Several of the draft-related conversations I've had with Chris Early over the last two months have revolved around the Dolphins' need for a tight end, and whether it's possible that the team will use a third- or fourth-round selection to address the position. In January, our collective thought was "maybe." Today, it's "f'n definitely." Why? Because during the time we've put in as amateur scouts this offseason, we've found at least four tight end prospects that, in our opinion, totally satisfy what the Dolphins are looking for at the position. Best part? Neither Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert nor Stanford's Zach Ertz are on the list. That's positional depth, ladies and gentlemen.
1. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Escobar is almost unarguably the most complete prospect in this year's tight end class, as he brings excellent size (6'5 7/8", 254), adequate speed (4.84) and fantastic hands to the position (he practically slaughtered the gauntlet drill earlier today). His ability to box out and elevate for jump balls reinforces his potential as red zone threat at the next level, but what ultimately has Escobar as the alpha dog on this list is his toughness and reputation as a sturdy, technically-sound blocker (nowhere near the "elite" category, of course). He looks equally comfortable in in-line and flex-out roles, as well.
2 Jordan Reed, Florida
Reed had a somewhat disappointing weigh-in, as he came in nearly a full 2 inches shorter than his listed height of 6'4" at Florida, and his weight of 236 is rather slim for the position. Still, the dynamic skill set (good speed, great catch radius, outstanding ability as a route-runner), and that'll make him a potential match-up nightmare at the next level. Oddly enough, his official height of 6'2" will draw plenty of comparisons to another former Gator tight end: Aaron Hernandez. And like Hernandez, Reed is a speedier prospect who does his best work after the catch. I see some Dustin Keller in his game, as well.
3. Vance McDonald, Rice
McDonald's been on a steady rise ever since the show he put on at the Senior Bowl, and his 31 reps on the bench press yesterday morning in Indianapolis will only further confirm that the former Rice tight end is the real deal as a multi-dimensional threat at the position. He's big and strong enough (6'4", 267) to qualify as an ideal in-line prospect, but athletic enough to bust the seam and create after the catch. The only factor holding back McDonald's stock as a day two lock is the lack of big-time competition he saw while at Rice.
4. Joseph Fauria, UCLA
An absolute skyscraper (6'7", 260) at the position, Fauria lacks ideal athleticism and strength, yet still qualifies as a prototypical seam guy thanks to his reach, massive hands (10 7/8") and top-notch ball skills. Now, he does have the speed to make things happen after the catch, but he's a bit of a rumbler who has to work up to top gear. Lacks the overall base strength to hold up as an in-line guy, and that will hurt his overall evaluation. Still, he's arguably the biggest red zone threat in this year's class.