Miami Dolphins 2011 Draft Board: Tight Ends

Stepping aside from the first-round debate for a moment, where all the talk and speculation is revolving around the likes of Ryan Mallett, Mark Ingram, and whether or not the Dolphins will trade down from the 15th overall selection, let’s take a look at the tight end prospects in this year’s class that could potentially upgrade a huge position of need for the Dolphins.

Anthony Fasano has been a solid starter in Miami for three seasons now as a fantastic blocker that can contribute some in the passing game as well. But the Dolphins lack a tight end of the athletic mold that can consistently make a living in the middle of the field as a receiver. With all the attention Brandon Marshall attracts on the outside, a seam-stretching tight end would have the space needed to make an immense impact on the Dolphins’ offense.

Regardless of whether or not the Dolphins invest a high-draft choice on a rookie or stick with Chad Henne, a receiving tight end would truly be an asset for whoever the signal caller is as a crutch in the short to intermediate passing game and an extra red zone weapon on an offense that was pitiful in the red area in 2010.

Kyle Rudolph
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6-6, 259
40: 4.78
Projected Round: 2
If only tight end was the Dolphins’ primary need, Rudolph would potentially be Miami’s most coveted player in the 2011 draft. He excels at exactly what the Dolphins are missing from their tight end corps. Rudolph possesses great size, adequate speed, and has elite ball skills as a tight end that catches the ball with his hands, not his body and can make difficult receptions in traffic.

There are concerns about Rudolph’s blocking and whether or not he can get clean releases because he spent so much time in the slot at Notre Dame, but his skill set would greatly compliment former Irish Anthony Fasano. Doesn’t look like a realistic option for the Dolphins, but if they are able to trade down, pick up a second-round pick, and Rudolph slides some, you never know.

Lance Kendricks
School: Wisconsin
Size: 6-2, 243
40: 4.75
Projected Round: 2-3
Doesn’t have ideal size, but has the initial burst and speed to be a threat in the passing game. Runs routes well and receiving comes pretty natural to him. Would fit what the Dolphins are missing as a receiving first tight end, but don’t underestimate Kendricks’ blocking ability.

He was rarely used as a lead blocker at Wisconsin, but he has the ability to seal off the edge. Kendricks is flying under the radar a bit, but he could be a mid-round option for the Dolphins when they figure to begin to consider addressing the position in round three.

Luke Stocker
School: Tennessee
Size: 6-4, 258
40: 4.76
Projected Round: 2-3
Arguably the most balanced tight end in this year’s class, Stocker is superb in pass protection, solid as a run blocker, and can make an impact as a receiver. Will likely never excel as a receiver, though, so he really isn’t a great fit in Miami. But he does have enough quickness and ball skills to possibly entice the Dolphins if they feel like they want another guy who can consistently contribute as a blocker.

Virgil Green
School: Nevada
Size: 6-3, 249
40: 4.54
Projected Round: 3-4
Green is a player who’s been seen on several Dolphins’ seven-round mock drafts. His stock has been on the rise ever since posting a 4.54 forty at the combine. Green has all the potential in the world as a receiving tight end, but some scouts argue that he isn’t the most polished prospect and may not be ready to make an immediate impact. He’s labeled as a raw route runner and isn’t thought to have the strength to contribute in the blocking department. Because he wouldn’t be asked to be anything more than a number two option in Miami, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dolphins take a chance on him in the third or fourth round.

D.J. Williams
School: Arkansas
Size: 6-2, 245
40: 4.63
Projected Round: 3-4
Williams is another tight end who has been connected with the Dolphins this offseason, as sources say Jeff Ireland and company have been very impressed in the private workouts they’ve had with the former Razorback. He also fits what the Dolphins are missing, as a fluid athlete who had a knack for making big plays in the passing game at Arkansas. Doesn’t have prototypical height for the tight end position, but uses his frame and hands well to go up and make difficult catches. Wouldn’t be considered a liability as a blocker either, as he has more toughness than your typical athletic type.

Jordan Cameron
School: USC
Size: 6-5, 254
40: 4.55
Projected Round: 3-4
Follows in the footsteps of many of elite tight ends, being a former basketball player. With his athleticism and length, Cameron could be a dangerous red zone weapon at the next level. Is also pretty fluid in and out of his breaks as a route runner. He probably shouldn’t be asked to stay in and block much, though, which hurts his stock as a one-dimensional tight end.

Robert Housler
School: Florida Atlantic
Size: 6-5, 248 40: 4.51
Projected Round: 4-6
Is undersized, but has been able to bulk up some in the pre-draft process. That extra bulk didn’t stop him from wowing scouts with a 4.51 forty at the combine, though, which was about .30 seconds faster than most expected. Could be a vertical threat at the next level, but lacks ideal quickness and would be a liability when asked to run block.

Julius Thomas
School: Portland State
Size: 6-4, 246
40: 4.63
Projected Round: 4-6
Wasn’t showcased much on a run-heavy Portland State offense, but it’s easy to see why Thomas could have an impact as a receiving tight end in the NFL. He’s very well rounded as a receiver with good speed, size, flexibility, balance, and hands. Is still considered a bit raw as a route runner, as 2010 was his first year playing football since his freshman year in high school. Is decent at blocking in space, but will struggle if asked to be an in-line blocker.

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