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Marginal TE crop lacks star power, overall depth

Top five prospects by position

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By Nolan Nawrocki

This is the fourth of a 12-part series that offers up scouting reports on PFW’s top five-ranked players at their respective positions in the 2012 NFL draft. Full scouting reports and the latest buzz on nearly 500 draft prospects, including results from roughly 200 pro days, can be found in PFW’s Draft Database.

At a time when the TE position is revolutionizing the passing game and has never been more productive, the well of talent in the NFL draft has dried up. Stanford’s Coby Fleener stands as the top tight end in this year’s class and, similar to Todd Heap and Greg Olsen, has an outside chance of fitting into the first round for a team of need. Two juniors — Clemson’s Dwayne Allen and Georgia’s Orson Charles — carry more risk, although both can factor readily in the passing game and have the physical talent to develop into blockers. Missouri’s Michael Egnew and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green stood out for the way they tested at the Combine and have the athletic ability and speed to develop into solid pass catchers in the pros. Overall, the class is as weak as it has been since 2005 and does not include an impact player worthy of a top pick.

1. Coby Fleener, Stanford
Ht: 6-6, Wt: 247, Sp: 4.75e, Arm: 33 3⁄8, Hand: 10

Notes: Given name is Jacoby. Redshirted in 2007. As a true freshman in ’08, caught 13 passes for 176 yards (13.5-yard average) and zero touchdowns in 12 games. Played in all 13 games in ’09, starting four, and tallied 21-266-1 (12.7). Had back surgery following the season. Started 6-of-13 games in ’10 and snagged 28-434-7 (15.5). Led all Stanford receivers in touchdowns in ’11 after posting 34-667-10 (19.6) in 13 games (five starts). Did not open the game in base packages in eight games and was knocked out of the Arizona game with a head injury after a helmet-to-helmet collision.

Bottom line: A pass-catching weapon capable of contributing readily in a slot role, Fleener compares favorably to Greg Olsen and can become a formidable big-play receiving threat if he can stay healthy. Has been Andrew Luck’s most trusted target the past two years and best demonstrated the damage he can do in the receiving game in the 2011 Orange Bowl, when he grabbed 6-173-3.

NFL projection: Second-round pick.

2. Dwayne Allen, Clemson (Jr.)
Ht: 6-3 1⁄8, Wt: 255, Sp: 4.82, Arm: 33, Hand: 9 5⁄8

Notes: Redshirted in 2008. Saw action in all 14 games (six starts) in ’09 and grabbed 10 passes for 108 yards (10.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. Made all 13 starts at tight end in ’10, setting the school record for catches by a sophomore tight end after posting 33-373-1 (11.3). Was a consensus All-America selection and the winner of the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end, in ’11 after setting school receiving records for a tight end with 50-598-8 (11.9).

Bottom line: Has the potential to become a solid, all-around tight end if he learns to better harness his natural competitiveness in-line but is still very raw as a blocker and must prove more patient in the pro game. Really emerged as a formidable receiving threat in his final season, as a junior. Best traits are his hands and short-area receiving skills. Can most readily help as an underneath safety valve and reliable red-zone target. Will require some time to acclimate.

NFL projection: Second-round pick.

3. Orson Charles, Georgia (Jr.)
Ht: 6-2 1⁄2, Wt: 251, Sp: 4.82, Arm: 32 1⁄2, Hand: 9 1⁄4

Notes: Highly recruited prep standout. Earned distinction in 2009 after grabbing 23 passes for 374 yards (16.3-yard average) and three touchdowns in 13 games (three starts). In ’10, he recorded 26-422-2 (16.2) in 13 games (12 starts — did not start vs. Arkansas). In ’11, he started all 14 games and caught 45-574-5 (12.8). Finished his career as Georgia’s top receiving tight end with 1,370 yards. Team captain as a junior. Arrested by Athens-Clarke County police in early-morning hours of March 9 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Car he was driving was stopped in the road. When police officer pulled up to see if car was disabled, Charles began to drive away. He submitted to sobriety tests and blew .095 blood-alcohol level. Booked into jail for an hour before being released on $1,750 bond. 

Bottom line: A strong, physical, tightly wound blocker capable of contributing readily on all downs, Charles must prove that he knows what it means to be a pro. Average pro-day workout and subsequent arrest will negatively affect his draft standing, but he has the tools to develop into a starter.

NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.

4. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette
Ht: 6-5 3⁄4, Wt: 238, Sp: 4.48, Arm: 34 1⁄2, Hand: 10 1⁄8

Notes: Nicknamed Pee-Wee because he was so short entering high school. Played in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2008, recording 22 catches for 268 yards (12.2-yard average) and five touchdowns. Was the team’s offensive MVP in ’09, when he started all nine games in which he played and totaled 32-533-2 (16.7). Suffered a neck injury against Florida Atlantic and missed three games. Started all 10 games in which he played in ’10, recording 44-794-7 (18.0). Sustained a left ankle sprain against Middle Tennessee and missed two games. Posted 51-606-8 (11.9) in ’11 while starting 12 games at tight end and did not play against Kent State (shoulder). Has tendinitis in his knees.

Bottom line: Lean, finesse, detached pass catcher with tweener traits. Possesses length, athletic ability and ball skills to factor in the receiving game but needs to bulk up his frame and will have to prove he can adapt to the speed of the NFL game. Durability concerns could affect his draft value.

NFL projection: Fourth- to fifth-round pick.

5. Michael Egnew, Missouri
Ht: 6-5 1⁄8, Wt: 252, Sp: 4.61, Arm: 33, Hand: 9 3⁄4

Notes: High school receiver. Played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2008, recording four receptions for 22 yards (5.5-yard average) and zero touchdowns. Needed surgery to repair a high right ankle sprain in the spring of ’09. Played in all 13 games in the season and snagged 3-25-0 (8.3). Broke out in ’10 — was the Tigers’ MVP after racking up 90-762-5 (8.5) in 13 starts. Finished as the Tigers’ second-leading receiver in ’11, grabbing 50-523-3 (10.3) in 13 starts at tight end. Team captain. Graduated in December.

Bottom line: Lanky, underdeveloped, finesse seam catcher whose production slipped as a senior after QB Blaine Gabbert departed early. Is a converted receiver who lined up detached and will not factor as a blocker but knows how to work the seams and can contribute in the slot.

NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.

Click here for scouting reports of late-rising TE prospects.

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