As they move through free agency and address their needs, we see the Arizona Cardinals’ draft needs come more clearly into focus.
This was something I touched on Monday, but what wasn’t mentioned in those early needs was the possibility of adding a tight end in the draft.
With Bruce Arians taking over the Cardinals’ offense, we will see an added focus being placed on the tight end position.
In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts selected two tight ends in the first three rounds, taking Stanford’s Coby Fleener (2nd round, 34th overall) and Clemson’s Dwayne Allen (3rd round, 64th overall).
While the Cardinals have a good young tight end in Rob Housler, they lack the high-end options of players to line up as the second tight end in the new offense.
While I think it is plausible we could see a tight end taken early, maybe Travis Kelce of Cincinnati, Rice’s Vance McDonald or Florida’s Jordan Reed in round two or three, I think the Cardinals will look to address the second tight end position on Saturday. Here are three prospects that I wouldn’t mind seeing in the desert.
Nick Kasa, Colorado – 6-6, 269 lbs
The former five-star defensive end recruit never lived up to the hype coming out of high school on the defensive side of the ball, but a position change has revitalized his draft stock and has teams intrigued with his untapped potential.
Kasa shows an excellent ability to turn, seal and ride out defenders in the run game while also showing strong hands and an excellent base in pass protection.
Kasa is surprisingly agile for a man his size and shows good straight line speed with above average change of direction and the ability to get out in routes and make plays.
Where Kasa struggles is in the intricacies of the position: he isn’t a polished route runner and was never asked to run the full route tree, he needs work on catching with his hands consistently and to run his routes with a little more finesse. Additionally, he can get a little heavy-legged in his routes.
Kasa has immediate upside as a blocker and special teams contributor with the athleticism and size to become an effective two-way tight end.
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee – 6-3, 242 lbs
Rivera isn’t overly athletic and isn’t consistent as a run blocker, but he runs good routes, finds ways to get open, and despite a lack of build, works hard to block in the run game.
What makes Rivera such an ideal fit in the Cardinals scheme is that he is already adept at playing in a pro style offense similar to the one Arians employs.
At Tennessee he was asked to run the full route tree and make plays when stretching the middle of the defense. He understands how to find the hole in the defense against zone coverage.
Rivera needs to get a little bigger to be a more effective two-way tight end and needs to work on getting a push in the run game. He is an aggressive blocker, but isn’t by any means a road grader that you can run behind frequently.
Lucas Reed, New Mexico – 6-6, 249 lbs
Reed is the younger brother of former Arizona Wildcats star Brooks Reed and is one of only a few prospects in this year’s draft that boast a combination of prototypical tight end size and strength, but also the explosiveness teams now covet out of the position.
Reed has extremely long arms at over 35 inches. Despite the length, was able to push out 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench at his pro day.
He added to the intrigue with an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.65 and showed excellent short area quickness and explosion in the other drills.
He isn’t nearly as developed on the field and his athleticism doesn’t always translate because of that. He looks a little stiff in his routes at times and can come out of his stance too high in both the passing game and when asked to block.
When he does get out into routes he shows good hands and flashes of natural pass catching ability.
If Reed stays low and compact in blocking, he is effective and has the strength to hold up and wall off defenders at the point of attack.
Where Reed needs work is in the details. You can see he was never fully “coached up” at New Mexico. His route running and blocking technique need work, but with his raw athletic ability and strength, he is a guy that late in the draft, is an intriguing type of developmental player that could come in and sit behind Jeff King for the year.
The 2013 tight end class is excellent. I would be happy to see a number of different players added to the Cardinals roster. Whether the Cardinals decide to strike early in round two with Stanford’s Zach Ertz or San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar, or late, with one of the three mentioned above, they should be able to find a weapon for Arians’ two-tight end offensive attack.