With the best Tight End in NFL history deciding to call it quits after next season, I think it is only right that we start looking for a replacement to be mentored under him for the next year. With that said I think our best option would be in the draft as free agency doesn't hold too many "homerun threats" at TE. This year honestly has one of the best drafting pools for Tight Ends that I have seen in my 18 years of life...
I will evaluate 5 of the top prospects in my mind coming into the draft this year: Dwayne Allen from Clemson, Coby Fleener from Stanford, Orson Charles from Georgia, David Paulson from Oregon, and Ladarius Green from Louisiana-Lafayette.
1) Dwayne Allen, Clemson, Jr. HT: 6-3 WT: 255
I can honestly say, I do not see the Falcons getting this guy. He is definitely going to get looks in the first round. If he isn't gone after that, he will be a very early second round pick. Yet, I will evaluate him anyway. Dwayne Allen is probably the most well-rounded out of all the prospects I will evaluate. He is a big-bodied fellow that can run. He was a serious red-zone threat for Clemson this past year, and I see him continuing that success into the NFL. He can also be a serious run blocker out in the flat and throws a good elbow into rushers before hitting his route. He can also jump! He has had many a defenders look stupid trying to outjump him. This guy is not my favorite prospect, but he is no doubt the best.
2011 Stat Line: 50 Catches, 598 Yards, 8 TD
2) Coby Fleener, Stanford, Sr. HT: 6-6 WT: 248
This guy is probably the model guy that Thomas Dimitroff looks for: Senior, Good Character, Good Player, and stays out of trouble. Though this guy has no doubt shown talent and has a knack for big plays, I must bring to the light that he had Andrew Luck throwing to him! Just putting that out there. This guy is no doubt at the top college level when it comes to running routes and he burns many a defender on middle of the field seam routes. He has speed and has the hands to flourish as a receiving threat. He has also been a sound blocker, not great but sound. Though the thing that might hurt him in the NFL as a blocker is his lack of bulk. Otherwise, he is a stout prospect at TE.
2011 Stat Line: 32 Catches, 667 Yards (!), 10 TD
3) Orson Charles, Georgia, Jr. HT: 6-3 WT: 241
Before I evaluate him, I must say I LOVE No. 7 from the 'Dawgs. He is my favorite out of all the prospects. So I will do my best not to be bias. Orson Charles could very well be a TE in the mold of Jimmy Graham, though maybe not as good. Orson Charles is a former basketball player that went to college on a football scholarship. He has the ups to go vertical against about any safety in the league and the speed to burn many mid-level corners. He doesn't drop balls that are thrown his way. Basically put, he was UGA's successor to A.J. Green leaving and he is a TE! Though what he has in receiving, he lacks quite a bit in the blocking department. He isn't horrible at it. He has had his moments where he puts people on their butts, other moments he is ran right by. He is a TE that lacks in the bulk department. If he could put on some muscle, he could be a serious threat in the NFL. He is coming out of what many people call Tight End U.
2011 Stat Line: 45 Catches, 574 Yards, 5 TD
4) David Paulson, Oregon, Sr. HT: 6-4 WT: 245
This guy kind of has a sleeper reputation with many draft experts. I can say I agree with that assumption following the season he put together this last season. I have watched this guy pretty thoroughly the last two seasons to know he has huge potential. In 2010, he had 24 catches for over 400 yards. He was one of LaMichael James' lead blocker out in the open field. This season while he still lead the way for James' running in a big way, he did not have many passes thrown his way. Though when he did get them his way, he surprised many defenses with his speed and athleticism along with being a good red-zone threat. Another thing that seems to be trend with this year's crop is his lack of size. He is solid prospect that many teams will sleep on. His combine will definitely help his cause.
2011 Stat Line: 31 Catches, 438 Yards, 6 TD
5) Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr. HT: 6-6 WT: 237
This guy is probably someone that 75% of you know nothing about. Up until a month or so ago, I would have been with you. I have watched numerous reels of this guy to know he has SERIOUS potential in the pros. His junior season was something of TE greatness, with 44 receptions for nearly 800 yards. He started off his senior season slow. He ended it with flare. He is a tall guy with ups of Lebron James (hyperbole people!). He has hands, hands, and hands! Also speed, speed, and speed. Though at six and a half feet, a weight of 237 is not cutting it with NFL Draft Experts. I really cannot judge his blocking skills as most videos don't tend to highlight those sort of things. He is a big sleeper pick. He looks like he can be a stud in the pros.
2011 Stat Line: 51 Catches, 606 Yards, 8 TD
All these guys have put together solid careers at the college level. I wish them the best of luck to whatever team gets these guys. The crop of tomorrow's league is right here. The draft is vastly approaching and as is Tony's retirement. With the end, comes a beginning. I definitely would love to see any of these guys in an Atlanta jersey.
Now go Falcoholics, discuss!
Dwayne Allen HL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPfAhUW_c2A
Coby Fleener HL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLdOzpVW4WE
Orson Chalres HL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STuHCseqOfc
David Paulson HL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN9DXWPbLhg
Ladarius Green HL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIY2E556BdY
[Some of those videos aren't that great, but they are the best on YouTube, I think.]