Bear Pascoe

NFL Draft preview: Trent Baalke likes tight ends who can block

 

The mania of Draftmas–or should I saw the Holidraft?–is certainly intensifying as reports of Kendall Wright’s body fat grip the nation. To cash in on this mania, we are taking a peek in ol’ Baalke-claus’ sack — err, bag — in hopes of catching a glimpse of what of the players that he might bring us.

Today, we look for tight ends. Since Baalke has been with the organization, the 49ers have drafted five tight ends. Again, as with the others, it is impossible to know which receivers, outside of Nate Byham, were endorsed by Trent Baalke.

Year Rd Pk Ht Wt 40 Y/D Bench Shuttle Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill
B. Bajema 2005 7 34 6-5 261 4.74 16 4.30 09’05” 7.05
D. Walker 2006 6 6 6-1 240 4.49 N/A 4.60 10’07” 7.23
V. Davis 2006 1 6 6-3 256 4.38 33 4.17 10’08” 7.00
B. Pascoe 2009 6 22 6-5 251 4.89 14 4.52 09’04” 7.19
N. Byham 2010 6 13 6-4 268 4.91 18 4.45 09’09” 7.05

 

 

 

 

 

 

These numbers really couldn’t be more disparate, especially with Delanie Walker in the mix. In both the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-cone drill, Walker was lineman-like — guard Mike Person actually had similar numbers. Plus, he is much shorter than the others. In any case, I’m not going to include Walker my analysis. Not only would excluding him save me cherished mental energy, but it would also be appropriate given that Walker’s original role was as an “H-Back.” In Walker’s first (preseason) game, he lined up as a tight end, a receiver, and running back — oh! and he returned kickoffs. That he is strictly a tight end now is irrelevant to this exercise.

Attribute Range Average
Height 6-3 – 6-5 6-4
Weight 251 – 268 259
40 Y/D 4.38 – 4.91 4.73
Bench 14 – 33 20
Shuttle 4.17 – 4.52 4.36
Broad Jump 09’05” – 10’08” 09’07”
3-Cone Drill 7.00 – 7.19 7.07

These numbers belie the attribute of greater importance: blocking. Not only were Nate Byham and Bear Pascoe considered among the best blocking tight ends of their respective drafts, Vernon Davis was as well. Yahoo’s Charles Robinson and ESPN’s John Clayton praised Davis’ blocking skills prior to the draft.

Given this data, as well as Baalke’s thing for blockers, here is a list of the tight ends that the likeliest to be drafted.

The Most Likely:

George Bryan

Projection HT WT 40 Y/D Bench Shuttle Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill
6-7 6-5 258 5.03 13 4.57 09’02” 7.53

Okay, so physically, Bryan doesn’t really fit Baalke’s type; however, he is the best blocker in this year’s draft. ESPN Insider raves about his blocking technique, noting that he “takes very good angles,” “finds a way to lock on to the LB or DS,” “anticipates blitzes and stunts,” and “does a nice job limiting athletic edge rushers.” Blocking aside, he might be an underrated receiver. National Football Post thinks that Bryan “plays like a 4.8 guy,” who “is quickly able to get on top of defenders and pick up speed rapidly.”

The Likely:

Coby Fleener

Projection HT WT 40 Y/D Bench Shuttle Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill
1 6-6 247 4.51 27 4.30 09’08” 7.02

Initially, I wanted to put Fleener in the “maybes” because of his blocking prowess–specifically, his lack there of. Athletically, he rivals Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Vernon Davis. While in-lining blocking has not been issues for Gronkowski or Graham, the 49ers simply do not have a history of drafting incomplete players in the first round. Of his blocking, National Football Post points out that Fleener “lacks the great strength in his lower half at this stage to routinely get a push.” ESPN Insider calls his in-line blocking skills “below average,” pointing to his “lack of strength particularly in lower body” as the problem.

But I think Baalke could overlook his blocking problems because they are largely an issue of strength, not effort. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com points out that Fleener will get downfield and “ block multiple defenders on a single play when he can,” and that he “understands his role as a blocker and doesn’t shirk from it.” National Football Post also points out that Fleener has “natural balance in pass protection on the rare occasions they do keep him in and can hold his own reaching the corner and anchoring.”

The Maybes:

Adrien Robinson

Projection HT WT 40 Y/D Bench Shuttle Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill
5 – FA 6-4 264 4.58 15 4.43 11’03” 7.03

Robinson is somewhat a prototypical 49er tight end, and his athleticism rivals that of Vernon Davis. Unfortunately, there is little written about Robinson, but what has been written suggests that he fits Baalke’s MO. Scott Carasik of the Bleacher Report calls him one of the harder workers on the Cincinnati team. Carasik also believes that Robinson is a willing blocker. ESPN Insider notes that Robinson “comes off the ball with good pad level and natural leverage,” while possessing “a solid inline powerbase.” ESPN also believes Robinson holds up well in “one-on-one battles.” Still, Robinson is largely considered a “raw” prospect that would need time to improve on his technique.

Kyle Koger

Projection HT WT 40 Y/D Bench Shuttle Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill
6-FA 6-4 253 N/A 21 4.53 09”02 N/A

Koger is something of an enigma. A hamstring injury prevented him from fully participating at Michigan’s Pro Day, and so, this analysis will be a bit incomplete. While not the best in-line blocker in the draft (that’s George Bryan), Koger more than holds his own. Matt De Lima of FFToolBox.com believes blocking is the best part of Koger game. At the East-West Shrine Game, SI’s Tony Pauline called Koger a “dominant blocker.” ESPN Insider would mostly agree, noting that Koger “displays an above-average inline power base.” Koger is not a bad pass-catcher either. National Football Post suggests that Koger has “impressive range when asked to go get the football,” and can extend his long arms and [use] his hands to routinely pluck off his frame.”

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