Levine Toilolo has been an intriguing player for a while now for one, simple reason: He is very tall.
Despite his 6'8" frame, however, Toilolo has done very little in the NFL to this point as a fourth round pick out of the 2012 draft class. He's still very young (just 24 years old), but after three seasons and with his contract expiring after the 2016 season, his time to make an impact (and a case for staying) in Atlanta might be running out.
Let's look at Toilolo's year and what lies ahead for the tall (did we mention tall?) tight end.
Another quiet season
Toilolo was effectively the starter in 2014, but managed only 31 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns, disappearing for long stretches of the game and not proving to be the red zone asset many of us hoped he would be. Heading into 2015, Kyle Shanahan and company determined they needed a new #1 option at tight end and signed Jacob Tamme to a multi-year deal, with Tony Moeaki latching on as veteran insurance.
Toilolo was again active in all 16 games in 2015 and turned in an improved year as a blocker, which is absolutely to his credit. With Tony Moeaki cut before the year began and only getting back onto the field for the Falcons late in the year, though, Toilolo was the #2 tight end almost all year and proved to be almost a complete non-factor in the passing game, winding up with just seven catches for 44 yards and no touchdowns. Again, the height and soft hands he displayed during his college career at Stanford simply haven't translated into the NFL, and Toilolo was properly used in 2015 because of that.
Because we now have three NFL seasons to judge, it's pretty fair to say that Toilolo would need to take a major step forward as a receiver and route runner to truly make an impact in 2016. He's cheap and at least a competent blocking tight end, so he'll have a role on this team as the second or third tight end again in 2016, but he can't be counted on to suddenly emerge as a red zone threat, and I wouldn't expect the Falcons to prioritize re-signing him after this coming season, when I can see them effectively blowing up the tight end position and trying to add young talent.
Toilolo's fortunes will likely depend on whether Atlanta drafts a tight end this year, and whether they like Moeaki enough to keep him around, considering Tony Milwaukee is by far the better pass catcher. He'll be backup, and we hope he'll finally break out.