The Atlanta Falcons are a team that, coming off a surprising Super Bowl appearance, don’t have a ton of glaring needs on the roster. That allows them to be more flexible with the way they approach the draft, and creates opportunities for the team to add talent in the mid-to-late rounds at positions that may not be “desperate” needs.
The 2017 NFL Draft features an incredibly deep group of tight ends. There will likely be 2-3 TEs selected in the first round this year, with names like OJ Howard and David Njoku among them. But, this abundance of talent also means that good players can fly a little “under-the-radar”.
One of those such players is Toledo TE Michael Roberts. He’s an imposing physical specimen with excellent hands and a physical style of play that makes him a strong, well-rounded blocker. I’ve had a chance to watch him in-person, as well, and I can tell you that Roberts is a player that has a real shot to be a difference-maker at the next level.
Let’s break down Roberts’ game.
TE Michael Roberts
Arm Length: 33 1/4
Hand Size: 11 5/8
Roberts certainly looks the part of an NFL tight end. At 6'4, 261, he's got ideal size to play the position at a high level. Roberts is a versatile player that lined up all over the field for Toledo--he played in-line, flexed out wide, and as an H-back at times. He has an enormous catch radius due to his frame, long arms, and huge hands. Roberts showed excellent receiving ability, and was a reliable chain-mover and red-zone weapon for Toledo. His 16 TDs during the 2016 season are a testament to his effectiveness there.
Roberts also showed good ability as a blocker. He was trusted in pass protection when blocking in-line and generally held up well there. Powerful player in the run game, with enough juice to get to the second level and drive back smaller defenders. Roberts is good enough in this area that he could probably make a roster as a blocking TE alone. His physical style of play shows in his blocking and receiving--he's hard to tackle, will fight for the ball in traffic and for yards after the catch.
Roberts is physically imposing but he's not a flashy athlete. Average speed to go along with fairly average agility and quickness. Roberts wins with physicality and by boxing out defenders with his enormous frame. As a receiver, he's an unrefined route runner and will need to work on that aspect of his game at the next level. Not a sudden mover, but moves smoothly and has enough balance to believe he could improve in this area.
Although Roberts is a willing blocker that possesses good strength, his blocking technique could use refinement. He will occasionally latch on to defenders that get around him, drawing holding penalties. Roberts will sometimes take bad angles on reach blocks and blocks at the second level, causing him to miss his man. Only had one year of big production, giving scouts a very small sample size to evaluate.
Grade: 3.5 (late 3rd, early 4th)
Roberts is a great fit for a team that runs a lot of multiple-TE looks. Sarkisian’s offense is similar to Shanahan’s in that both utilize multiple-TE looks a majority of the time. If the Falcons plan to have multiple TEs on the field throughout the game, that means having a deep and versatile group is critical to the offense’s success.
Roberts has all the tools to be an above-average TE at the NFL level. While he lacks stunning athleticism, he’s a smooth mover with a large frame and a physical style of play. He’s a size mismatch against safeties and he’s strong enough to out-muscle LBs as a receiver. Not to mention that Roberts is already a capable blocker, and would be ready to contribute in that area immediately.
With the depth at TE in the 2017 Draft, Roberts is currently projecting in the 4th-5th round. I recently snagged him with the Falcons’ 5th round pick in my most recent Mock Draft. That is excellent value for a player of Roberts’ caliber. I suspect that his stock will probably rise somewhat prior to the draft, but he could likely still be had with our 4th round selection.
Roberts would likely start out as the third or fourth TE in the rotation while refining his blocking and receiving technique. A group of Hooper, Toilolo, Roberts, and Perkins would be a versatile and deep stable of TEs for years to come, and would continue to allow the offense to operate effectively with multiple-TE looks.
What do you think about Roberts’ fit on the Falcons? Do you think using a 4th or 5th round pick on a TE in this deep class is a good idea? Who are some other TEs you’re interested in for Atlanta?