November 24, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins cornerback Sheldon Price (22) looks on as Stanford Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz (86) catches a pass in the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. Stanford won 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tight End Position an Area of Need for the St. Louis Rams?


 

For a team with more pressing needs such as right tackle, safety and outside linebacker, the need at tight end isn’t as urgent, but it is without doubt a position St. Louis will look to improve upon as the team strives for more offensive production.

I know I’m beating the same drum, but Rams general manager Les Snead has stressed the need for weapons and playmakers for the offense. He has also emphasized that those weapons can come in all shapes, sizes and yes, positions.

This past season tight end Lance Kendricks responded well in his second year after a rookie campaign filled with countless drops.

Kendricks finished with 42 receptions, 519 yards and four touchdowns, but he was more of an H-back, playing in the slot, lining up at fullback in the backfield, and  on the line. Though the second-year pro had a bounce back season, there are more intriguing prospect in the draft and better talent in free agency. Besides the revolution of mobile quarterbacks, the emergence of rangy, speedy and ultra athletic tight ends are all the rage in this day and age of the NFL.

According to Mike Mayock, the top-5 TE prospects are:

  1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
  2. Zach Ertz, Stanford
  3. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
  4. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
  5. Vance Mcdonald, Rice

Eifert has been drawing comparisons to Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers.  He hauls in remarkable catches in traffic showcasing his tall, lean frame (6’6” 251 lbs). I see Eifert best suited in a pass heavy system as he also mimics a H-back lining up in the slot and outside. The consistent knock on Eifert is his blocking technique.

While Eifert is rated higher on majority of the draft boards, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ertz is the first TE off the board. He has no fear of getting physical as a blocker and gives high-quality effort in this area. Ertz is good as an athlete as Eifert with just enough speed to stretch the defense as he reels in tough passes. He is also seen as the more fluid route runner.

Loaded with three picks in the top 46 and two in the first round, it wouldn’t be unthinkable if the Rams used a pick on one of these gifted tight ends.

As far as free agency, according to CBSPORTS the top free agent TE are:

  1. Tony Gonzales, Falcons
  2. Martellus Bennett, Giants
  3. Jared Cook, Tennessee
  4. Fred Davis, Redskins
  5. Dustin Keller, Jets

Gonzales is automatically out the picture, he is either going to retire or return to Atlanta. Bennett finally displayed his freakish potential, so, I don’t see him leaving New York. If it wasn’t for an injury, who knows the type of season Davis would have had. Though available, I don’t see the Rams bringing in damaged goods.

The two frequently linked to St. Louis is Cook and Keller. Cook’s name is hovering around St. Louis because he was originally drafted by Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. At 6’5” 248lbs, Cook has speed to burn for a player of his stature. He’s never had a top talent at quarterback in Music City. Perhaps Fisher could entice him to catch passes from Sam Bradford.

Keller is also connected to a coach on the Rams’ staff. He played for Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in New York and has familiarity with the offense that would make him an ideal fit at a low cost.

As I said, it isn’t inconceivable for the Rams to take a tight end early in the draft. Pairing an elite tight end with Bradford may do him wonders. He hasn’t had a premier TE since Jermaine Gresham at Oklahoma. If not the draft, free agency has viable options as well.

 

Tags: 2013 Free Agency 2013 NFL Draft St. Louis Rams