Ray's Replies: Any interest in Stanford's Fleener?

Ray's Replies: Any interest in Stanford's Fleener?
April 11, 2012, 2:18 am
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Q. I agree with your statement that the NFL is a copy cat league and you should copy the teams that win. Though the Giants are a logical choice for the Eagles to emulate, I feel Andy Reids affinity for offense will lead the Birds to copy a team that has tremendous success on that side of the ball the Patriots.

I believe that after the success the Patriots had last year with their two tight end attack, the Eagles may surprise us all and go for a tight end in the early rounds of the draft. Have you heard anything about possible interest in Coby Fleener from Stanford? I saw a mock draft that had him going to Pittsburgh at 25, but with Rob Gronkowskis success last year Id be surprised if he didnt go much earlier.

-- Adam Taylor

A. Tight end is the weakest position in the draft, but Fleener and Orson Charles (Clemson) are rising up the boards due in part to the success the Patriots had with the two tight end offense. Now every team is looking at that Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 catches and 24 touchdowns last season and wondering if it is the new wave of offense in the NFL. If so, value at that position will spike.

Fleener, once projected as a third round pick, now he is expected to go in the first. My guess is somewhere in the 20s. Fleener was Andrew Lucks favorite red zone target -- he led Stanford with 10 touchdown catches -- and he is the best receiving tight end in the group. He is a shade over 6-6 and he weighs around 250. He didnt run at the combine he had a sore ankle but he ran the 40 in 4.65 in the past. Fast enough, in other words.

The negatives on Fleener are his blocking and a history of back problems. He had back surgery in 2009 and while he came back from that it has limited his work in the weight room which affects his overall strength. Fleener would not fit in an offense that requires the tight end to do a lot of blocking, but if a team splits its tight ends the way the Patriots do, Fleener could be very effective because he can get down the seam ala Gronkowski..

I would be surprised if the Eagles made a play for Fleener at 15 because I expect them to address defense with their early picks. Also, they have Brent Celek and they seem to like Clay Harbors potential, so I dont see them using their first pick on a tight end although Fleener does have the kinds of skills that would intrigue a coach like Andy Reid.
E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net