Tapping The NFL Draft: Tight Ends, Fullbacks & Special Teams

Craveonline's NFL draft coverage continues with a profile of the prospects playing the most underrated positions in the league.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

Two positions that have changed with the emergence of pass-heavy offenses in the NFL, tight ends and fullbacks do not have the same roles as they did 10 years ago.  Tight ends are highly valued assets as pass catchers in today's NFL, while fullbacks are too often regulated to goal-line situations despite once being key players in the running game.  Punters and kickers are just as important as they have ever been in the battle for field position and on the scoreboard, though both are often under-appreciated.  

Tight end (every down): The prototype TE is big, fast, strong, and can block when needed.  A true every down player, these prospects have the ability to cause confusion within opposing defenses because of their versatility.
Comparable players: Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski

Orson Charles, Georgia, 6'2", 251 lbs
Charles' athleticism is his best asset.  He's big, fast, and strong enough to be dominant, but does lack ideal height.  Charles still needs some developing and work on his route running to realize his full potential
Draft projection: 2nd round

Dwayne Allen, Clemson, 6'3", 255 lbs
Is the prototype as far as measurables go.  Allen can make all the catches but sometimes loses his concentration on passes, especially when he's running through traffic.  He must improve his run blocking skills to become a complete player.
Draft projection: 2nd round

Tight end (receiving): A product of high powered offenses and the evolution of the position, the receiving tight end can be lined up on the offensive line but is better suited as a slot receiver to cause mismatches in the secondary.
Comparable players: Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez

Coby Fleener, Stanford, 6'6", 247 lbs
I think Fleener is the best TE prospect in the draft.  He has the speed and hands and work ethic to become a dominant playmaker.  Blocking needs to improve, but is serviceable.  Some have brought up back injury issues as a concern, but Fleener hasn't missed any games the past two seasons.  The Indianapolis Colts will be drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck #1 overall, if Fleener is still available, taking him early in the 2nd round will make the transition to the NFL a little easier for Luck.
Draft projection: late 1st – early 2nd round

Michael Egnew, Missouri, 6'5", 252 lbs
A similar athlete to recent Mizzou TEs Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman.  Egnew is a physical specimen that can make all the catches and make them look easy.  Egnew didn't have the best numbers due to average quarterback play last year.  He needs to get much better at running routes if he expects to be a potent weapon in an NFL scheme.
Draft projection: 3rd – 5th round

Fullback: A position that has slowly become less important than years past due to offenses becoming more pass heavy.  This year's fullback class is very weak and it's possible that the most known fullback from this draft class is either a converted linebacker or a big and powerful running back that is asked to put on a few extra pounds. 
Prototype player: Vonta Leach

Emil Igwenagu, Massachusetts, 6'1", 249 lbs
Bradie Ewing, Wisconsin, 5'11", 239 lbs
Rhett Ellison, USC, 6'5", 251
These are the best that this year's fullback class has to offer, though none are expected to be drafted until the 5th round and beyond.  Igwenagu played tight end in college but his lack of height and receiving skills will force a move to FB.  Ewing is the only true FB in this draft.  Ellison's work ethic will catch some team's eye, and he may become a key special teams player.
Draft projections: 5th – 7th rounds

Kicker: Kickers need to put points on the board consistently.  Those who don't may still make a team as a kick-off specialist on some teams.  There's really only one kicker worth noting this year.
Prototype player:  Adam Vinatieri

Blair Walsh, Georgia, 5'9", 186 lbs
Walsh is the only kicker that warrants being picked in the draft.  Walsh has a strong leg and has a quick motion that can get the ball high in a hurry where kick-blockers can't get to it.  An up and down senior season is the only red flag
Draft projection: 6th – 7th round

Punter: Punters need to be able to flip the field in the battle for field position.  Premiums are placed on punters that can get good hangtime on their punts.
Prototype player: Shane Lechler

Drew Butler, Georgia, 6'1", 203 lbs
Bryan Anger, California, 6'3", 208 lbs
Shawn Powell, Florida State, 6'3". 248 lbs
Butler is a prototype punter with almost no flaws in his game, he should be an impact player right away.  Anger can kick the ball quickly and with distance, but needs to work on his accuracy.  Powell has the strongest leg available this year, but has weight and injury issues
Draft projections: 5th round (Butler), 6th – 7th round (Anger, Powell)

Photo Credit: Steve Conner/Icon SMI

Keep logging on to CraveOnline.com for pick by pick projections and analysis leading up to the NFL draft on April 26th-28th.

J. Lance Moose is a contributor and lead football writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JLanceMoose, and subscribe on Facebook facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.