With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror it's time to begin the process of breaking down this year's draft class. Through my contacts in the NFL I've received videos of close to 150 draft prospects. I use what I see on those videos to go along with countless hours of watching college football in order to form my opinions. After breaking down each prospect we'll offer some early thoughts on their potential fantasy impact. We'll take a look at quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends for fantasy purposes. If you want to discuss any draft prospects or have fantasy football questions you can follow me on Twitter @thomascasale or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
I've already broken down quarterbacks and running backs. In this article I look at a position that isn't very strong in terms of first-round talent: tight ends.
Dwayne Allen, Clemson
The Good: Allen is the next in line of the new age tight ends that are changing offenses in the NFL. He's big, quick, has good hands and is versatile enough to line up all over the place to cause headaches for opposing defenses.
At the Combine, Allen showed quick feet and soft hands, as he did on tape. Allen is also one of the best blocking tight ends in this class, which could help make him the first player taken off the board at his position.
The Bad: There were two negatives about Allen that appeared on tape. First, he isn't the most polished route runner, evident in the simplistic routes he ran last year at Clemson. Second, Allen is more quick than fast. He doesn't have the blazing speed down the field like a Jimmy Graham, as he showed with his 4.89 40 at the Combine. Allen reminds a lot of Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew with better hands. Allen has deceptive speed rather than blazing straight-line speed. That isn't the end of the world for a tight end if he knows how to get open, and Allen showed in college he knows how to get open.
The Bottom Line: A team picking near the bottom of the first round or early second round is going to get a steal when it selects Allen. He would be a perfect fit for the New York Giants at 32, and provide Eli Manning yet another explosive offensive weapon. Allen had an impressive Combine that only enhanced his draft status.
Fantasy Impact: If Allen goes to a team like the Giants with a strong quarterback, he can be a factor right away. He's the most polished, NFL-ready tight end in this draft class in my opinion. Either way he'll be a strong pick in keeper leagues.
Orson Charles, Georgia
The Good: Like every other tight end to come out of Georgia in the last decade, Charles is an amazing athlete. Charles decided not to run at the Combine but he looked good in the receiving drills.
On tape, Charles creates good separation from defenders and does a good job of using his body and reaching to catch in traffic. Charles has all the physical tools to be a very productive tight end at the NFL level. In a world where tight ends aren't the blockers they once were, Charles is above average in that area.
The Bad: Charles disappears at times. Watching him on tape it looked like he didn't always give maximum effort on every play and that has to concern some NFL teams. Charles is one of those players who is tough to project because he can be as good as he wants to be. It just depends whether or not he puts in the work. That's the main reason why I view Charles as a second-round pick. He didn't run at the Combine and then he ran slowly at his Pro Day, although Charles was running in a 35 mph wind. Still, despite all of his talent, there are red flags when it comes to Charles.
The Bottom Line: Charles has the tools to be a very good NFL player but he needs to put everything together on a consistent basis before I fall in love with him like some other people. Too many Georgia tight ends look Tarzan and play like Jane in the NFL. Charles has to get mentally tougher to take his game to the next level.
Fantasy Impact: Charles is purely keeper league material. He may play quite a bit as a rookie, but he's not likely to put up the kind of numbers to make him a big fantasy factor. Charles' value to fantasy owners is still a year or two down the road.
Coby Fleener, Stanford
Outlook: Fleener is the second-most complete tight end behind Allen. He's more NFL ready than Charles but he doesn't have quite as high a ceiling. He's a tough guy who doesn't mind blocking. Trust me, if you play tight end for Stanford, you're blocking.
Fleener knows how to get open and he isn't going to drop many passes. Fleener didn't always create a lot of separation on tape but he was fortunate enough to have Andrew Luck throwing him the ball at Stanford, so it wasn't a big concern. Fleener is fast on a track for a tight end but that doesn't always translate over to the football field. He has good speed but he isn't a burner.
Still, I can see him catching 60 balls a season. A few years ago that would have made him a top-flight tight end, but in 2012 it puts you in the second tier below the elite guys.
Fleener brings to mind the Eagles' Brent Celek, a guy who can stay in and block or head out on receiving patterns in a pinch. I don't see a perennial Pro Bowler, but a potential 10-year veteran because he'll be solid at everything he's asked to do.
Fantasy Impact: Fleener could have the best rookie season of any tight end in this class because he's ready to step in and play right away. Along with Allen, Fllener is one of the guys fantasy owners want to keep an eye on come draft day. Make sure to watch where Fleener lands and see how he does during the preseason. He could be a nice waiver wire pickup at some point this fantasy season.
DeAngelo Peterson, LSU: I don't quite get all the love for Peterson. Sure, he's a tremendous athlete and good blocker but I don't see him being any kind of receiving threat in the NFL. It's puzzling why the Mike Mayocks of the world have this guy listed in their Top 5 tight ends at any point of the draft process.
Not only is Peterson extremely raw, he has some weaknesses he may never overcome. On tape, Peterson is probably the worst route runner of any prospect, and saying his hands are inconsistent would be kind. Peterson showed both of those concerns at the Combine, where he dropped a lot of balls and didn't look fluid in any of the drills.
Peterson rates as a 5th round prospect at best, based purely on his abilities as a blocker.
Fantasy Impact: Peterson has no fantasy value in 2012 and isn't likely to become a productive enough receiver at the NFL level for owners to really care about him.
Michael Egnew, Missouri: Productive Missouri tight ends have struggled to make a splash in the NFL recently; Egnew will be the latest to fall under that label.
When I watch Egnew I see a college tight end. He isn't very physical and he doesn't beat press coverage well. Egnew also gets knocked off his route easily -- and those are by college defenders. Sometimes you watch a video and you can tell you're watching a very good college player who is destined to struggle in the NFL. That's what I saw when watching Egnew.
Egnew had great measurables at the Combine but that may only cause him to get over-drafted. At best Egnew projects as being a Delaine Walker kind of player.
Fantasy Impact: I don't see a lot of fantasy value in Egnew's future unless he gets stronger and improves in a lot of areas over the next couple of years.
James Hanna, TE Oklahoma: Hanna seemed a bit of a sleeper before the Combine and then he went out and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, the fourth fastest time ever put up by a tight end.
That 40 time epitomizes Hanna. He's a former wide receiver and an exceptional athlete but is still learning the tight end position. Hanna has speed and good quickness off the line but his route running needs work and he drops some catchable balls.
Hanna is an underrated blocker, although that's not where he's going to earn his money. If Hanna makes an impact in the NFL it will be as a receiver. He's a guy to watch down the line.
Fantasy Impact: Hanna likely will get drafted in the 5th-6th round area, so he won't be expected to come in and produce right away. Hanna has impressive physical tools, so if he goes to the right team and continues to develop, he could emerge as a decent fantasy tight end in a couple of years.
Nick Provo, Syracuse: Here's the thing about Provo: he's not going to jump out at you in any particular area. He's isn't all that fast nor is he an athletic freak. However, Provo gets open consistently and catches the ball. It's hard to ignore a guy who is always open on video.
Provo is an excellent route runner, which helps him offset his lack of top-line speed. Provo probably won't be a star in the NFL but he could develop into a solid pass-catching tight end.
Fantasy Impact: Provo could be relevant to fantasy owners down the line because he'll make his money primarily as a receiver. I could see him someday putting up Kevin Boss-type numbers if he plays with the right quarterback. We all saw what happened to Boss' numbers last year when he didn't play with the right quarterback.
It's no secret that on paper this is one of the weakest classes of tight ends in recent memory. I only have one tight end (Allen) with a first-round grade and from watching these guys on tape he's the only one I'm really in love with. Fleener is a solid player who does everything well, Charles has upside and there are a couple of players that could surprise but overall this is clearly the weakest offensive position in the draft.