2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Iowa

November 23, 2012; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeye tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (45) runs after the catch against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a lean couple years for the Hawkeyes in terms of wins as well highly ranked draft prospects, which often go hand in hand.  It remains to be seen what they will be able to do when it comes to wins and losses, but they have at least one talented prospect that could have a bright future in the NFL; tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, the throw back tight end that can be a tremendous blocker and then turn around and make a big play in the passing game.  After spending two years largely as a blocking tight end, Fiedorowicz came into his own as a receiver this past year catching 45 passes 433 yards and a touchdown.  His size, strength and underrated athleticism combined with what he has shown on the field make him look like a top 100 pick with the chance to move up and perhaps be on the fringe of the first round with further improvement and consistency this year.

Vitals & Build

Fiedorowicz is listed at 6’7” 265lbs and looks like a tackle playing tight end.  He has a huge frame which appears to have the potential for even more strength on it, perhaps up to 270-275lbs without losing any athleticism.  He accelerates well, he is effective at changing direction and when he gets going, he can show a little more speed than people might expect.

Route Running & Technique

Fiedorowicz can line up both inline and in the slot, but he is more effective and more comfortable inline.  He has a great stance and fires out of it getting a great jump to block or run a route.  In the slot, he is a little too spread out with how he stands and he ends up with an exaggerated bounce that slows him down when he comes out of his stance and tries to release into his route.  If he can shorten his stance up, he could come more cleanly and effectively as right now, he is faster coming out of a three point stance.

In terms of running routes, Fiedorowicz is pretty good with the chance to get much better.  For the most part, he does not stretch the field terribly often, so defenses generally know that is he an underneath threat that tend to run flat crosses and out routes.  They know what he is going to do but they have an incredibly difficult time stopping it.  It is not just because he is a giant with a massive frame, but he mixes up how he makes the cut to go outside.  Between use of head fakes and his feet, he is able to create separation that would work if he was a foot shorter.  The fact he is so big only makes him that much more effective in those areas.

The route tree he runs is not overwhelmingly complicated as he is typically running ins, outs, and arrow routes with the occasional post or flag route mixed in to keep teams honest.  Tight ends built like Fiedorowicz do not generally have to master a complicated route tree so if he continues to improve and master these routes, he will be ready to contribute immediately in that phase of the game.  Fiedorowicz also does a good job of selling blocks before releasing either on play action or selling a pass block and releasing into a check down option.

Hands

Fiedorowicz has great hands and snags the ball out of the air efficiently and easily with his huge hands.  He does a good job of giving his quarterback a target to throw the ball and snapping his head and upper body around to adjust to the football.  Fiedorowicz also tracks the ball well down the field and is able to see and adjust to the ball and make catches quickly whether turning his body or after contact.  He possesses an enormous catch radius with his size and arm length and with rare exception, throwing the ball to Fiedorowicz is a catch unless it is behind him, where he has a little bit of trouble adjusting and flipping his entire body around to catch.  Overall, his body control is good, but it is not easy to flip around 6’7″ 265lbs terribly quickly.

Run After Catch

For the most part, Fiedorowicz is a guy who is going to extend drives on third downs and make plays in the red zone because of his size, but he can do damage after the catch when given the opportunity.  If opponents underestimate his speed, he will punish them but he is largely a lumbering tight end who functions on power and is going to run through people, who just has a little bit of extra speed when he has the space.   In the few opportunities where he is able to catch the ball in stride, he does adjust well and is able to continue going down the field effectively.  It would be a worthwhile endeavor to find more ways to get him the ball while he is going down the field as opposed to throwing him passes where he is coming back to the football and has to turn around and run with the ball.

Blocking

Fiedorowicz is a tremendous asset as a blocker, especially in the running game.  He fires out of his stance and works to dominate his opponents he is assigned to block.  With his size and strength, he has the ability to simply overwhelm opponents and create lanes for the running game.  Occasionally, Fiedorowicz is a little ahead of schedule in terms of working his feet around the opponent to cut him off when the back is passing on him, which will result in the defender slipping underneath from him early.  There are also times when Fiedorowicz will actually overrun the block because and fall of because he has such head of steam going.  If these are the biggest problem with his blocking, he is fantastic and should only get better with more experience.  He has experience on both sides of the line and will be a tremendous blocking threat as soon as he gets comfortable working in tandem with the tackles he is playing with at the next level.

He also possesses the feet and length to be an asset as a pass blocker if he is called on to do it, but usually, he sells a block long enough before releasing as an easy passing option on a check down for his quarterback.  While his pass blocking is something he can do, hopefully he is too busy running routes and creating for the offense in the passing game to do a ton of it.

Fiedorowicz is not quite a finished product as a blocker but he is fantastic and can really be dominant this year.  He seems to have soaked up all of the expertise and coaching that comes from the Iowa coaching staff and head coach Kirk Ferentz and could end up being an extension of the line at the next level, who can go out and catch the football.

System Fit

The best fit for Fiedorowicz is in a power running game that lines up their lineman with a tight end inline and dares opponents to try and stop them.  He can contribute as a run blocker and be an asset as a receiver, especially when it comes to play action.  Fiedorowicz can contribute as a joker in the slot, but he needs to improve his technique and release there and he is simply better inline, so unless moving him outside can really create a great matchup, keep him inline and let him wreak havoc.  First and foremost, he is a guy who will make plays in short yardage to extend drives and score in the red zone, but he has the potential to continue developing and stretch the field a little bit.  Fiedorowicz is a throwback tight end and with an NFL that is increasingly going to muscled up receivers as tight ends, he represents the old school, big bodied blocker who can also make plays as a receiver.  He is a huge mismatch because it is difficult to cover someone od his size and strength.  Teams that stand out for what Fiedorowicz brings are Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New England and Kansas City.

Schedule

Sat, Aug. 31 vs. Northern Illinois
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Missouri State
Sat, Sept. 14 at Iowa State
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Western Michigan
Sat, Sept. 28 at Minnesota
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Michigan State
Sat, Oct. 19 at Ohio State
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. Northwestern
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Wisconsin
Sat, Nov. 9 at Purdue
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Michigan
Fri, Nov. 29 at Nebraska

Notable Games

Three games in four weeks stand out for Fiedorowicz include Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  All three appear to have talented defenses and what could be matchups that could be worth watching.  Linebacker Max Bullough and Safety Isaiah Lewis could both find themselves covering Fiedorowicz for the Spartans.  Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier and Christian Bryant could both have to try and stop him.  Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is another guy that could have to try to stop Fiedorowicz.

NFL Comparison

Fiedorowicz’ skill set and style is eerily similar to Heath Miller and while Miller was a little more athletic coming out of Virginia, Fiedorowicz is bigger.  Fiedorowicz looks like he could fit into the Steelers system in that role they have Miller run seamlessly.  The type of guy who may never get the credit he deserves on the national stage but the type of guy whose fan base absolutely adores him and knows what to expect week in and week out in terms of effort and production.

Draft Projection

It is difficult to imagine that Fiedorowicz is anything but a top 100 pick right now, but he could certainly raise his stock further with another good year and improving his technique and consistency.  For as productive as he was this past year, it could be argued he was underutilized for the Hawkeyes and he could have an even bigger year this upcoming season.  It would not be a surprise if he largely goes unnoticed until after the season because Iowa may simply not get that much attention, but if he gets to participate in the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game, he could impress and start his climb upward before people really delve into his film.  Between his size and strength, Fiedorowicz could escalate his stock into the second round and potentially fight his way into the first round largely depending on fit for the teams picking there.

Topics: 2014 NFL Draft, C.J. Fiedorowicz, East-West Shrine Game, Heath Miller, Iowa Hawkeyes Football, Senior Bowl, Tight Ends

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