First Round Tight Ends Are Risky

The Eagles will draft at least one tight end. I don’t know much, but I’m pretty confident in making that assumption. I used to think Brandon Pettigrew was the answer. I still like him as a prospect; however, the more game tape I watch and the more scouting reports I read, the more I’m convinced he’s not a first round caliber player. He just doesn’t have “star” written all over him. I think he’ll be serviceable in the right system, but I can’t see him solving the Eagles’ need for another playmaking threat.

In fact, I’m not a fan of drafting tight ends in the first round no matter how talented they might be. Recent history has shown the position to have a less than stellar rate of success in the opening round. Since 2000, 14 tight ends have been selected in the first round. Some have been hits, while others have missed big-time. Let’s look at their career stats thus far.

Player Years Played Catches Yards TDs
Bubba Franks 9 262 2,347 32
Anthony Becht 9 178 1,450 20
Todd Heap 8 374 4,300 30
Jeremy Shockey 7 421 4,711 27
Daniel Graham 7 176 2,028 23
Jerramy Stevens 7 184 2,044 21
Dallas Clark 6 256 3,082 31
Kellen Winslow 5 219 2,459 11
Ben Watson 5 138 1,698 15
Heath Miller 4 168 1,932 21
Vernon Davis 3 103 1,132 9
Marcedes Lewis 3 91 1,006 5
Greg Olsen 2 93 965 7
Dustin Keller 1 48 535 3

Ugh. What an interesting mix we have here. Where do I begin? Franks has never eclipsed 500 yards receiving, but he did score nine touchdowns in 2001. Becht has never broken the 400 yard barrier and is now on his fourth team.

Heap has shown flashes of greatness, but injuries have stunted his potential; he appears to be on the decline. Shockey, in my opinion, is one of the most overrated players I’ve ever seen. Due to injuries and suspensions, he has yet to complete a full season and his hands are average on a good day.

Daniel Graham has never displayed his first round grade. He’s a solid blocker, but he’s played one full season and has surpassed 400 yards receiving only once. Stevens is an absolute mess: he’s been arrested for sexual assault, assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving, suspended for a positive drug test and been all around ass his whole career.

Dallas Clark is a good player for the Colts. No complaints. Winslow is easily the most talented name on this list but when you get traded at age 25, there is clearly a problem. His is he can’t keep his mouth shut. How he fares with the Tampa Bay quarterback carousel should be interesting. Ben Watson, like Graham, just ain’t gettin’ the job done.

Heath Miller reminds me a lot of Clark and should have a very productive career. Vernon Davis will likely never live up to his #6 overall selection. He’s a classic Workout Warrior who duped many a GM into believing he was the next great thing. Marcedes Lewis finally looked decent last season, so maybe he’s on the right track.

Obviously, it’s way too early to make any predictions on Olsen or Keller. Although, Olsen should thrive now that he has Jay Cutler tossing him the rock. Keller was a surprise last season, but we’ll see how he responds without Favre under center.

In addition to the above gentleman, here’s a list of second round tight ends who flopped: Joe Klopfenstein (who?), Anthony Fasano, Ben Troupe, Kris Wilson, Bennie Joppru (a kind of fruit?), Teyo Johnson, Doug Jolley and L.J. Smith. THUD! What an awful bunch of do-nothings.

Buyer beware if you’re thinking of snagging a tight end early. By the way, Jason Witten was a third round pick and Antonio Gates was a basketball player who walked into a tryout with the Chargers. I hope the Birds wait a little while before pulling the trigger on their tight end. It will save us and them a lot of future heartache.

An observation: Doesn’t this look a lot like this, and this? I guess great minds think alike.

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Tags: First Round Tight Ends Tight Ends In The NFL Draft

  • Ajay

    Great point. I think the Eagles believe Celek is ready to be their #1 so I don’t think we are going to spend a 1st rounder on a TE. Plus Celek was a 5th, so…

  • Scott Tunstall

    I like Celek’s potential, but I don’t think he’s the total answer. Get him some help. Cornelius Ingram is quite the athlete. Could probably get him the 3rd round.

  • Mitch

    Brandon Pettigrew is a unique player. Most tight ends are drafted for their receiving skills, and judged on their receiving stats, as evidenced by your chart. Pettigrew – on the other hand – is a blocker who can catch passes.
    In 2009, this is a perfect fit for the Eagles. This was a team who’s offensive line was overmatched in the running game much of last year; they will be starting 2 new tackles, and have other possible offensive line changes as well.
    Pettigrew will be essentially a third tackle to open holes for our backs, but still enough of a receiving threat that the defense can’t change their personnel. He can also assist in pass protection if one of our tackles is overmatched by a defensive end. (How much do you think Winston Justice would appreciate having Pettigrew lining up next to him the next time we play the Giants)
    Pettigrew will be judged a success not by catching 40 passes for 600 yards and 7 TDs; Pettigrew will be a success if Westbrook runs for 1400 yards, Reid calls more runs than passes, and the Eagles are able to dominate defensive lines and time of possession.
    The other reason to draft Pettigrew is Jason Peters. Pettigrew has a fallback option. If he should turn out to have “hands of LJ”, he could bulk up and be an outstanding offensive tackle.

  • Scott Tunstall

    Mitch – I agree Pettigrew is a solid blocking tight end, but I don’t think blocking tight ends should ever be picked in the first round. And I think Reid will agree. I hope you were joking about Justice; he’ll be lucky to make the team and barring a rash of injuries, there is no way he will be starting against anyone. The guy is a BUST.

  • Mitch

    I think you are generally correct, that blocking TEs aren’t usually first round picks, but most blocking TEs don’t have Pettigrew’s receiving skills and upside. At any rate, he almost certainly WILL be drafted in the first round, I think he would be a particularly good fit for the Eagles, in that he would substantially improve the run game and offensive balance.

    In terms of Justice, I doubt he’ll be on the team. My point – which I may have illustrated poorly – is that that our tackle situation is uncertain: Stacy Andrews is still recovering from knee surgery, Shawn Andrews and Herremans may make excellent tackles, but at present don’t have much experience at the position. A wide-body tight end provides cover in case – through injury/inexperience/incompetence – we have a imminent disaster like Justice’s debacle 2 years ago.

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