Sometimes in the past few years it has seemed like the Stanford Cardinal have trotted out four, five, or six tight ends out on the field at the same time. They are extremely deep at the position and they have been a key part of their offense since the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh/Andrew Luck Era.
Last year saw the eldest of the group in Coby Fleener get drafted with the 34th pick in the draft to join his buddy in Indianapolis. This year they have two more big boys that are eligible for the draft, and if they declare early they could both be selected in the top half of the draft.
Zach Ertz, when compared to Fleener, is built a bit thicker but also doesn’t have near the straight line speed that Fleener did. Fleener looked like a big wide receiver and ran a very good time at the combine. Ertz has a more well-rounded game but isn’t as explosive as a pass catcher. He will make the sure grabs and should be a solid red-zone target being that he is 6’6″. He is at least 10 pounds heavier than Fleener and looks to be a more productive blocker. He isn’t going to dominate his guy and get to the next level, but he should at least hold the edge.
Ertz looks like a day two selection and should be one of the top three tight ends drafted. He could come back one more year and try to improve his stats a bit more as well as have a better shot at a title, but he may choose to come out in a pretty weak tight end class.
Levine Toilolo is the other contender. Toilolo is a bit more well known as he had a pretty decent highlight reel his freshman year playing with Andrew Luck.. Also because he is huge at 6’8″ and 270 pounds.
Toilolo is surprisingly athletic for that size and has deceiving straight-line speed. He is no Vernon Davis by any stretch of the imagination, but he could potentially run a better time than his teammate Ertz. He is faster than quick, and really has to utilize his body in order to make the short catches, but that is not a huge problem when you are as big as he is.
Toilolo probably has the higher upside than Ertz, but it is evident with him losing playing time to Ertz that he is not as complete of a player. Toilolo loses traction in the blocking game and relies on his frame to get in the way of oncoming defenders. His athleticism does make him a little more effective at getting to the second level, even if he doesn’t have the technique to do anything once he gets there.
Both of these tight ends have the potential to be versatile weapons in the passing game and, with development, have big enough frames to be involved on running downs. Both are more ready in this regard than Coby Fleener, but neither touch Fleeners speed.
It is highly unlikely both come out, with a much better chance that both stay at least one more year. But if they decide to leave early, expect the second wave of the Stanford Tight End dynasty to move forward.