We'll be starting from the bottom and working our way up through the draft, beginning with LSU tight end Keith Zinger. Through the series, I'll be examining the pros, cons and likely role of each player. After the jump, let's be beginners with the Zinger.
History: A senior tight end out of LSU, Zinger was a redshirt junior and a key blocking tight end for the Tigers. Zinger has caught an absurdly small number of passes throughout his college career, which gives him a clear future serving as a mobile lineman in the NFL. Though he had a degree in general studies, he twice (2004 and 2006) made the SEC Academic Honor Roll and has a reputation as a bright kid. He's also married at a young age and has no character concerns to speak of.
Pros: Zinger is an excellent blocking tight end who could fit well in Mike Smith's two tight end system. He has reasonable speed for a tight end and the kind of footwork that would make him an option along the line if he were much, much fatter. With some work, he might be an occasional red zone threat, as well.
Cons: Zinger will never be an elite pass catching tight end, which means there's a lot of pressure on Martrez Milner to excel in the passing game. Zinger was diagnosed with a rare stomach disease a few years back that is under control with medication, but it's something the staff will have to keep in the back of their minds. The disease could make it difficult for him to bulk up, which he may need to do to hold back some of the league's more powerful linebackers and defensive ends. It's likely Zinger doesn't have enough upside to be more than a backup, albeit a gifted blocker.
Role: Zinger is likely to be the third tight end this season, and I'm willing to bet Mike Smith carries three. Zinger will spell Hartsock in two tight end sets and could take the field opposite Hartsock for some running situations. His blocking also makes him an attractive option on special teams, where he's likely to have a larger role. I'd give the chances of him making the roster at a robust 75%.
Final Thoughts: Zinger isn't likely to ever be a star tight end, but he could serve us well on special teams and as a backup in blocking situations. A solid pick by Dimitroff that unfortunately does put more pressure on Milner.