The Raiders have one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Zach Miller. He has been given the highest free agent tender to return to the team next season and all indications are that there will be a long term deal forthcoming. The sky is the limit for Zach Miller. But past Miller, the Raiders could use some depth and fresh competition.
Brandon Myers is the backup to Miller. He has never really burst onto the scene as either a receiver or blocker. In fact, when the Raiders got in the red zone last season, the blocking tight end duties went to offensive tackle Khalif Barnes. It is time to get a real blocking tight end, perhaps one who can be a threat in the passing game as well. Here are some of the choices in this year’s draft:
Andre Smith, Virginia Tech, Round 5
Smith is one of the largest tight ends in the draft at 6-4, 272 lbs. He is a physical specimen to be sure. He uses his large frame as a punishing blocker. Smith is not considered a terrific receiver although he does have the potential to develop further. A guy who will block most of the time and just when the other team falls asleep on him, he can pop out and get some much needed yards as a receiver.
Kyle Adams, Purdue, Round 6
Adams could be the best option among these potential picks. He has the best combination of all the qualities the Raiders are looking for. He is an above average receiver with good lateral quickness and crisp routes. Adams is a smart player who recognizes coverages and can find the open areas in short to intermediate pass plays. In college at Purdue, he often lined up at fullback where he showed a proficiency at clearing gaps and finishing blocks for the running backs.
Lee Smith, Marshall, Round 7
Son of former NFL player Daryle Smith, Lee also first attended the University of Tennessee. He was kicked off the team before he could ever play a game after he was busted for a DUI on the UT campus. He transferred to Marshall and cleaned up his act. He is one of the tallest tight ends in the draft at 6-6 and has some bulk to go with it at 269 lbs. Aside from being a great blocker, his 23 catches for 338 yards and 3 TD’s as a senior are the best numbers among the tight ends listed here.
Ed Barham, North Carolina, Round 7
Barham offers the most block for your buck of the group. At this late stage of the draft, to get as good of a blocking tight end as Barham would be a great value. He is an extremely good blocker with near perfect technique. His receiving abilities are not great but show the ability to improve. It is his route running and quickness that are lacking. If he can get open, he shows decent skills in catching the ball even away from his body. But it is getting open that is the important part.
Tommy Gallarda, Boise State, Round 7
This pick would be on special teams value and potential. He has good size at 6-5, 250. He shows flashes of being a quality receiver and is effective at run blocking and in pass protection. At Boise State, he was almost exclusively used as a blocker and a red zone, short yardage target — which, coincidentally, is exactly what the Raiders would use him for. Gallarda was out with a broken foot the last half of his senior season, but before that he had seven catches with three of them for touchdowns. He would also be ideal on special teams for both blocking and coverage team duties.