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Don’t blink, Atlanta Falcons rookie TE Eric Saubert can contribute in 2017

Fact: Eric Saubert vaguely resembles an action movie villain from the 1980s

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons rookie tight end Eric Saubert probably wasn’t on your radar before the draft. Maybe he still isn’t on your radar. Saubert did start 37 games in college, albeit at perennial football powerhouse Drake. (That’s a lot of college starts; he also missed three games due to injury during his sophomore campaign.) But for a fifth rounder, Saubert has an uncommon path to playing time. Whether he will seize the opportunity remains to be seen.

Let’s consider the road ahead for Saubert. Austin Hooper impressed as a rookie and has TE1 on lock. But from there, it’s anyone’s guess. There’s the reliably reliable third string right tackle, Levine Toilolo, whose blocking will keep him on the roster. There’s Josh Perkins and D.J. Tialavea, two hardworking guys filling out the back end of the depth chart. Hooper can’t stay on the field for every offensive snap. If Saubert is a more versatile receiver, there’s no reason to think he can’t usurp some of Toilolo’s snaps.

Saubert’s calling card is his versatility. He’s way more athletic than your average tight end, and to that effect, he’s accustomed to playing all over the field. His blocking admittedly isn’t where it needs to be, but at 6’5, 253 pounds, and with the ability to bench 225 pounds 22 times, the potential is there. He also struggled mightily with drops in college, but who was throwing to him? The bottom line is this: he can wear many hats. What do you need him to do? From lining up in the slot to stretching the defense, he’s capable. Treat him like an athlete and the possibilities are endless. It’s simply going to come down to what he does with his chances.

So yes, I’m pretty bullish on Saubert, even if most rationale football minds are tempering their expectations. To be frank, given what we know about Saubert’s skill set, I can’t blame the skeptics. He’s a relatively unknown FCS prospect that’s simply got to stop dropping the ball. But he’s an incredible athlete with good size, and we already know new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian plans to flex out tight ends more frequently than his predecessor. I won’t be surprised if he racks up 20-25 receptions and a couple scores. Couple that with what he does that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, both in the offense and on the special teams. What’s not to like?

Your thoughts?