In the weeks leading up to April's NFL draft, I will highlight four players at each position whom the Ravens could target at different stages in the draft -- from their top pick to their Mr. Irrelevant. In this post, I will focus on tight ends.
Remember, I'm not saying the Ravens will take a tight end with their first-round pick. I'm just giving you a player whom they might consider if they decided to go that route.
Sure, after selecting two tight ends in last year's draft, it seems unlikely they will draft one in 2011. But if they do, here are four players at the position they could have in their sights:
Round 1: Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame. If there's a consensus with this year's tight end class, it's that no prospect is worthy of a first-round pick. Rudolph, who is expected to be the first tight end to come off the board sometime in the second round, is one of those tweener tight ends like the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez and the Ravens' Ed Dickson who spent a lot of time in college flexed out wide. Rudolph is six-foot-six, runs well and has soft hands, and many teams can find a way to put that kind of package to use.
Rounds 2-3: Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin. Kendricks was a pretty good blocking tight end for the Badgers, and he flashed a little pass-catching potential as well, catching 43 passes for 663 yards and five touchdowns in 2010. He struggled with the drops, though, and the 243-pounder needs to bulk up a bit to play in the pros.
Rounds 4-5: Julius Thomas, Portland State. At six-foot-four, 246 pounds, Thomas is another of those small-school former basketball players who hope to be the next Antonio Gates. He performed well at the combine and turned in one of the best 40-yard dash times among tight ends. Might the Ravens take on this project?
Rounds 6-7: Charlie Gantt, TE, Michigan State. The Ravens have two talented young pass-catchers in Dickson and Dennis Pitta, so if they draft a tight end, they will probably opt for a beastly blocker such as Gantt. Slightly faster than molasses, Gantt ran a 4.93 in Indianapolis, but he put up 27 reps on the bench press, which tied him with Tennessee's Luke Stocker for the best mark at this year's combine.