Many people were thrown off when Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL draft. He only started for one season with the Irish after Tyler Eifert moved on last season. Let's take a look at eDraft's official scouting report for the prospect.
College: Notre Dame
|Year ||Rec ||Yards ||Avg ||TD |
|2011 ||N/A ||N/A ||N/A ||N/A |
|2012 ||5 ||75 ||15.0 ||1 |
|2013 ||32 ||498 ||15.6 ||5 |
Size: At 6'6" and 270 pounds, Niklas is a massive tight end target. He will tower over both linebacks and safeties at the next level, which will make him an excellent red zone target.
Physicality: Niklas does a tremendous job using that size to the best of his ability. He is overpowing at the point of contact, which is an indication that safeties are going to have a hard time going up against him one-on-one in the NFL.
Blocking: Niklas is likely the best inline blocker in the entire 2014 draft class. He does a tremendous job engaging would be tacklers at the line in the running game. In addition, the Golden Domer is able to get the best of his strength/size by getting low on the blocks and driving the defender back. Down the field, Niklas does a great job understanding where he needs to be and what his blocking assignments are.
Athleticism/Role: Niklas can line up at multiple positions on offense. He's a natural tight end between the hashes, but also has the ability to play in the slot and on the outside at wide receiver. In fact, the talented youngster can even act as a lead blocker, if necessary. Considering that he's 6'6" and 270, Niklas' athleticism is also a bit of a surprise. Clocked with a 4.85 40-yard dash, he might not have great down hill speed. That means little, as his ability to get down the field is surprising.
Inconsistent Hands: Niklas does possesses decent hands, but they are a tad inconsistent. Sometimes, he catches the ball with his body. This led to a lot of surprising drops this past season for the Irish. Once in the NFL, this will become a larger issue with the hard-hitting safeties that he will line up against. He needs to be more consistent catching the ball with his hands at the point of contact.
Route Running: Niklas wasn't asked to run a whole lot of routes at Notre Dame. Most of the passes that were thrown to him were on seam/fly routes. While that's an important characterstic of playing tight end in the NFL, Niklas needs to become a well-rounded route runner.
Contested Catches: You will notice that Niklas struggles making the contested catch. This goes to him letting the ball hit his body, which is never a good thing. The tight end prospect tends to struggle catching the ball and maintaining possession at the highest point prior to contact. This will be a major issue at the next level, unless he can fix it.
Ball Security: Niklas doesn't necessarily hold the ball like a loaf of bread. Instead, his primary struggle is putting it away between his midsection and arms, which has caused it to be jarred loose at times. Again, this will be an issue at the next level.
Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers: Let me make something clear here. Niklas compares to the Quarless that we see today, not the player that was drafted out of Penn State back in 2010. This is important to note because Niklas is a much better blocker than Quarless was when he entered the draft.
While Niklas stands three inches taller than Quarless, the comparisons stand in terms of inline blocking, catch radius and physicality. From purely a scouting standpoint, which is all I look at when drawing comparisons, these two are extremely similar. With that said, Niklas is the more-skilled player.
The combine should be good to Niklas because he measures up well with what the scouts look for in Indianapolis. He should be a sweetheart when it comes to the weight room and weigh-ins, which won't surprise anyone. I do want to see how Niklas handles the route-tree drill, better known as "The Gauntlet," which will give us a much better indication of where he is there.
If Niklas impresses at Notre Dame's Pro Day and at the combine, he could easily sneak into the back end of the first round. While I have Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro currently ranked ahead of Niklas, it's not unrealistic that he surpasses the latter.
I look at the Kansas City Chiefs as the best fit here. Alex Smith loves using his tight ends and would acquire a big-bodied red-zone target in Niklas. It remains to be seen whether Kansas City would spend the only pick it has in the first two rounds on a tight end, but this makes a ton of sense.
Other possible fits include the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills...all of whom will likely look to add a tight end in May.