As in the past, the list of skills and abilities that we’re going to look at will come from some extremely credible sources; a 3-time Super Bowl Champion head coach, and a gentleman with nearly 30 years of scouting experience at the NFL level.
Of course, I’m speaking of the late-great Bill Walsh, and Greg Gabriel from the National Football Post.
Ready? Let’s do it.
It’s important to find players that match your scheme at just about every position on the football field, but as Coach Walsh mentioned, the tight end position is one of the positions where it’s really important to match the kind of tight end you’re
looking for with the type of offense you’re running:
Requirements for a tight end depend heavily on the system being deployed. It’s almost a necessity to find the athlete who best fits your system of football.
The 3 Types of Tight Ends
I know this is obvious to most people reading this, but in general, you have 3 types of tight ends: Blocking tight ends, receiving tight ends, and those that can play both roles well.
Many of traits that scouts look for are universal to all three kinds of tight ends.
Before we get into the universal skills and traits, let’s first take a look at how Gabriel and Coach Walsh differentiated what they looked for out of each type.
Blocking Tight Ends (aka “Y” Tight Ends)
Size. Blocking tight ends are bigger than their counterparts. Coach Walsh said his ideal blocking tight end would stand about 6’4 1/2, and weigh about 245.
Gabriel looked for his tight ends to stand between 6-4 to 6-6, and weigh 255 to 265 pounds.
Soft hands. Y tight ends generally aren’t as quick and agile as receiving tight ends, so most of their routes are short. As a result, these guys are often in positions where they have to catch the ball and absorb a hit almost simultaneously.
For this reason, scouts really want to see soft hands out of Y tight ends. Players with soft hands tend to catch the football more cleanly, so they have a better chance at hanging onto the ball after they get hit.
Tight ends without soft hands tend to bobble the ball, which increases the likelihood that they’ll drop the ball or fumble it when they get hit.
Speed. In Coach Walsh’s philosophy, bigger, blocking tight ends needed to run at least a 5.0 in the 40.
Related: 40 Yard Dash Training
This tight end does not need to possess great speed. The 5.0 time in the 40 will get the job done. The shortcoming to that is that he is not going to be able to clear defenders on certain pass patterns to help other people. But that is not that much to give up if you have the blocking.
Gabriel says his ideal Y tight end can run between a 4.85 and a 5.0 in the 40.
Ability to block. In his article, Gabriel points out that when he’s analyzing Y tight ends, he looks for the same blocking technique that he looks for out of offensive tackles, pointing out that, “…these guys are like smaller tackles…”
Click the link below to check out what NFL Scouts look for when they’re analyzing offensive tackles’ blocking technique:
Receiving Tight Ends
Coach Walsh’s explanation of the receiving tight end:
…He is in a position to go anywhere quickly, across the field, to the outside and down the field. He is going to bring people with him or find openings in defenses.
He goes on to mention that when it came to scouting these types of tight ends, he looked for athletes that had the same skills and traits of wide receivers, the only difference is that the receiver tight end is bigger:
In this case you need the great hands, the body agility and a lot of the characteristics of the wide receiver. But probably more girth because more passes are going to be caught around linebackers and probably even defensive linemen.
Click the link below to check out the skills and abilities NFL Scouts look for when they’re analyzing wide receivers:
Size. Gabriel says his ideal receiving tight end stands in the 6-3 to 6-5 range.
Speed. Receiving tight ends need to run the 40 between a 4.60 and a 4.65, according to Gabriel.
Ability to block. Even smaller, receiving tight ends need to be able to block from time-to-time, just not as much as their bigger counterparts. Since they’re smaller, Coach Walsh mentioned that these types of tight ends need to have solid blocking technique to make up for their lack of size:
His ability to absorb and learn technique is critical because he is not going to be able to play mass against mass.
Hybrid Tight Ends
Hybrid tight ends can play both of the above roles well. According to Coach Walsh, tight ends that can play both roles well are usually Hall of Fame material.
Click below to check out part two.
Who’s the better tight end… Jason Witten, or Antonio Gates? Leave a comment!
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Bill Walsh’s How I Evaluate Each Position: Tight End (via sportsxchange.com)
Gabriel’s Scouting Tight Ends and Receivers (via nationalfootballpost.com)
Gabriel’s Scouting Tight Ends and Receivers from the National Football Post.