Despite releasing the top backup on the roster, the Minnesota Vikings have a good of tight ends that complement each other well.
Kyle Rudolph is the starter and most complete tight end on the roster. He has outstanding size and hands while improving as a blocker. Rhett Ellison is the blocker amongst the group with good hands and receiving skills. Chase Ford is a better receiver than blocker. Allen Reisner was recently re-signed. He is a blocker with minimal receiving skills.
The Vikings will likely keep three or four tight ends on the roster, depending on special teams positions. It is unlikely the Vikings will select a tight end early in the draft. An undrafted or late round prospect could unseat the third and fourth guys on the roster. Here are the top five tight ends in the 2014 draft as well as an underrated an overrated and a sleeper prospect.
No. 1 - Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Ebron has emerged as the clear cut No. 1 tight end in the draft. He is a dynamic athlete with the speed and quickness to line up wide. He has the combination of size and athleticism that could make a top 10 draft pick. His freakish athleticism and playmaking ability have drawn comparisons to Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound former Tar Heel finished his junior season with 895 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 55 catches. He also had seven rushing yards on two carries.
No. 2 - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Seferian-Jenkins was as recognized a tight end as there was in college football entering last season. He was on seven first team All-America lists. However, at the end of the season he finished with just three recognitions. He won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end as well as earning third team All-America honors from the Associated Press and second team All-Pac 12.
He has good size and strength while possessing good route running skills and hands. He lacks the athleticism necessary to create separation from safeties and some linebackers and does not have the physical presence that usually comes with players his size.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 262-pound former Husky finished his junior season with 450 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 36 catches. He did not participate in the combine nor the Washington pro day due to a stress fracture.
No. 3 - Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Amaro is a one-dimensional receiving tight end with good size and athleticism. He is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. He is a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. He is a liability as a blocker and there are concerns over his maturity and attitude. He will not fit into every offensive scheme, but will thrive in those that he does.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 265-pound former Red Raider finished his junior season with 1,240 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 98 catches.
No. 4 - Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Niklas is a huge tight end with the blocking acumen that is usually missing from top-end draft prospects. Tight ends generally have the receiving skills, but Niklas is a true inline blocker with improving receiving skills. He can play multiple tight end positions in any offensive scheme; lining up at H-back, playing an underneath receiving option or extra blocker in pass protection. He has drawn comparisons to Anthony Fasano of the Kansas City Chiefs because of his size and a lack of athleticism.
The 6-foot-7-inch, 270-pound former Fighting Irish finished his redshirt junior season with 422 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 28 catches.
No. 5 - Jake Murphy, Utah
Murphy has the ideal size and frame of an NFL tight end. He has good receiving skills and an impressive bloodline. He is the son of former Major League Baseball outfielder Dale Murphy and brother of former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Shawn Murphy. He has drawn comparisons to Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens because of under-the-radar status and receiving skills.
Jake does not always play with power and strength of his size. He missed four games last season because of a broken wrist and is a little older than most prospects at 24-years-old.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 249-pound former Ute finished his junior season with 417 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 25 catches. He also had one carry for four yards.
Underrated - Xavier Grimble, USC
Grimble was a highly recruited tight end prospect. He does not have top-end athleticism, but is a complete tight end. He can help in the short-yardage passing game with strong hands and a big body. He is not going to separate from defenders, but can get downfield on occasion. Blocking may be his strongest attribute. He is going to be an asset to any team as an extra offensive lineman.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 257-pound former Trojan finished his redshirt junior season with 248 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 23 catches. He also had three yards on two kick returns.
Overrated - C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Fiedorowicz was a highly recruited prospect out of high school because of his size. He developed as a blocker as expected, but he does not have the athleticism to be a receiving threat. He has the hands and body control necessary to get the job done in the passing game, but he is going to struggle to create separation from safeties, linebackers and even some defensive ends.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound former Hawkeye finished his senior season with 253 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 26 catches. He also had four yards on one kick return.
Sleeper - Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Lyerla is a highly skilled tight end that could have been one of the top prospects in the draft at his position. However, off-the-field issues forced him to leave the Oregon football team in early October. He has changed representation and appears like he wants to change personal life. If that occurs, he will be a steal of a draft pick in the middle rounds.
He is a physical specimen with great size, athleticism and ball skills. He is no slouch as a blocker either. He is a competitor that does not accept losing. He has been compared to Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 242-pound former Duck finished his junior season with 26 receiving yards on two catches. He also had 17 rushing yards and one touchdown on three carries.