Troy Niklas   TE   Notre Dame

TALENT BOARD ROUND 4

STRENGTHS
Troy has the potential to be an excellent “in line” tight end for the team that drafts him. He shows good hands to catch the ball down the field and has improved since the beginning of the college season. He has the size that will make most teams drool and the potential that will excite most coaches. They would love to coach Troy up and into an impact player for the team that selects him. Troy is a mismatch nightmare in the red zone because of his size and ability to catch the ball. He can run down the slot and make that tough catch in the middle of the field that will keep defenses honest against a single free safety defense. He has excellent potential, but still has a lot to learn.

CONCERNS
He struggles when blocking because of his size, lack of football strength, poor balance and overall poor techniques, but has definitely improved this season. His catch radius is poor, low balls give him problems and having to change direction to catch balls lower than his chest presents a challenge for him Throw the ball high to him and he’s money. He is slow off the line and struggles with his feet, his balance and his change of direction skills. He has no feel for how to get open in zone coverage. He is not tough when running his routes and it’s easy for him to get pushed off his routes or held up when trying to get into his routes. There is a disturbing lack of aggression in his style of play from blocking to running routes that allow his opponents to dominate him and I not sure that will ever change no matter how much he improves in all the other aspects of his game.

BOTTOM LINE
I can see Troy thinking too much out on the field. I can also see his potential to get better in running routes and blocking techniques. However, what I struggle with is Troy’s lack of aggression and fierceness in his overall play. He seems to settle for an opponent pushing him off his routes and being thrown around when run blocking. When he is part of zone blocking with the offensive line, he is either pushed off his line or falls on the ground because he is using poor techniques, has bad balance and change of direction skills. Some of this might be attributed to Troy’s growth and the fact that he is still learning his own body. Nevertheless, his lack of toughness and aggressiveness have nothing to do with his growth. I know he is new to this position, but there was a reason he was changed from defense to offense. Right now if you select Troy early in this draft I feel you are developing him for the next contract and his impact for his first contract will be limited. He still has a lot to learn; he needs to grow into his body and learn the nuances of running routes from the Tight End position. Additionally, Troy must work on getting much stronger and not waste bending when blocking, improving his foot quickness and somehow discovering some lateral agility to block and run routes. Nevertheless, he will catch touchdowns in the red zone and that could be worth his first contract alone. I have no doubt that Troy will get better than he is right now, my questions are…will that better be good enough to become the impact player his size suggests he could become, and will it be for the team that selects him in this draft or for another team in free agency? For me, the 4th round seems like a good time to draft a developmental Tight End. Any round earlier and you’re paying him too much to develop. Most interns don’t get paid at all and right now, Troy is at the intern level but with excellent potential. You decide.

Drew Boylhart
MAR/2014