In an era of football where offensive coordinators are seeking athletic tight ends for mismatch situations in the passing game, this year's draft class is anything but deep. Only 14 tight ends were invited to the NFL Combine in February serving notice as to the lack of talent coming out this year. For those with a tight end need that draft early they're certainly hoping Stanford's Coby Fleener is still on the board.
Considered the best all-around prospect by most, Fleener was part of a three tight end offense than ran the ball first and used play action as a counterbalance.
"Our offensive coordinator and offensive coaches did a real good job of utilizing the talent that we had at the tight end position," Fleener said. "We had some young guys that played real well, who probably will be (at the Combine) in the next couple of years. It was great for me to have them on my team and for the coaches to put us in a position to be successful."
Fleener was the primary receiving target at the tight end position and finished tied for third on the team in receptions (34) in 2011, second in receiving yards (667) and first in scoring (10 TDs). The number that's going to catch the eyes of NFL offensive play callers however, is his 19.6 yards per catch average.
The Stanford tight end lined up everywhere in the Cardinal passing attack, showing his versatility as a route runner and his willingness to go over the middle to make difficult plays in traffic. Fleener credits the offensive system for providing him the opportunities to be productive.
"I think putting the tight end outside and inside it provides different matchups that an offense can utilize to their advantage," he said.
Fleener also helped himself with a monster pro day. After an ankle injury in the Fiesta Bowl the tight end didn't run at the Combine, but a 40-time in the mid to high 4.4s erased any doubts about the speed of the 6'6' 247-pounder. That combined with a 37-inch vertical and his impressive 27 reps on the bench provided enough to presumably convince NFL onlookers that he's capable of holding up in the blocking game as well.
A former basketball player like so many other start NFL tight ends, Fleener knows his timing is good for entering the NFL.
"The guys that played in the NFL this year the Jimmy Graham's the Rob Gronkowskis of the world have really done our class of tight ends a favor this year," he said. "I can't say enough about the guys that have already played and I hope to one day go play just like that."
With a tight end class thin on the kind of talent that Fleener possesses it could push one of Andrew Luck's favorite passing targets into the bottom of round one.