The Arizona Cardinals added a bit of an unknown entity in Troy Niklas.
Taken with a second-round pick (52nd overall) out of Notre Dame, he had tallied just 37 receptions for 573 yards and six touchdowns in college after converting from the defensive side of the ball to tight end.
But at 6-foot-6 and 270-pounds, he certainly looks the part.
“Interesting kid. If you want to talk about body beautiful in today’s NFL, I’d put him in the top 10,” NFL Network analyst and Notre Dame color commentator Mike Mayock told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “If you just see him on the hook you go, ‘Holy crap.’
“This kid is big, he’s put together, he’s athletic.”
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Niklas was barely able to make it onto the field during offseason camps as he spent the first part of the summer recovering from hernia surgery and then broke his hand just as he was getting into the swing of things.
“It’s a shame that Troy’s missed all this time and then with the hand, hopefully he’s ready the first day (of training camp),” Arians said after the team’s final minicamp Thursday. “But he should be by the time we put the pads on and he can show what he can do.
“We really like what we saw in the day or two that he practiced.”
If there is a silver lining to Niklas’ injury issues is that neither problem is the type that should linger, meaning once he’s recovered he should be good to go. And if there is a second silver lining, it’s that the tight end position is actually one of the deepest on the team, so Niklas being out will not necessarily set the offense back a great deal.
But even if the start to his career has been delayed a bit, the belief in Niklas’ potential is strong enough to have people really excited about what the 21-year-old can become.
“If he wants to be, if he’s willing to be, if he’s willing to commit himself to become a great blocker, he should be the best blocking tight end in the NFL in two to three years,” Mayock said. “Because he’s so big, he’s so strong and he’s so athletic.”
No doubt that’s part of what intrigued the Cardinals, as under Arians they often use multiple tight ends whom they expect to not only be able to catch the ball, but also help along the line. Short viable options last season, the team occasionally turned to an extra tackle in certain packages, which the coach knows kind of gives away the team’s intentions.
Having someone like Niklas would give the offense an extra dimension.
“He’s a more than competent short and intermediate receiver with really good hands,” Mayock added. “Can run you over. Really good athlete; he’s a better athlete than people think.
“A little bit of a Heath Miller from Pittsburgh, who obviously Bruce Arians would know very well, but a guy I think can be a better blocker than Heath.”