We're going to have to replace a legend pretty soon, and accomplishing a task like that is never easy. This isn't the deepest draft class for tight ends, but at least there are some promising candidates in the mix.
With only one tight end, Coby Fleener, projected to go in Round 1, we've got a shot at a couple of guys who could make an impact right away. Fleener is a stud, and 98 percent (made up statistic) of the mock drafts I've seen have him off the boards in the first round.
Everyone seems to have a personal favorite in this group. Ladarius Green has steadily climbed his way into the hearts of Atlanta fans lately, as he seems to be the front-runner around here for Round 3.
Let's go ahead and look at the potential tight ends who could suit up for the Falcons next year, and I'll let you guys decide who you want. We'll use CBSSports.com for the projections, since they've actually updated theirs recently.
Dwayne Allen, projected Round 2: He won the John Mackey Award in 2011 (most outstanding tight end) as he finished his junior campaign with 50 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. Allen has consistently been ranked the No. 2 tight end in this year's class. The majority of scouts have Allen going in Round 2, but unfortunately it may be before Atlanta has a shot at him. If he's there, he's tough to pass up.
Ladarius Green, Round 3: Green's draft stock has been going up ever since the NFL Combine, when he ran a 4.53 40. He can't really block and his route running skills aren't blowing anyone away, but he's a tough matchup for opponents with his ability to spread the field. At 6'6", 238 lbs. he still has room to build. I've personally endorsed drafting Green with the No. 84 overall pick, allowing for an O/D-lineman to be taken in Round 2.
Orson Charles, Round 3-4: His road to the NFL has been a little rough already. He was charged with a DUI in March, not the best way to promote yourself to the Falcons. Charles' stock appears to have plummeted lately, but we still know how good he can be in the passing game. His SEC pedigree will certainly help his cause.
Taylor Thompson, Round 3-4: Who? This guy has somehow climbed his way up draft boards, and you probably aren't very familiar with him. There's a reason for that: he played defensive end for SMU. Coming out of high school Thompson was a 3-star TE, but they changed his position when injury issues affected the D-line.
Despite not playing tight end in awhile, he's still nearly 6'6", 259 lbs., and he ran a 4.55 40 at his pro day. His 10'6" broad jump and 37" vertical also impressed scouts. Don't count him out.
Michael Egnew, Round 4: He put up some strong numbers in Indy, leading tight ends in the vertical and broad jump. Egnew was a converted receiver at Mizzou, so we at least know he can get it done with his hands. He stretches the field but he struggles at blocking, stop me if you've heard this already. Might be available in Round 5, if the Falcons don't have a TE by then, why not?
Deangelo Peterson, Round 4-5: After he played both wide receiver and tight end at LSU, he's labeled as a tweener. Peterson doesn't have great size, which is pretty apparent on the field. If you're a fan of his, I'm sorry, because I really don't see much of a need for Atlanta to draft him. He could provide mismatches, but so could plenty of other projects with more upside.
Rhett Ellison, Round 5: USC didn't use him a whole lot, but he showed flashes of potential on a few occasions. It seems, though, when he catches the ball that's pretty much it. Nothing special happens after contact is made. He'd be another project, like most of the guys deeper in the draft, but he could still be considered.
These are all of the tight ends with Round 5 or better projections. They could take on a later project, someone like James Hanna who ranked towards the top in a lot of the Combine workouts. Who's your favorite out of this year's group? Is there someone I haven't mentioned you like better?