(Following up this morning's "beyond the second round" post on tight ends, let's revisit the scout's notebook from the position.)
OVERVIEW: Tight ends were at one time more closely associated as an extra layer of protection on the offensive line with the ability to be a receiving outlet when needed; today, players like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have altered the way teams build their defenses. The role of a tight end remains multifaceted, as they will be called upon to both block and catch on a consistent basis, which requires a diverse skill set and an aptitude to understand many angles of the game plan.
DESIRED TRAITS: The ideal tight end can both block at a level that resembles an offensive lineman and catch at a level that resembles a receiver. Finding such a player is a rarity, although the Patriots happen to have one in Rob Gronkowski.
On the blocking front, tight ends aim to get off the ball, engage defenders with a square, balanced base, and explode upon contact. Scouts looks for quickness in blocking, strength, footwork and a willingness to take on bigger, more powerful defenders. Gronkowski shows terrific strength, hand placement, power through his hips to drive forward, and a nastiness to finish his blocks as well.
The important traits to examine in tight ends as receivers are separation ability and catching skills. Tight ends are typically not as athletic as receivers, so separation often comes from using their size to leverage defenders.
The “F” or “move” tight end varies from a traditional “Y” tight end. The "F" is a player who is used all over the offensive formation, and is an adept receiver. A "Y", by comparison, is responsible to be an effective blocker, while often owning a less prominent receiving role. Gronkowski bucks the trend, as he can both block and catch.
SPECIAL TEAMS ANGLE: Tight end is another position that teams often look to for core special teams contributions, as well as blockers on the field goal/PAT team. If a team opts to keep a third and potentially fourth tight end, they must be able to contribute in the kicking game.