CLEVELAND, OH – If Stanford Cardinal tight end Coby Fleener ends up getting selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, he would owe a world of thanks to the breakout seasons of fellow tight ends in Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Stanford alum, Evan Moore.
Graham and Gronkowski, would help re-define the tight end position by catching a combined 189 passes for 2,637 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2011-12 for the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.
Gronkowski, would set a new NFL record for receiving yards (1,327) and touchdowns (17) for the Patriots.
Graham, a former basketball player from the University of Miami (FL), would emerge as the top target for New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees by catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Gronkowski—alongside fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez—would revolutionize the use of two tight end sets during the Patriots march to Super Bowl XLIV.
Gronkowski and Hernandez would take the tight end to levels that late Chargers head coach—and offensive guru—Don Coryell could have only dreamed of when he first used Hall-Of-Fame tight end Kellen Winslow as a receiver in San Diego in the 1980’s.
With New England’s success of using both Gronkowski and Hernandez, do not be too surprised to see more teams in the NFL start to use two tight end sets in 2012, One of those teams most likely being Cleveland.
Cleveland, who currently has Alex Smith, Benjamin Watson and Jordan Cameron may appear to be set at the tight end position, but due to Moore’s inability to stay healthy, may cause the Browns to consider Fleener as a possible upgrade—and replacement—of Moore.
Moore, who would breakout during a Browns 30-23 home loss to the San Diego Chargers by catching six passes for 80 yards, has been dogged by injuries to the hip and head areas and would miss four games in 2010.
Cleveland who would ink the 6’6, 250-pound Moore to a two-year $6 million dollar contract extension that runs through the 2013-14 season, may already be prepared for life after Moore—and possibly Watson—in selecting Cameron out of USC in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Moore would go on to play all 16 games during the Browns 2011-12 season would record 34 catches for 324 yards and score four touchdowns.
Watson, who would sign a three-year deal worth $12 million after playing six seasons in New England, will become a free agent at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Which brings up the possibility of the Browns targeting the 6’6 244-pound Fleener who would be one of the semi-finalists for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate tight end.
Fleener would catch 34 passes for 667 yards and ten touchdowns for the Cardinal in the 2011-12 season. Fleener would be held to two catches for 19 yards during Stanford’s 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
With a combination of reliable hands, strong route-running, blocking and ability to accelerate after the catch, Fleener could be an asset in Cleveland’s West Coast offense, which has been tight-end friendly since the early days of Dwight Clark, Bubba Franks to the present times of Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis and Brent Celek.
While tight end is currently not a area of need for the Browns, the impending free agency of Watson and Moore may cause the Browns to consider drafting Fleener and pair him with Cameron in hopes of forming their own version of the Patriots one-two punch of Gronkowski and Hernandez.
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