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niklasThe next rookie tight end I want to discuss is the underrated Notre Dame Golden Domer Troy Niklas. In recent years, his college has pumped out some good NFL tight end talent in the Bengals’ Tyler Eifert and the Viking’s Kyle Rudolph. After watching five of his 2013 games against Michigan, USC, Rutgers, Temple, and Arizona State, I think that not only is Niklas the best tight end prospect of the three, but he is also the most complete tight end. There are a lot of things that are impressive about this young man as he measured in at 6’ 6” 270 lbs. and ran a respectable 40 yard dash time of 4.80. The tight end is also cousins with all-pro linebacker Clay Matthews III.

He, like the three tight ends I ranked before him, lines up all over the field: traditional tight end, the slot, split out wide, and in the backfield. At this time, I think he has the most upside of the guys in front of him: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, and ASJ. Niklas is clearly a talented blocker, but he has some rawness as a receiving threat. He attacks his defender in the run game, trying to maul them as he squares up, holds his position, but sometimes struggles to knock them back. Unlike the other tight ends in his class, he helps secure the block on a double team and will then move on and find the next player to hit.

When the tight end is pass-blocking near the quarterback, he has a solid base, quick feet, and a good solid punch. As a downfield blocker, Niklas takes good angles; uses leverage to knock the defender back, keeps his hands inside the shoulder pads, and chops his feet until the ball carrier runs past. You can see it in his eyes that he likes to hit people.

Niklas gets separation off the line with a good punch and quick feet, along with a swim move at times. He uses a stiff-arm to keep defenders off his body, and hand fights down the field trying to gain separation while running routes. College linebackers could not out-physical the play maker.  This was because he got in their heads causing them to take bad angles or hit him before the ball arrived. Niklas has good lower body strength/power that made it necessary for him to be gang tackled more often than not. The tight end needs to be wrapped up as I saw him bounce off the myriad of shoulder tackles that got attempted to bring him down. If he is anywhere near the end zone, Niklas will do whatever it takes to cross that line showing second and third effort to score.

The young tight end can make catches with defenders draped on top of him or adjusts his body to poorly thrown passes extending for the catch. He has good balance and follows his blockers well on screens to make the most of the reception. Niklas can pluck the ball out of the air at its highest point and keep on running in stride. The tight end does a great job shielding defenders in the end zone as he secures his position, and out jumps them to come down with the ball. Against Arizona State, Niklas ran a hook route right into the shoulder pads of a linebacker, bounced off him, and made a great touchdown catch.

At this time, Niklas isn’t the most experienced receiver as he runs only quick outs, posts, and hook routes. He should get better with more experience and better coaching. It seems so second nature to him to secure the ball with both hands or fight for extra yardage. When I watched him, the tight end reminded me of a young Jason Witten, who no one other than Bill Parcells knew was going to be a fantastic NFL tight end. He also enjoys blocking as much as receiving and comes back to the ball to bail out his quarterback.

If you aren’t look for immediate production and have a young developing dynasty team, Niklas would be my choice. With the amount of talent in this year’s draft, you might be pleasantly surprised to find him in the third round of your rookie draft depending on where he lands.

For further questions or comments, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley or @Dynasty_Blitz.

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