NFL Draft Prospect Scouting: Duke’s Under The Radar Draft Prospects for the Dolphins

Joe Robbins

In the previous two posts, we've looked at Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the big target tight end from Washington and Billy Turner, the athletic offensive tackle from North Dakota State. This edition will focus on a tight end from Notre Dame who seems to be flying under the radar with Dolphins fans.

Last offseason, most fans reached the consensus that Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert was going to be the Dolphins pick at 12. Miami shocked everyone by moving up to the third pick and drafting Dion Jordan. Tight end wasn't an issue last season as Charles Clay broke out with one of the best seasons a Dolphins tight end has ever had. Miami did draft a tight end - Dion Sims in the fourth round. Sims, while testing fairly well at the combine, was seen more as a blocking tight end. In college, he played at a much higher weight, due to the offense needing him to block. Sure enough, Sims was primarily used as a blocker for the Dolphins though he did have a highlight reel touchdown catch to beat the Falcons for his first ever NFL reception. For the record, I believe Sims can become a good NFL player and with Clay, can give Miami a good set of tight end weapons. The coaches may not feel the same however. They have worked out/interviewed Seferian-Jenkins and have reported high interest in Eric Ebron. Those players may not be available when Miami wants to pick them however (ASJ may be a surprise pick at 19). However, another tight end should be available to Miami in the second round.

Troy Niklas is not receiving the fanfare that other prospects are getting. Why you ask? Because he has been labeled with that worst of monikers for a tight end: a ‘blocking' tight end. However, that is not entirely accurate. Niklas doesn't have the production that other tight ends from this draft have, but that's due in part to playing behind another NFL caliber talent in Tyler Eifert. When called upon to be the starter, Niklas showed that he has playmaking ability.

Measurables

Height: 6'6"

Weight: 270

Arm Length: 34 1/8"

Hands: 10"

Bench Reps: 27

Positives

Massive target; presents coverage issues for smaller defenders

More athletic than advertised

Willing blocker

Plays aggressive; former defensive end recruit

Big hands and long arms

NFL bloodlines; nephew of Bruce Matthews

Negatives

Does not possess elite top end speed

Limited production

Still developing as a blocker

Needs development in route running

Metrics Study

When we looked at Austin Seferian-Jenkins, we look at a metrics study posted on rotoworld.com. Comparatively, Niklas rates about as good as or better than ASJ in some areas. The largest percentage of his catches came in the 6-10 yard range with over 60% of his total catches coming in the 6-20 yard range. ASJ caught the majority of his passes as screens or in the 11-20 yard range. Niklas had the second lowest percentage of catches in the 20+ yard range at 3.13%, compared to 5.71% from ASJ. However, in terms of yards from the line of scrimmage when they caught the pass, Niklas had the highest average at 9.09 compared to the second highest ASJ at 8.80 (Ebron had the lowest average at 6.92). Niklas was middle of the pack in terms of YAC. Niklas primarily lined up in-line. His drop rate is higher than you'd like, but as the article suggests, that may be to a small sample size skewing the average.

Film Study

 

What He Brings To The Dolphins

NIklas, like ASJ, brings a big target for Tannehill both in the middle of the field and in the red zone. While Niklas doesn't have ASJ's productivity in regards to touchdowns, he has shown that he can be just as production down the field and may be better at getting yards after the catch than ASJ.

Where Miami Will Have To Draft Him

Niklas is firmly in the second round discussion. Niklas is more likely than ASJ to be available when Miami drafts in the second round. A lot will depend on who Miami drafted in the first. If they draft a right tackle, then any position is fair game. If they draft another position in the first, they may take a right tackle in the second. Ideally, Niklas would slip to the third and Miami could take him there, but they'll most likely have to draft him in the second. The biggest benefit that Niklas provides to the Dolphins is that unlike Ebron or ASJ, Miami shouldn't have to maneuver around to draft him and he can still offer much, if not all of what the other two prospects bring to the table.

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Next up: Brent Grimes 2.0?

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