The Arizona Cardinals needed help at tight end, but it was fairly surprising when they took one in the second round of the NFL Draft earlier this month.
Their target: 6-foot-7, 270-pound Troy Niklas out of Notre Dame.
Last season, a committee of four Cardinals tight ends combined to catch 73 passes and five touchdowns — atypically low for an offense run by coach Bruce Arians.
Now, Niklas is set to arrive at Cardinals’ camp with a real shot at getting a high volume of snaps flanking the offensive line.
Scouts love his size and relative speed. Former Fighting Irish legend, Heisman Trophy winner and nine-time Pro Bowler Tim Brown loves his overall game, starting with his IQ.
“I think Troy is a very instinctive football player,” Brown said Wednesday while a guest on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Bickley & Marotta.
“He’s a very natural football player (and) those guys are great because they’ll make plays for you that you don’t necessarily see until you watch the film — you know, being able to chip off one guy and go get another tackler. He’ll do a lot of that kind of stuff.”
Niklas’ aptitude for the game could come, at least partially, from his pedigree. The nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, he holds distant relations to Clay Matthews, Sr., Clay Matthews, Jr. and Casey Matthews. His cousin, Jake Matthews, was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
As for his ability to get to would-be tacklers downfield, that could come from his background as a linebacker — his assigned position for the entirety of his freshman year at Notre Dame and where he played 12 games and logged a start against Michigan State.
“He’s a great blocking tight end and I think he’ll do well for Arizona,” Brown concluded.
“And obviously he can catch the ball, too.”