2014 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers interested in Iowa tight end C.J Fiedorowicz

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

C.J Fiedorowicz could be a surprise second or third round pick.

"If you want to be a running team, you have to get solid blocking out of your tight end"

-Panthers GM Dave Gettleman

Could Iowa tight end C.J Fiedorowicz be that solid blocking tight end? According to Fiedorowicz himself, the Carolina Panthers met with him at the 2014 NFL Combine, and were one of six teams that showed the most interest in his services.

With that in mind, let’s analyze Fiedorowicz’s college tape. Is he just a blocking tight end, or does he offer something in the passing game too?

C.J Fiedorowicz 2014 NFL Combine Results

Height

6-foot-5-inches

Weight

265 pounds

Hand size

10.25 inches

Arm length

33 inches

40-yard dash

4.76 seconds

Bench press

25 reps (TE group best)

Vertical jump

31.5 inches

Broad jump

116 inches

3-cone drill

7.1 seconds (TE group best)

20-yard shuttle

4.26 inches (TE group best)

Film analysis:

Run blocking:

Run blocking is Fiedorowicz’s biggest strength. He is able to use his massive frame to maul defensive ends and outside linebackers in a "phone booth". Fiedorowicz does a great job of initiating and maintaining contact right through the whistle. His strength is impressive, as he often moved defensive linemen right off the line of scrimmage with solid hand placement and leg drive.

Fiedorowicz wasn’t asked to block out in space too often in college, but I believe he has all the tools (strength, technique and awareness) to develop that aspect of his game if needed in the NFL.

Pass protection:

Fiedorowicz is improving in pass protection. Although he has a solid base and displays good pad level, he tends to get too upright in his stance off the snap. Fiedorowicz mostly got away with this in college due to solid hand placement and a powerful first punch. He was almost always able to shut defenders down once he got his hands on them.

Like most tight ends, Fiedorowicz is better in pass protection when his defender is lined up directly over him. His struggles came when defenders were shaded wide to his outside shoulders. Because of Fiedorowicz’s poor lateral footwork, he was often left reaching and overextending when trying to get his hands on defenders.

Receiving ability:

Fiedorowicz wins on short and intermediate routes either attacking the safeties in the middle of the field, or laterally stretching linebackers on routes towards the sidelines. Despite weighing almost 270 pounds, Fiedorowicz has good burst off the line of scrimmage and displays good body control while running his routes. He also has solid technique catching the football – he effectively uses his long arms and big hands to catch the football away from his body while in stride.

How he fits the Panthers offense:

Fiedorowicz fits the Panthers offense as a dual-threat inline tight end. Like Ben Hartsock, Fiedorowicz is an excellent run blocker and solid enough in pass protection. However, he's a much better threat in the passing game, as his ability as a short and intermediate yardage specialist will demand respect from opposing defenses. Fiedorowicz can also line up in the slot and run short and intermediate routes from there. He also has a massive catch radius, which will help the Panthers red zone passing attack.

Under Mike Shula in 2013, the Panthers mostly ran 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR) sets on offense, but 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) sets with Greg Olsen and Ben Hartsock were also effective when used. The only issue was that opposing defenses didn’t respect Hartsock in the passing game, as whenever Hartsock was in the game it almost always signalled a run play. With Fiedorowicz, defenses will be left guessing if they want to stay in their base package in case the Panthers use him as a run blocker, or insert another defensive back if the Panthers want to use Fiedorowicz in the passing game. This "will they or won't they" choice defensive coordinators will have to make every time Fiedorowicz is in the game will only benefit the Panthers offense.

Phil Savage weighs in:

Former Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage also had this to say about Fiedorowicz, who he ranked as the #1 tight end at the 2014 Senior Bowl:

"C.J. won the Alabama Power Most Outstanding Receiver for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices. He has excellent size with a proportioned body and is physical enough to continue developing as a blocker. He demonstrated more suddenness in and out of his cuts that will allow him to get separation when facing Man coverage. His hands are dependable and he provides a large catching radius for the QB. Expect to see C.J. get on the field as a rookie in two- and three-TE personnel groupings. He has the physical development and mental maturity to contribute in his first year."

Draft projection:

According to CBS Sports, Fiedorowicz is the fifth ranked tight end in this Draft class, behind Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas. Those players are projected first and second round picks, and Fiedorowicz is currently projected to go in either the third or fourth round. It's likely that Fiedorowicz will be gone by the fourth round, which means if the Panthers wish to attain his services, they will most likely have to spend their late third round draft pick on him. For a solid dual-threat tight end, I believe that’s well worth the investment.

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