The New England Patriots set a pretty high gold standard for tight end production with what Rob Gronkowksi and Aaron Hernandez put up in 2011. But with injuries plaguing both of them and Tom Brady not getting any younger — plus who knows which players New England ends up finding expendable when their rookie contracts conclude — it could be time for a new TE duo to step to the forefront.
If the mantle is given up in the coming years, Indianapolis Colts Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener present about as good a chance as anyone of ascending to the top. While Fleener’s rookie year underwhelmed a bit, much of this can be reasonably attributed to acclimating with the pro game and dealing with a range of nagging injuries. In Allen’s’ case, however, the the high draft selection has already been well-validated.
Fleener was taken out of the top of round two and Allen round three, but it is the latter who has in 2012 played better than any first-round tight end taken recent years. Allen’s 45 catches on 521 yards are good for a rookie, but it was his blocking that complemented his receiving and made him such a special player so fast, and playing alongside the cerebral Andrew Luck along with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should only help.
Allen’s play was broken down in Pro Football Focus’ Secret Superstar series: “What teams underestimated about Allen’s game was his blocking prowess. One of the harder abilities to scout in tight ends, blocking is about size, coaching, and effort. What scouts didn’t see in Allen was prototypical size and they likely questioned if his blocking skills would translate to the next level.
“The good news for the Colts is they did. … However, Allen wasn’t just a successful run blocker, he also graded out very positively in screen blocking and pass blocking. One of his best assets as a blocker is the ability to line up anywhere on the field, and indeed he lined up at 21 unique positions over the course of the season.”