There is a lot of debate about the Falcon’s prospects for a first round pick. Because of my decision to completely avoid thinking about the potential of a lockout, I decided to involve myself in draft preparation. I wrote a piece earlier about potential RBs we could pick up in the mid rounds of the draft. This one will be dedicated to my belief that we should use our first round pick on a TE. Obviously, I don’t need to give you a list of candidates who qualify for the pick because there is only one candidate, Kyle Rudolph out of Notre Dame. Look up his film and numbers if you would like. Experts believe he is the clear #1TE and I agree with them. So instead of listing out all of that information, I will center my argument on other TEs in the NFL and show that while there is potential to pick up a solid TE in the mid rounds, there seems to be a lot of success when drafting TEs early.
I have listed all of the teams in the NFL and their highest rated TE on the depth chart. For arguments sake, I even included some of the backup TEs who played a key role on their team this year. Take a quick glance at the list and I will continue my argument afterward.
Baltimore Ravens- Todd Heap- 2001 1st Round (31st overall)
Cincinnati Bengals- Jermaine Gresham- 2010 1st round (21st overall)
Cleveland Browns- Ben Watson- 2004 1st round (32nd overall)
Pittsburgh Steelers- Heath Miller- 2005 1st round (30th overall)
Indianapolis Colts- Dallas Clark- 2003 1st Round (24th overall)
Jacksonville Jaguars- Marcedes Lewis- 2006 1st Round (28th Overall)
Tennessee Titans- Bo Scaife- 2005 6th round
Miami Dolphins- Anthony Fasano- 2006 2nd round (53rd overall)
Denver Broncos- Daniel Graham- 2002 1st round (21st overall)
Oakland Raiders- Zach Miller- 2007 2nd round (38th overall)
Chicago Bears- Greg Olsen- 2007 1st round (31st pick)
Detroit Lions- Brandon Pettigrew- 2009 1st round (20th overall)
Minnesota Vikings- Visanthe Shiancoe- 2003 3rd round
Atlanta Falcons- Tony Gonzalez- 1997 1st round (13th overall)
Carolina Panthers- Jeff King- 2006 5th round
Dallas Cowboys- Jason Witten- 2003 3rd round
Philadelphia Eagles- Brent Celek- 2007 5th round
Washington Redskins- Chris Cooley- 2004 3rd round
Seattle Seahawks- John Carlson- 2008 2nd round (39th overall)
Of the top TEs in the NFL, 14 of them were drafted in the first round, five in the second round, seven were taken in the third round, two in the fourth round, three in the fifth round, two in the sixth round, two in the seventh round, and one went undrafted. Some of those lower drafted guys (Ben Patrick, Billy Bajema, David Martin) are not top TEs. They were on this list because they were the default best TE on their team. It makes me feel that the trend with TEs is that most good TEs are drafted in the early stages stages (first round or two) of the draft. Now, before you start yelling and screaming about the rookies from this year, take a step back at first and realize that the argument is based on one year of production. I am not denying that these guys have potential to be good players. As you can see, some later picks ended up becoming productive, starting TEs. However, when you consider that of the 32 teams in the NFL, over 40% of them have a first round TE starting, it makes it a convincing argument. Also, some of the least successful teams do not have a quality TE (STL, ARI, CAR, BUF). I concede that some higher drafted TEs never lived up to their first round draft status (D. Graham being the prime example). But they are still starting for their teams. A lot of other first rounders at other positions who didn’t live up to expectations can’t say the same thing. Basically, to sum up this whole paragraph, I can find three main trends.
Tight ends taken in the first round tend to be safe picks.
While there are some success stories, tight ends drafted later in the draft tend to not be successful in the NFL.
Having a solid tight end seems to correlate with being a successful team (note that I am not saying having a solid tight end causes a team to be good, but rather good teams tend to have solid TEs)
When I look at the Falcons and our TE situation, I am thrilled to know the greatest tight end in NFL history is lining up for us. I am also knowledgeable of the fact that Tony G. will not be around forever. I do not believe Justin Peele or Michael Palmer will live up to the billing of being successful tight ends in the NFL.
Therefore, I propose to you, my fellow Falcoholics, that with our first round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, we should select Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame. Feel free to comment, argue, or maybe even praise below.