Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has postponed retirement for another year, but the team does need to seek an eventual replacement for him. To that end, Atlanta used a fourth-round pick (133rd overall) in April’s draft on Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo in an effort to bolster their depth at the position.
Toilolo was not a prolific pass catcher in college (50 career catches), due in part to the presence of fellow 2013 draft pick Zach Ertz, but he did have 10 touchdowns over the last two seasons and has size (6’8″, 260 pounds) and measurements (34 and 1/2″ arms) befitting an offensive lineman.
The Falcons’ pass offense goes through wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as Gonzalez, and that is unlikely to change this season. But there is room for Toilolo to make an impact as a blocker and red zone threat, and head coach Mike Smith has already hinted as much.
The Falcons don’t have great depth at tight end, with less than notable names like Chase Coffman, Tommy Gallarda and Anthony Miller looking like Toilolo’s main competition for a roster spot. So it would surely take a significant injury for the rookie to not make Atlanta’s 53-man roster.
Time will tell if Toilolo has what it takes to be Gonzalez’s heir apparent, whenever the sure-fire Hall of Famer decides to call it a career. But he does have an opportunity virtually to himself to make an impression on the Falcons’ coaches this year, starting with training camp and preseason games, and needs to make the most of it.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.