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NFL Combine Recap: Tight Ends

Posted Mar 2, 2014

Combine Recap is a positional review of players ranked as top offensive prospects by NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock in order of his pre-combine lists.

2014 NFL Combine Recaps: Offensive Tackles | Guards | Centers | Tight Ends | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Defensive Tackles | Defensive Ends | Linebackers | Cornerbacks | Safeties

Eric Ebron, North Carolina, Jr.

In college:  Ebron increased his production as a receiving target each season, culminating in his 55-catch, 895-yard performance and him being named first-team All-ACC and a John Mackey Award semifinalist in 2013. The yardage set a new ACC record among tight ends, eclipsing the 871 by Vernon Davis in 2005 at Maryland. Ebron had 40 catches for 625 yards and four TDs as a sophomore in 2012, and caught 10 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown as a freshman in 2011. Ebron decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility, capping his college career with 105 catches for 1,727 yards.  

Emerging trend: Ebron said he’s tried to pattern his style of play after Davis as tight ends around the NFL have become more frequent targets in the passing game. “It’s become more demanding, the tight end position. There's become more of a need for talent, speed, and athleticism rather than big bulky just blocking tight ends. It's become a need of special people to play that position in order to create different mismatches and better offenses so I feel like I fit right in.”

But also: Ebron said he’s received “a lot” of questions about blocking ability from prospective teams. “Every team wants a complete tight end, an all-purpose tight end not one that can just run down the seam and catch passes. They want a guy that can block, too. I tell them that I’ve been working hard on it, which I have, and that I'm not bad at it, which everyone thinks but we'll see.”


Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington, Jr.

In college: Seferian-Jenkins won the John Mackey Award and was selected third-team All-American and second-team All-Pac 12 in 2013 when he had 36 catches for 450 yards and eight TDs. He had 69 catches for 852 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore in 2012 and 41 catches for 538 yards and six TDs as a freshman in 2011. Seferian-Jenkins decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility but not before setting school records for receptions (146), receiving yards (1,840) and TDs (21) by a tight end. He became the 19th Huskies athlete to play football and basketball. Seferian-Jenkins weighed in at 262 at the 2014 NFL Combine, about 20 pounds lighter than he played in 2013. He said he gained the weight because his role as a run blocker increased but would like to stay around 262 in the pros. Seferian-Jenkins was unable to participate in the on-field drills at the combine.

Hoops influence: Seferian-Jenkins would like to build on the success that former basketball players Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas have had as NFL tight ends. “I met Jimmy Graham when I was in Miami taking an unofficial visit, met him a while back when he was training for the draft, and I watched Julius Thomas, who went to Portland State and played basketball. They are great tight ends in their own right and they do a lot of good things and I think I can do a lot of good things also.”

Valuable position: “I think it’s always been a valuable position, I think maybe people who don’t watch the game as much might think it has a higher value now,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “The tight end has always been a guy that’s going to block and be that extra tackle, offensive linemen, but a guy who can catch the ball in the red zone, in the open field. Now you see more with how the NFL has changed that guys are split out, they are in the slot, so the value has changed because the tight end is being asked to do more.”


Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, Jr.

In college:  Amaro also opted to enter the NFL Draft with a year of college eligibility remaining after tying for eighth in FBS with 106 receptions in 2013. The catches helped him set the FBS all-time record for yardage by a tight end in a season (1,352) and become a Mackey Award semifinalist, first-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12. He had seven TD catches in 2013. Amaro played seven games and started six in a 2012 season that was shortened by a lacerated spleen injury. He appeared in 12 games as a freshman in 2011.

Two positions: Amaro said he considers himself a mixture of a tight end and a receiver. “I think that’s why I’m so unique. It’s kind of a revolution to the game now with what tight ends can bring across the board,” and on not lining up at the traditional spot for a tight end: “Our style of offense was we wanted to move the fast and to do that we had to do that out of two by two, spread the ball out and that’s what I was asked to do from my coaches. So that was my job and I did it to the best of my ability.”

Good timing?: “I think it’s a great time for a tight end, and it’s a revolution position and I feel like I’ve had the greatest tight end season ever in college regarding receiving yards. I feel like it’s a great time for me, and I feel like I did what I wanted to in college. I think this is a great chance for me to showcase what I can do in the NFL.” Amaro competed well on the field at the combine, qualifying for “top performer” in 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Click here for NFL.com’s Results Tracker.


Troy Niklas, Notre Dame, Jr.

In college: Like Ebron, Seferian-Jenkins and Amaro, Niklas had a year of college eligibility remaining, but he was less of a target in the passing game. Niklas is the nephew of former Titans/Oilers Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews (Niklas’ mother is the sister of Matthews’ wife). Niklas had 32 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns and was a Mackey semifinalist and first-team All-Independent in 2013. He had five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in 2012, a year after beginning his career with the Fighting Irish in 2011 as a linebacker.

On being a “classic” tight end: “I think it’s good. I can block and I enjoy blocking,” Niklas said. “I think that’s something I can use to my advantage.”

On the tight ends in this draft class: “I think we’re pretty stacked,” Niklas said. “There are a lot of good ones coming out this year. It should be real competitive. Looking forward to it.” And on how to stand out, “Play to your strengths, let the teams do the judging and go as hard as I can.”


C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa, Sr.

In college: Fiedorowicz is more of a “classic” tight end like Niklas who said he wants to be known for blocking in-line and stretching the field from time to time. He had 91 receptions for 899 yards and 10 TDs in his final three seasons and appeared in 51 games for the Hawkeyes. He was first-team All-Big Ten in 2013 and honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2012.

Necessary job: When asked about adapting from WR in high school to less of a role in the passing game bothered him: “It did my freshman year a little bit. I was a receiver in high school,” Fiedorowicz said. “I didn’t know what it was like to put my hand in the ground and actually block defensive ends. So it was a little frustrating, but once I got the hang of it — Coach said it’s a mindset, you gotta want to block somebody. I kind of picked that up and I realized if I want to get on the field I’ve got to block.”

Preference between blocking or catching?: “Obviously it’s awesome when you catch a big pass, but it’s also awesome when you get a guy who breaks a 40 yard run, chasing him down after a big block you had. They’re both just as important to a team’s success.”

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