Top 15 Candidates For 2013 John Mackey Award

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Top 15 Candidates For 2013 John Mackey Award

Top 15 Candidates For 2013 John Mackey Award
Scott Olmos - USATODAY Sports

Every year, the John Mackey Award is given to the top tight end in college football, not only with regards to play on the field, but attributes related to sportsmanship, academics and community service in mind as well when determining a winner. Although the award has only been around since 2000, it boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow Jr., Heath Miller, Fred Davis and last year’s winner Tyler Eifert.

The namesake of the award is arguably the best tight end to ever play the game, as well as the most important tight end to ever play the game, revolutionizing the position from just another blocker on the offensive line to a viable option in the passing game. John Mackey played his college football with the Syracuse Orange, and played professionally with both the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers, and ultimately became just the second tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After his playing days were over, Mackey became the first president of the NFLPA, and was instrumental in getting players better pensions and improving their benefits.

Because of what Mackey contributed both on and off the field, winning the award that’s named after him is a big deal. There is a preliminary watch list of more than 30 of the nation’s best tight ends, but we’ve cut that down to the top-15 candidates for the award heading into the season. At season’s end, one of those players will have a great honor bestowed upon him, as the recipient of the 2013 John Mackey Award.

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15. O.J. Howard, Alabama

15. O.J. Howard, Alabama
Marvin Gentry - USATODAY Sports

Howard isn’t on the preliminary watch list because he’s a true freshman, but he was arguably the best tight end prospect in the history of college football, and he has a real chance to break out early in his career and become one of the best tight ends in the country. With great size, hands and athleticism, Howard could become a favorite target for A.J. McCarron and become a game changer for the Alabama offense.

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14. Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State

14. Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
Spruce Derden - USATODAY Sports

Johnson finished the season strong in 2012, and this year he’ll be the starting tight end for the Bulldogs, which will give him plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills as a pass-catching tight end.

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13. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State

13. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
Cary Edmondson - USATODAY Sports

Jensen is a sixth-year senior that brings a lot of experience and a lot of athleticism to the table. He made just 20 catches a season ago, but four of those went for touchdowns. He has a great quarterback in Derek Carr that knows how to get the ball to his receivers, and between that and his experience, Jensen could be a nice sleeper for the Mackey Award.

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12. Asa Watson, North Carolina State

12. Asa Watson, North Carolina State
Rob Kinnan - USATODAY Sports

Watson missed all of 2011 because of heart surgery, but he came back strong in 2012, catching 24 passes. Now that he’s had a year to shake off the rust, Watson could be ready for a big senior season, and it would be a great story if he were to become a finalist for the Mackey Award after coming back from heart surgery.

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11. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State

11. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
Troy Babbitt - USATODAY Sports

Gillmore will be an interesting guy to watch in 2013. He led his team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011, but only made 19 catches last season after making 45 receptions the previous year. Gillmore has the potential to have a brilliant senior season if he can put it all together.

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10. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

10. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Mark L. Baer - USATODAY Sports

Niklas has the honor of replacing last year’s Mackey Award winner Tyler Eifert. Much like Eifert, Niklas is tall and physical with a diverse skill set. It may be asking a lot to do what Eifert did last season, but Niklas is one of the most intriguing tight ends in the country, and a guy to keep an eye on.

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9. Xavier Grimble, USC

9. Xavier Grimble, USC
Kirby Lee - USATODAY Sports

Grimble made 29 catches a year ago, and could top that this season, as he continues to grow into his NFL body. With inexperience at the quarterback position, USC will need a reliable pass catcher at tight end, which should give Grimble plenty of opportunities to make plays, especially with defenses focused on stopping Marquis Lee.

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8. Rory Anderson, South Carolina

8. Rory Anderson, South Carolina
Jeff Blake - USATODAY Sports

Anderson shared time with Justice Cunningham last season, but he’s ready to step in as South Carolina’s primary tight end. He’s as fast and athletic as any tight end in the country, and five of his 14 catches last year were for touchdowns. After scoring eight touchdowns and averaging more than 20 yards per catch in limited action the past two seasons, Anderson could be poised for a big season.

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7. Chris Coyle, Arizona State

7. Chris Coyle, Arizona State
Gary A. Vasquez - USATODAY Sports

After not playing much his first two seasons, Coyle exploded for 57 catches last year, finding the end zone five times and leading the Sun Devils in both receptions and receiving yards. With numbers like that again this season, Coyle will definitely be in the mix for the Mackey Award.

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6. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa

6. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Reese Strickland - USATODAY Sports

Fiedorowicz is a big target in the passing game that hauled in 45 catches last year. He should be one of Iowa’s best red zone receivers, even though he only caught one touchdown pass last season. If he can catch another 45 balls this season, and find the end zone with more regularity, he’ll stand out as one of the nation’s best tight ends.

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5. Arthur Lynch, Georgia

5. Arthur Lynch, Georgia
Dale Zanine - USATODAY Sports

Georgia lost two of its top three receivers from last year, which will make Lynch a big part of their offense in 2013. Lynch had great game-to-game consistency last season, becoming a reliable target for Aaron Murray. Lynch is a great downfield target, and if Murray looks for him even more this year, Lynch can far exceed the 431 yards receiving he had last season and become one of the marquee tight ends in the country.

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4. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin

4. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
Jeff Hanisch - USATODAY Sports

Pedersen was the best tight end in the Big 10 last year, and now he strives to be the nation’s best in 2013. He’s been a steady producer the past two seasons, but if he can step up his game as a senior, he’ll be in strong contention for the Mackey Award.

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3. Austin Seferian-Jenkings, Washington

3. Austin Seferian-Jenkings, Washington
Kelley L. Cox - USATODAY Sports

The only thing that could hold Seferian-Jenkins back from winning the Mackey Award is his behavior off the field. He pleaded guilty to a DUI, but had his jail sentence suspended so he’s available for the fall semester. However, head coach Steve Sarkisian could still suspend him. If Seferian-Jenkins gets on the field this season, you’ll see a potential first-round draft pick and the favorite to win the Mackey award, but his off-field problems could prevent that from happening.

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2. Colt Lyerla, Oregon

2. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Scott Olmos - USATODAY Sports

He’s a tall, fast receiver that can create matchup problems, especially in Oregon’s offense. Lyerla finished last season strong and should be an even bigger part of the Duck’s offense this season after 25 catches and six touchdowns in 2012.

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1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina

1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Bob Donnan - USATODAY Sports

Ebron was North Carolina’s second leading receiver last season, and he’ll once again be one of Bryn Renner’s most reliable targets. He’s more than just a check down receiver, averaging 15 yards per catch last season and 20 yards per catch his freshman season in 2011. Ebron makes big plays downfield, and that will put him at the forefront of the Mackey Award race.

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  • Pat Swicegood

    Correction ~ I believe that Asa Watson may have graduated from Rock Hill High School, another fine Rock Hill, SC high school.