Turn the clock back two months ago, and the idea that the Cardinals could pull the trigger on a tight end was a realistic one.
Most of us assumed they would be picking from the perceived second tier group of tight end prospects:
Then the draft happened at the one "elite" tight end in the draft was taken nice and early (Eric Ebron at 10) and no one panicked, over reacted, or reached, and all of a sudden, the next three tight end prospects were plummeting into round two.
No, Jace Amaro, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Troy Niklas were not the athletes that Ebron is, but they all are bigger, and in Sefarian-Jenkins and Niklas' case they offer more of a traditional tight end game than Ebron, so the fact that they would all make it into the middle of round two was curious.
Sefarian-Jenkins went first at 38 and all of a sudden it is clear that the Buccaneers are going to just overpower every secondary in the NFL, but that also set off my alarms, okay, here comes the run on tight ends, maybe it is going to be CJF at 52.
Names continued to come off the board, no tight end for the Giants or Bills, that was good news, but the Ravens, Jets, Chargers, Bears all were in front of Arizona, and all could make a case for taking a tight end, especially with the skills of Amaro and Niklas still on the board, and yet only the Jets pulled the trigger.
When the Jets pulled the trigger on Amaro, my first thought was... I need more beer, but my second thought was, it'll be interesting if the Cardinals pass on Niklas here, because he's the Arians prototype.
Why is Niklas the prototype Arians tight end?
No he's not the elite, stretch the field tight end of today's NFL, but he doesn't have to be in Arians offense.
Last year I talked about what Arians likes to do with his tight ends on offense, and how that spelled a big year for Rob Housler. Well we all know that turned out terribly, but that's not because of lack of opportunity for Rob, but instead, a lack of ability.
Niklas won't be asked to do as much, as soon, as Housler was expected to do, but he will have the opportunity similar to Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, the lower drafted tight end in Arians one season as Colts OC/interim HC who far outplayed Coby Fleener.
Niklas is an above average blocking tight end as is right now, but his size, strength, and quickness off the line means he has even more room to grow as a blocker.
What he is right now though, is an excellent short area receiver. While he has good speed, he isn't going to blow by too many people, unless you're a Temple DB, but he will offer consistent catches in that 7-15 yard range, even if there isn't going to be a whole lot after the catch.
Niklas is quick off the line, and in all of the games I could find, I did not see any situations where he was bullied at the line of scrimmage. Which is good, of course no one really tried, so that can be a concern the first time Aldon Smith or Von Miller pop him in the mouth, but we'll worry about that when it happens.
What you like about this from Niklas is he gets into his route clean, gets to his spot, albeit he probably should have been a yard deeper, and gives Tommy Rees a big target.
Coming off the line Niklas is quick into his routes, and sets himself up as a big target coming across the middle, and his brute strength gives him that little extra on this play. Rees throws a bad ball, and Niklas is able to corral it and still get up field, something you like out of the big man.
While he uses his size post catch, he doesn't do enough of this right now:
: That's great work by a big bodied tight end to go up and make a play for a contested catch, something you want to see more of from Niklas in his catches. Like this: There are some deficiencies that Niklas needs to work on, and that's why he was a second\ round pick. He doesn't get out of his breaks cleanly all the time: He's better working short than down the seam or in "receiver" routes... right now and he has looooooong stretches of disappearing, he didn't catch a touchdown the last six games of the season for the Irish and only 190 yards in those games after 308 the first seven games.
Obviously there's a whole other half to what makes Niklas so appealing to the Bruce Arians offense, but we'll get to that soon.
- Adrian Wilson signs with Chicago Bears
- Carson Palmer by the numbers: Passing numbers and pressure
- Arizona Cardinals offensive line considered 'wild cards'
- Arizona Cardinals receiving corps fall short of 'damn good'...for now
- Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie both called overrated at their position