The Carolina Panthers might want to upgrade the tight end position this offseason. Although Greg Olsen is one of the best tight ends in the league, there is currently little depth behind him, as backups Ben Hartsock and Richie Brockel have combined for only 34 career receptions. Furthermore, Hartsock is a 32 year old veteran who offers little in the passing game, while Brockel is mostly a special teams player. Both players are also under one year contracts, which is why it’s hard seeing the Panthers going into the regular season only with these three players on their depth chart.
Fortunately, the 2013 NFL Draft is deep with tight end talent, and there is a good chance that there will be several quality prospects available in the fourth or fifth rounds. Today, I’ll take a closer look at three intriguing players who could be on the board when the Panthers pick on Day 3 of the Draft. All three of these prospects would be excellent depth upgrades for the Panthers.
Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Projected Round: 3-4
Kelce is a rare talent. He has excellent size and strength, as he is one of the best inline blockers in the entire draft. He is also a fluid athlete, and it shows in his smooth routes, and his ability to make touch catches in traffic. His older brother Jason Kelce also plays in the NFL as the Philadelphia Eagles’ center.
Although Kelce is very talented on the field, he is a mid round prospect because he carries some baggage off the field – he was suspended for the entire 2010 season due to violating team rules. Furthermore, he has injury concerns, as he played with a hernia injury all of last season. The same hernia injury caused him to miss the Senior Bowl and Combine.
Kelce is definitely an intriguing player, because he is legitimate first round talent. However, character issues and injuries could cause him to fall on draft day. If he is there in the fourth round, he could be a steal for the Panthers.
Dion Sims, Michigan State
Projected Round: 4-6
Sims looks, and even plays like an offensive lineman at times. Although he is currently listed at 262 pounds, his college weight was closer to 290. Even at that size, Sims displayed excellent speed and agility for a big man. He also has soft hands and is excellent after the catch, as he is very, very hard to bring down. Sims also is one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft, as he is a mauler in the run game.
Unfortunately, like Travis Kelce, Sims has problems off of the field. He missed the entire 2010 season after pleading guilty to a felony receiving and concealing stolen property charge. He also battled wrist and ankle injuries during his college career. As a result, he didn’t have a lot of production in college.
Sims could drop as far as the fifth round in the draft. If he is there, the Panthers might want to take a look at him. Players of his size and ability are hard to come by, and he could be a great value pick if he lasts until the fifth round.
Jordan Reed, Florida
Projected Round: 4
What scouts love about Reed is his versatility. Several respected draft analysts, including Greg Cosell of NFL Films, have compared him to Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez because of his ability to play multiple positions on offense. During his time at Florida, Reed lined up as an inline tight end, in the slot, out wide as a receiver, and in the backfield as a halfback. This versatility means that he could be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators, like Hernandez. At 6’3, Reed is also another big target for Cam Newton to throw to.
At this stage in his development, Reed will still need to work on his route running, and build more strength so he can improve his run and pass blocking. Despite these flaws, Reed could step in on day one and produce in the Panthers offense.
So, Panthers fans, what are your thoughts about these prospects? Who are your favorite tight ends in the Draft? Are there any others you feel the Panthers should take a look at? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below.