Ranking the NFL Draft's tight end prospects


TE Pettigrew the lone first-day prospect (buffalobills.com)

As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, we here at Buffalo Rumblings will continue interviewing bloggers and consulting outside sources in putting together detailed scouting reports on some of the Draft's most noteworthy prospects - concentrating, of course, on prospects that could pique the interest of the Buffalo Bills.  This is the start of a new series in which I'll rank prospects at each position; ultimately, this project will roll itself into the "Buffalo Rumblings Big Board", which is exactly what it sounds like - the same type of big board NFL teams keep handy on draft day.

While speculation continues to run rampant as to the trade availability of OT Jason Peters, the potential of drafting a tackle in the first round, and the continued need for an infusion of talent in the pass rushing department, one position has steadfastly remained a need area throughout the entire off-season: tight end. What follows is a ranking of the draft's starting-caliber tight end prospects; this is the second post of this type, as earlier in March we ranked the outside linebackers as well.

FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS
1. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State: Pettigrew is, by light-years, the most complete tight end prospect available this year, and perhaps in recent memory. Question his receiving numbers all you want, but the undeniable truth is that if the Bills are ever going to think that a tight end is perfect for their offense, this guy is it. He's ready to contribute to a winning organization right away, and he's still got solid upside as well.

THIRD ROUND PROSPECTS
2. Chase Coffman, Missouri: They say this year's tight end class is deep. I disagree. There are a lot of players available; very few of them fit what the Bills traditionally look for at the position. One one-dimensional guy with room to grow is Chase Coffman, owner of the best set of hands in the draft. His hands make him coveted; his size and blocking potential put him second on my list, but only as a third-round prospect.

3. Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi: Again, this is a prospect where "blocking" only comes with the word "potential" attached. Still, Nelson is a great receiving prospect, and unlike some other folks at the position, he actually tries to block. He's got the chops to eventually be a more well-rounded tight end than most of his peers here.

Seven more names for you after the jump.

FOURTH ROUND PROSPECTS
4. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin:
He's small, athletic and yet another catching-before-blocking prospect, but at least he comes from a pro-style offense that focuses on running the ball.  That will help, as he comes with the right mentality.  Beckum is one of the better all-around athletes available this year, but he's got some injury concerns to deal with.

5. Jared Cook, South Carolina: Possibly the single best athlete available this year at any position, but he's highly unpolished - even as a receiver - and has serious questions surrounding his desire and work ethic.  Were he to be available in the fourth round, the team might have a hard time passing on his raw potential.  But the guy simply doesn't fit the Bills' profile, and is lacking in several key categories.

6. Cornelius Ingram, Florida: See Beckum, raise injury concerns, and subtract the pro-style offense bit.  Ingram isn't going to be a great fit in most NFL cities right out of the gate.  His potential, like many of the names on the list, is through the roof, but there's a rather large gap to cross between rookie and productive professional.

FIFTH ROUND PROSPECTS
7. Jared Bronson, Central Washington:
Underrated athletically, few talk about this guy because of the "big" names at the position.  He's got a higher ceiling than most as a blocker (his frame is better suited for it), but he's much more in the area of the rest of his peers.  Still, he seems like a smarter investment as a potential fifth-round pick as opposed to the fourth-round prospects listed above.

8. James Casey, Rice: Most see this guy as a tight end, but he's being looked at as a running back and a quarterback as well.  The guy has, quite literally, zero experience as a blocker.  I think he's one of the better receiving prospects in the entire draft, but he'll need more work than most before he's ready to contribute at the NFL level.

9. Anthony Hill, North Carolina State: He's the type of tight end that most Bills fans loathe - a good blocker that is severely untested as a receiver.  In short, he's a much better fit for the Bills than some of his big-name peers.  He's got solid potential as a receiver, but he'll never be a game-changing threat.

10. Dan Gronkowski, Maryland: Another block-first tight end with underrated athletic skills, Gronkowski is a name to keep an eye on.  I have him graded as a fifth-rounder, but he might be available lower.  If the Bills choose to put off tight end for the first four or five rounds, Gronkowski very well could be a Bill.

***

This is just my opinion, folks.  These are the ten rookie tight ends I think the Bills could get away with plugging into the lineup in some capacity next season.  If you think I've made a grievous error in these rankings, let me know.  If you think I've got some sort of hidden agenda, I'd love to hear about it.  If you're itching to re-shuffle my rankings, let it rip.  Consider this an open forum on 2009 NFL Draft tight end prospects.  Go.

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