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Athlon previews the 2013 NFL Draft by telling you who to watch this college football season.
It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year’s NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.
Today, we rank college football's best tight end prospects:
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-6, 250, Jr.)
The big Fighting Irish tight end is easily the top prospect at his position for this upcoming draft. But poor quarterback play has limited his statistical production in 2012. He entered his final season as more of a pass-catcher but has gotten stronger at the point of attack as ND looked to pound the football more this fall. He projects as an excellent receiver on the next level and, should he continue to develop as an in-line blocker, he could creep into the first round next spring.
2. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 255, Sr.)
From a pure athletic stand point, few players in the nation will match the size and speed combination Fauria brings to the table. He has more upside as a receiver than a blocker but is adequate at both. He needs to polish his overall game and prove his dedication and commitment to being a great player. Developing a killer instinct might be his only weakness.
3. Jordan Reed, Florida (6-3, 245, Jr.)
He will likely function more as an H-Back due to his overall lack of speed, but there are no weaknesses to his overall game. He is strong, physical and solid in a blocking role. He has speed and quickness on the outside in the passing game. And he showed loads of versatility as a runner and quarterback prior to the pro-style switch in 2012. He has dealt with three different coordinators in three seasons in Gainesville, so he is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.
4. Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269, Sr.)
The pros for Williams: A huge frame. A nasty, powerful run-blocker. He played in a pro-style system coached by football czar Nick Saban. His pass-catching skills are limited, particularly down the field, but there is plenty of room in the NFL for a guy with his in-line blocking talents.
5. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-6, 252, Jr.)
Ertz is a slightly less talented version of Coby Fleener. He isn’t quite as fast, isn’t quite as a powerful and hasn’t been quite as productive. Otherwise, he is a very similar player with similar skills. He has played in a pro-style attack that focuses on NFL skills at the tight end position. Few programs have prepared this position for the next level like Stanford.
6. Dion Sims, Michigan State (6-5, 285, Jr.)
Sims entered his final season with no help at quarterback or wide receiver and will likely finish as the top Sparty pass-catcher. He is a powerful blocker with a big frame and solid athleticism. He won’t wow scouts with his overall speed or quickness, but he has enough talent to stay on an NFL field due to his physicality and overall size. He should be a solid first and second down option with red zone potential.
7. Levine Toilolo, Stanford (6-8, 265, Jr.)
No player at this position will bring a bigger, better frame to the next level than Toilolo. His is massive. He can be used equally as a pass-catcher and in-line blocker, but needs to refine his talents at both. He is a more of a long-term project than some of his peers, but few can match his raw upside. When it comes to working vertically down the seam or in the red zone, few have the potential to be as dangerous as the 6-8 monster from out west.
8. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (6-5, 255, Sr.)
Without being elite at any one thing, Lutz is the complete package at tight end. He has suffered through horrendous quarterback play, multiple offensive systems and complete coaching turmoil. Yet, back in 2010 with Cam Newton as his quarterback, he produced in key situations and was a big part of the championship run as only a sophomore. He has middle-round steal written all over him — once he can get out of Auburn.
9. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6-6, 265, Jr.)
This big fella’s production will never match his overall upside. Iowa will never be a pass-centric offense so his production in the passing game will never give an accurate picture of his talents. He has a huge frame and the ability to contribute equally in both the running and passing games. This is a player who should be a much better pro player than college.
10. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-5, 245, Sr.)
This Buckeye is a slightly smaller version of Fauria. Electric athletic ability with the ability to stretch the field vertically with ease. Yet, an overall lack of production and in-line blocking potential stand out on the resume as well. His offensive scheme limited his usage and overall numbers at times, so he could blossom on the next level if he lands in the right system.
Other Names to Watch:
Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 236, Sr.)
DC Jefferson, Rutgers (6-6, 250, Sr.)
Ryan Griffin, UConn (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Ben Cotton, Nebraska (6-6, 255, Sr.)
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee (6-3, 245, Sr.)
Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-4, 245, Sr.)
Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Kyler Reed, Nebraska (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 260, Sr.)
Chris Pantale, Boston College (6-6, 255, Sr.)
- by Braden Gall
Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:
2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs
2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties
2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers
2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles
2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers