NFLPA-CBA ensures that this draft will still take place even with the current labor dispute.

Tight End Rankings

KYLE RUDOLPH, Notre Dame
6”6, 260 lbs

This position often tends to slip in the Draft, but Rudolph possesses all the tools necessary to be an impact tight end in the NFL. To go with ideal size, the Irish product has soft hands and capabilities as a blocker. Rudolph is a willing blocker, and for a man going at his size, that’s often the most important thing at TE. There have been some questions about Rudolph’s effort level from series to series, but it’s fair to say that Notre Dame was probably a frustrating team to play for from time to time; Rudolph showed enough to reveal he can dominate. He should be the first tight end selected, perhaps late first or probably early second round.

May remind you of: Jason Witten, Cowboys

LUKE STOCKER, Tennessee
6”6, 255 lbs

Following after excellent NFL veteran Jason Witten and a good lineage of tight ends in the Cottam family at Tennessee, college TEs playing in the sherbet and white have a certain prestige. Stocker, likewise, is a great player and the two traits that jump out with him are his competitive streak and his strength – he has strength comparable to most offensive tackle prospects (as evidenced from his 27 bench press reps). He needs to work on his route running and isn’t the most naturally athletic prospect out there, but he is an intelligent player that will work hard to improve. He’s probably the closest to Rudolph in terms of a complete TE – with better character to boot.

May remind you of: Heath Miller, Steelers

LANCE KENDRICKS, Wisconsin
6”4, 240 lbs

The converted wideout has always been a dangerous weapon in the Badgers’ offense. Kendricks doesn’t have the utopian size of Rudolph or Stocker, but what he gives up there, he makes up for with a next gear of fleet-footedness. Kendricks definitely has the speed to create mis-matches against linebackers and though his blocking still needs work, it has improved a lot since he made the switch for the Badgers in 2008. One other red flag with Kendricks is that he doesn’t catch the ball out away from his body enough, but this is a skill that can be honed also. Ultimately, he was an important target on a run-heavy Badgers team. Kendricks is a likely third round pick.

May remind you of: Owen Daniels, Texans

D.J. WILLIAMS, Arkansas
6”2, 245

Williams looks like more of an H-back style physical build. His smaller size, however, means he has probably the best speed of the marquee TE prospects in the Draft. Williams has been productive for the Razorbacks since his sophomore season, capping it off with being a key piece in Arkansas’ run to the Sugar Bowl this season and winning the Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end. Williams also grades high with a strong character, overcoming adversity in his childhood and doing extensive community work. Williams is maybe the most dangerous after the catch and if he improves his blocking, he is a late second or early third round pick.

May remind you of: Chris Cooley, Redskins

Honorable Mention: LEE SMITH, Marshall In not a deep draft year in general, the former Tennessee signee may generate some buzz as he was under the radar playing for a non-AQ team in the Thundering Herd. Alarm bells will ring with Smith’s DUI arrest, however (which resulted in his dismissal from the Vols).

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