Football

Ranking the top tight end prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft

Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams was a load for defenders to handle, scoring eight touchdowns last season.
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams was a load for defenders to handle, scoring eight touchdowns last season. CENTRE DAILY TIMES

1. Maxx Williams, 6-4, 249, Minnesota

Bio: Two-year starter who caught 36 passes for 569 yards (15.8 average) and eight touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. Turns 21 this year. 33 1/2-inch arms. 10 3/8-inch hands. 4.78 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 34.5-inch vertical. 117-inch broad jump. 4.37 20-yard shuttle. 12.31 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: All-Juice Team member. Is young for a prospect. Lean and athletic. Needs to gain strength but has room to fill out. Is a very willing blocker who gives good effort and blocks to the whistle but occasionally falls off blocks due to lack of strength. Was largely used as a “move” tight end (unattached to the line or lining up in the slot. Shows enough athleticism to outpace college defensive backs and threaten the seam. Has some juice after the catch; runs hard, fights for extra yards and can run away from some defenders. Shows good body control and hand-eye coordination; has soft hands and repeatedly showed the ability to make tough, spectacular catches. Good route runner, has shown the ability to create separation with his feet against defensive backs. Is an emotional player who plays hard and is into the game.

Grade: 6.9

Story: Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams is living in the moment

2. Clive Walford, 6-4, 251, Miami (Fla.)

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who caught 44 passes for 676 yards (15.4 average) and seven touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Turns 24 this year. 34-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.79 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 4.57 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. With big hands and long arms, is a natural catcher with a large catch radius. Runs solid routes and possesses good athleticism. Is comfortable catching the ball in traffic. Showed out at the Senior Bowl — was unguardable. Has upside as a “move” tight end in the NFL. Lacks the bulk and overall strength to be a dominating run blocker in the NFL but gives very good effort and often gets the job done. Reportedly turned teams off at the combine with his attitude.

Grade: 6.7

3. Darren Waller, 6-6, 238, Georgia Tech

Bio: Two-year starter who caught 26 passes for 442 yards (17.0 average) and six touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 33 1/4-inch arms. 9-inch hands. 4.46 40-yard dash. 12 bench reps. 37-inch vertical. 125-inch broad jump. 7.07 3-cone drill. 4.25 20-yard shuttle. 11.35 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: College receiver who some teams will leave at that position, but possesses the size, athleticism and ball skills to be an intriguing “move” tight end in the NFL Played in an old-school, run-heavy option offense in college so he has experienced blocking but is not a mauler and generally just tries enough to get the job done. Lined up inside and outside and can threaten the seam, vertically, from the slot or attached to the line of scrimmage. Can make the tough catch and track the ball vertically. Has some burst off the line of scrimmage. Hasn't caught a ton of passes in his career and will need to be coached up on the fine points of playing the position but there's a lot to work with here.

Grade: 6.6

4. Devin Funchess, 6-4, 232, Michigan

Bio: Two-year starter who caught 62 passes for 733 yards (11.8 average) and four touchdowns in 11 games in 2014. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 21 this year. 33 1/2-inch arms. 9 3/4-inch hands. 4.70 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 38.5-inch vertical. 122-inch broad jump. 6.98 3-cone drill. 4.48 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Young for a prospect. Is long and leggy with a great vertical and catch radius. Played receiver in 2014 after spending his first two years on campus as a tight end. Is not much of a blocker but might not be twitchy or fast enough (4.70 40) to stay outside in the NFL. Needs to bulk up if a team wants him to be an inline blocker. Has some burst off the line of scrimmage and some decent run-after-the-catch skills; could be a big slot receiver in the mold of Jimmy Graham, but needs to improve his hands. Dealt with poor quarterback play but has focus drops and does not play to size, at times. Flashes the ability to make the tough, contested catch but should do it a tad more, give his size.

Grade: 6.6

5. Tyler Kroft, 6-5, 246, Rutgers

Bio: Two-year starter who caught 24 passes for 269 yards (11.2 average) and zero touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Declared after his redshirt junior season. Turns 23 this year. 33-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.75 40-yard dash. 34-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 7.18 3-cone drill. 4.5 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Needs to bulk up — currently lacks the strength to consistently hold up as an inline blocker — generally gives good effort and possesses good play speed and athleticism for the position. Has some burst out of his stance and out of his cuts and is comfortable operating in the middle of the field. Ball skills are solid — looks good going up and getting it. Wasn't as productive in 2014 as he was in 2013.

Grade: 6.3

6. Nick Boyle, 6-4, 268, Delaware

Bio: Four-year starter and team captain who caught 37 passes for 304 yards (8.2 average) and four touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Turned 22 this year. 33 3/8-inch arms. 10 3/8-inch hands. 5.04 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 30.5-inch vertical. 112-inch broad jump. 4.23 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Not much tape available of him online but during the Senior Bowl, he stood out as a big, strong kid who likes contact, as he finished his runs that week with gusto. Experienced, productive player who is not quick out of his breaks or twitchy; might need to be schemed open in the passing game but is a try-hard guy with solid hands. Level of competition is a concern but has the look of an inline tight end in the NFL; has enough bulk to do it.

Grade: 6.3

7. Gerald Christian, 6-3, 244, Louisville

Bio: Florida transfer. Two-year starter who caught 32 passes for 384 yards (12.0 average) and five touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Turns 24 this year. 32 1/2-inch arms. 10 3/4-inch hands. 4.87 40-yard dash. 28 bench reps. 7.20 3-cone drill. 4.70 20-yard shuttle. 12.66 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Lacks ideal height but is stout. Lined up everywhere but looks like an interesting “H”-back or “move” type in the NFL with some receiving upside. Is athletic and looks comfortable making the catches in traffic. Generally has a feel for pass catching, though he should continue to work on his routes. Strong kid who competes as a blocker.

Grade: 6.3

8. Rory “Busta” Anderson, 6-5, 244, South Carolina

Bio: Two-year starter who caught 22 passes for 260 yards (11.8 average) and a touchdown in 10 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 32 1/4-inch arms. 8 3/4-inch hands. Did not work out due to a triceps injury.

Evaluation: Dealt with some triceps injuries in 2014 and has overall durability concerns. Is a rangy guy who competes as an inline blocker and flashes nastiness but needs to add some weight. Is a good athlete who is quick off the line of scrimmage and flashes some run-after-the-catch skills. Has small hands but flashes some ball skills; can high-point the ball and win vs. man coverage. Needs to refine his route running; rounds them off. Emotional player who is into it. Hasn't found the end zone much the last two seasons; only one touchdown during that time span.

Grade: 6.3

9. Jeff Heuerman, 6-5, 254, Ohio State

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who caught 17 passes for 207 yards (12.2 average) and two touchdowns in 10 games in 2014. 33 1/4-inch arms. 10 1/8-inch hands. 4.80 40-yard dash. 26 bench reps. 34.5-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump.

Evaluation: Dealt with a foot injury that limited his effectiveness as a senior. Has okay straight-ahead speed but isn't sudden or twitchy. Wish he had more ball production but displays soft hands and is comfortable working the middle of the field. Also has some niftiness after the catch. Struggles to locate blocking targets in space. Could stand to be a little more rugged as a blocker but generally gives good effort and could be okay in a zone-run scheme.

Grade: 6.3

10. Jesse James, 6-7, 261, Penn State

Bio: Three-year starter who caught 38 passes for 396 yards (10.4 average) and three touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Declared after his true junior season. Turns 21 this year. 33-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.83 40-yard dash. 26 bench reps. 37.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 4.50 20-yard shuttle. 12.15 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is young for a prospect. Big, tough guy with great length and solid hands. Play speed isn't great but tested well at the combine and has good functional strength. Will work the middle of the field and absorb the big blow but doesn't create a ton of separation. Has the look of an inline tight end on the NFL level.

Grade: 6.3

11. E.J. Bibbs, 6-2, 258, Iowa State

Bio: Juco transfer. Two-year starter and team captain who caught 45 passes for 382 yards (8.5 average) and eight touchdowns in 10 games in 2014. Turns 24 this year. 31 1/8-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.86 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 31 1/2-inch vertical. 110-inch broad jump. 7.22 3-cone drill. 4.52 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Lacks the necessary height and length to be an inline blocker and will have to function as a “move” tight end or H-back. Has good bulk and strength and for his stature Missed the last two games of the season with a knee injury. Has okay play speed, but was a good enough athlete to be targeted on screens. Isn't terribly sudden but shows flashes of being a good route runner. Has the occasional focus drop but can make the tough catch over the middle. Flashes good ball skills.

Grade: 6.3

12. Ben Koyack, 6-5, 255, Notre Dame

Bio: One-year starter who caught 30 passes for 317 yards (10.6 average) and two touchdowns in 13 games in 2014. Turns 22 this year. 32 5/8-inch arms. 10 3/4-inch hands. 4.76 40-yard dash. 16 bench reps. 30-inch vertical. 116-inch broad jump. 7.32 3-cone drill. 4.52 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is big enough to serve as an inline blocker. Needs to get stronger but is willing and has lots of experience blocking, both in the running game and in pass protection. Flashes some nastiness. Has average athleticism and is better working the short-to-intermediate game but has large, fairly reliable hands.

Grade: 6.2

13. Blake Bell, 6-6, 252, Oklahoma

Bio: Two-year starter (one at tight end) who caught 16 passes for 214 yards (13.4 average) and zero touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Turns 24 this year. 33 1/8-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.80 40-yard dash. 14 bench reps. 33-inch vertical. 116-inch broad jump. 4.32 20-yard shuttle. 11.81 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Converted quarterback who needs to bulk up some but tested well and has good athleticism for the position. Isn't going to be a dominating blocker but has potential as a “move” tight end or maybe as an inline guy in a zone scheme. Effort is okay; tries to get in the way. Real value comes in his receiving ability; is raw with limited experience at tight end but shows promise as receiving threat — has some burst out of his cuts — and displays soft hands and the ability to make the acrobatic catch. Also runs hard after the catch; nickname as a quarterback was the “Belldozer.”

Grade: 6.1

14. MyCole Pruitt, 6-2, 251, Southern Illinois

Bio: Four-year starter who caught 81 passes for 861 yards (10.6 average) and 13 touchdowns in 12 games in 2014. Turned 23 this year. 33 1/2-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.58 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 38-inch vertical. 118-inch broad jump. 4.37 20-yard shuttle. 11.85 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Experienced, productive athlete who is probably too short to be an inline blocker but possesses great length and athleticism for the position and could be an adequate H-back type if he works at it. Blew everyone away at the combine with his test results. Play speed is good and has some run-after-the-catch ability. Level of competition is a concern but he passed the small-college eye test on tape by standing out. Didn't offer much as a blocker.

Grade: 6.1

15. A.J. Derby, 6-4, 255 Arkansas

Bio: One-year starter who caught 22 passes for 303 yards (13.8 average) and three touchdowns in nine games in 2014. Turns 24 this year. 30 1/2-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.69 40-yard dash. 15 bench reps. 6.99 3-cone drill. 4.51 20-yard shuttle. Did not jump in combine drills due to a foot injury.

Evaluation: Is old for a prospect. Former quarterback who converted to tight end this season. Is a tad shorter than you'd prefer and lacks strength as a blocker so he probably projects as a “move” tight end, but plays very fast. Is raw at the position and has a limited catch radius due to short arms but has upside as a receiver; is quick out of his breaks and shows ball skills.

Grade: 6.1

16. Wes Saxton, 6-3, 248, South Alabama

Bio: Juco transfer. Three-year starter who caught 20 passes for 155 yards (7.8 average) and zero touchdowns in 10 games in 2014. Turns 22 this year. 32-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.65 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 36-inch vertical. 119-inch broad jump. 4.49 20-yard shuttle. 12.52 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Looks the part — is big with long arms and good athleticism. Opened eyes with a very strong combine performance. Does not play to timed speed. Will have the occasional focus drop. Level of competition is a concern — is raw as a receiver. Production fell off in a big way as a senior. Natural athleticism warrants a shot as a developmental “move” tight end.

Grade: 6.0

GRADING SCALE

7.1-7.5: Top 10 pick

7.0: 11-20

6.9: 21-32

6.8: Top half of the second

6.7: Bottom half of the second

6.6: Top half of the third

6.5: Bottom half of the third

6.4: Fourth round pick

6.3: Fifth-round pick

6.2: Sixth-round pick

6.1: Seventh-round pick

6.0: Priority free agent

NOTE: All rankings are based on a combination of extensive personal film study, interviews conducted with draft analysts and information gleaned from NFL Network draft broadcasts. Evaluations are cross-checked with multiple draft resources. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to NFL.com. Grades are assigned based on where The Star believes the Chiefs should take each player, based on their needs and scheme fit.

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