Arizona Cardinals fans know by now Bruce Arians is not huge on using tight ends for getting big numbers. There might be a reason why. Great all-around tight ends just don't exist much.
For Arians, the ideal tight end is not an Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. It would be a Heath Miller, who just retired from the NFL after many seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arians said he thinks "everyone is looking for a Heath Miller, the "all-around, traditional tight end that can block, can catch."
But according to general manager Steve Keim, "guys who can do it all, generally doesn't exist any more." He says very few can catch an block well, "but very rarely."
"The perception around the league is that when you see these guys who are great pass catchers, people think they are functional in the run game," he explained to reporters on Wednesday at the NFL Combine. "When you watch tape, they are really not. You see guys who at the point of attack are having a very difficult time."
Instead of looking at the position in terms of all-around skill, he looks at tight ends as two different positions -- "a 'Y' or an 'F'."
"You're either an in-line guy who usually lacks the skill set to be a pass catcher but is usually a tougher, overachiever that is physical at the point of attack. Then you have the guy who can flex who is essentially a big wide receiver."
When Arians coached in Pittsburgh, he once referred to Rob Housler, whom the Cardinals drafted, as a big receiver.
In Arians' offense, he needs tight ends who can block, first and foremost. They are critical in the run game. In the passing game, they just need to be able to catch the ball. They don't have to be great.
Arians praises Darren Fells for his blocking. He can make plays in the passing game, but it is the blocking that matters. Troy Niklas was drafted because of his size and potential to maul people in run blocking.
If the Cardinals target a tight end in the draft, expect more of a blocker than a pass catcher.
Will the Cardinals ever have a "great" tight end? It doesn't appear they really exist anymore.