Stats & Info: Coby Fleener

Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories.

1. CARDINAL FEVER: Day two of the 2012 NFL Draft was held on Friday. Stanford had four offensive players taken in the first 50 picks (1. Andrew Luck, 24. David DeCastro, 34. Coby Fleener, 42. Jonathan Martin). That matches the third-most offensive players to be selected from one school within the first 50 picks in the common draft era.

2. WHITNEY LIFTS COYOTES: Ray Whitney’s goal at the 14:04 mark of overtime lifted the Phoenix Coyotes to a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was Whitney’s second-career playoff OT goal. His first came in 1995 against the Flames. According to Elias, Whitney now holds the NHL record for the longest gap between playoff overtime goals (17 years), breaking the mark of 14 years held by Teemu Selanne.

Scott Hairston
3. SLUGFEST IN DENVER: In a slugfest, the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets, 18-9. The game featured the Mets’ Scott Hairston hitting for the cycle. The star of the show was Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, who knocked in six runs. Five of his RBI came in the fifth inning. According to Elias, he is the first player in Rockies history to drive in five runs in one inning.

4. PASTRANA MAKES DEBUT: Travis Pastrana finished 22nd in his long-awaited NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Richmond. NEXT LEVEL: A closer look showed that he had an eerily similar performance to that of Danica Patrick during her first race at Richmond last season. Each of them spent most of the race in the middle of the field yet neither were able to crack the top 15.

5. PLAYOFFS START: The NBA playoffs begin Saturday with four games. The schedule features the Miami Heat hosting the New York Knicks (3:30 ET, ABC). The Heat are seeking back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals. LeBron James is averaging 30.4 PPG in the first round, the highest average of any round in his playoff career.

Colts look to add more than Luck to offense

April, 27, 2012
Allen Kee / ESPNAfter selecting Andrew Luck first overall in the NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts added a number of offensive weapons on the draft’s second day.
After taking Andrew Luck with the first pick overall on Thursday, the Indianapolis Colts continued to overhaul their offense on Friday.

The Colts became the seventh team in the common draft era to draft three pass catchers (wide receivers or tight ends) in the first three rounds. After adding Luck’s Stanford Cardinal tight end Coby Fleener in the second round, they picked tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round.

The last team to select three pass catchers in the first three rounds was the New York Giants. They chose Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum in the 2009 draft.

Last season, Colts tight ends dropped nine passes, tied for second-most in the NFL. They are the first team to draft two tight ends in the first three rounds since the St. Louis Rams in 2006. Among NFL teams last year, the Colts ran the fourth-fewest plays in multiple-tight end sets.

By taking Luck and Fleener, they were the first team to draft a quarterback and tight end from the same school in a draft since the 2003 Houston Texans, who picked Drew Henson and Bennie Joppru from the Michigan Wolverines.

Luck threw multiple touchdown passes to his tight ends in nine of Stanford’s 13 games last season. No FBS quarterback attempted more passes or gained more yards when targeting tight ends. Fleener led all FBS tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions of at least 20 yards over the last two seasons.

Draft chatter
• The Denver Broncos selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with the 36th pick. Last year, the Broncos recorded only two sacks from players lining up on the interior of the defensive line, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest among teams playing a 4-3 defense.

• The Rams selected North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins with the 39th pick. It was the highest that a Division II player has been picked since Ricardo Colclough of Tusculum went 38th overall in 2004.

• Bobby Wagner went 47th overall to the Seattle Seahawks, the first player from the Utah State Aggies to go in the first two rounds since Rulon Jones was a second-round pick in 1980.

• By taking safety Tavon Wilson in the second rounds, the New England Patriots drafted a defensive player with their first three picks. Last season, the Patriots had 12 players play at least 100 snaps at defensive back, most in the NFL.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers selected offensive tackle Mike Adams late in the second round. Pittsburgh used a league-high 25 different offensive line combinations last season.

• The San Francisco 49ers selected LaMichael James 61st overall. It’s the fourth straight season that the 49ers drafted a running back. Last season, San Francisco targeted running backs just 54 times, second-fewest in the NFL.

Tight ends changing offenses, draft strategy

April, 25, 2012

Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireRob Gronkowski (left) and Jimmy Graham (right) are leading the new wave of the way tight ends play in the NFL. Both finished in the top 7 in receiving yards last season with over 1,300 yards.
The evolution of the modern-day tight end has made it possible for NFL teams to view the position as much more than an extra offensive lineman who catches the occasional pass. Tight ends have become primary options in the passing game.

Tight ends such as the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (second round, 2010) and Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints (third round, 2010) often line up in the slot or at wide receiver because of their ability to make plays.

Six tight ends who lined up in the slot or at wide receiver in 2011 had more than 500 yards receiving (including playoffs). Both Graham (938) and Gronkowski (876) had more than 800 yards each.

There has been a dramatic increase in 100-yard receiving games at the position since the 2001 season. Last season, there were 28 100-yard receiving games by tight ends compared to just four such games in 2001.

Tight ends have also become downfield threats. Since the start of the 2008 season, 30-plus yard receptions for tight ends have progressively risen from 64 in 2008 to 107 last season.

Who among this year’s draft prospects at tight end could blossom into a high-end contributor? ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay thinks Stanford’s Coby Fleener “is most ready” to contribute right away (check out the breakdown of the 2012 TE class).

Fleener was effective stretching the field last season, catching 15 of 24 targets (62.5 percent) with seven touchdowns on throws -- from expected No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck -- traveling at least 15 yards downfield. Fleener caught 10 touchdowns for Stanford last season, most of any tight end in FBS.

Fleener, who is 6-6 and nearly 250 pounds, did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine, but at Stanford’s Pro Day, he ran 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is widely considered a first-round pick.

In addition to Fleener, Dwayne Allen of Clemson and Georgia’s Orson Charles are two other draft prospects that have a “good chance” to contribute as rookies in 2012. There are prospects beyond Fleener, Allen and Charles who could be worth a draft pick, according to McShay. Oklahoma’s James Hanna ran 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 36-inch vertical leap at the Combine.

The evolution of tight ends, according to McShay, has started to alter the ways NFL teams are evaluating defensive backs as well. Teams might be forced to look for and draft bigger defensive backs as a counter-measure to the more versatile tight end corps in the NFL.