The UMass Minutemen have had more success sending players to the NFL in recent years than they have on the football field recently, especially as they adjust to playing FBS football in the MAC. Victor Cruz was an undrafted free agent who has found a ton of success in the NFL while Vladimir Ducasse was a second round pick but has not had much success. This year, they have another intriguing prospect for the NFL in their do-it-all tight end, Rob Blanchflower. The minutemen have lined him up everywhere from inline to being an H-Back to a wing to a joker in the slot in attempt to get him open to make plays and let him create opportunities for teammates.
Blanchflower is the type of tight end that every team wants to get on their roster because of all of the areas of the game he can impact. He gives a lot of effort and has good results as a blocker, can line up in a number of different positions and offers enough ability and potential as a receiver to be able to make plays for a team and potentially force a defense to counter. While Blanchflower’s initial value is as a blocker, he shows a lot of solid building blocks that could allow him to get better as a receiver in the NFL, so he does have potential going forward. Blanchflower projects as a third day player but could end up making a name for himself in the postseason process such as an All-Star game and be a name that gets associated with being a riser and could end up a fringe top 100 pick.
Vitals & Build
Blanchflower is listed at 6’4” 260lbs with a good build for the position. He has a lot of strength, carries little fat, and is a solid athlete. Blanchflower has a good first step and solid but unspectacular speed with decent agility. It is difficult to imagine teams would want him to add too much more weight, but rather try to maximize what he already has as he prepares to go into the NFL.
Route Running & Technique
Blanchflower shows a good sense of how to run routes and get open. He has a good first step out of his three point stance and can use his hands well to get past opponents to create initial spacing.
His burst is pretty good and while his top end speed is solid, but he looks faster than he is and is able to get behind opponents because of his ability to initial steps. The fact that he is a blocker enables him to set opponents up and sell block before going into a route. He has enough pop where he can get opponents to brace for impact and step their feet which makes it easy for him to get past them.
Blanchflower does a pretty good job of planting his foot in the ground to set up routes; typically ins and outs, but he has some effective whip routes as well. All things considered, he is able to shift his weight pretty well and lose defenders, but that is an area he is going to want to work to improve at the next level. He can sink his hips better, get lower in his cuts and explode more effectively, but that is easier said than done at 260lbs. Blanchflower can be subtle enough with his feet that he can set opponents up and beat them.
Blanchflower catches the ball pretty well but he is not a dynamic pass catcher. If the pass is on him, he will catch it. Over his head, he is pretty good. Blanchflower is going to have problems adjusting to passes that are thrown behind him as he is a little stiff in his hips. As long as the quarterback is not throwing passes that require miracles to convert, he is going to make the play. He has strong hands that are not going to give up many passes as well.
On the other hand, Blanchflower does a pretty good job of using his body to box out opponents and shield them from the ball. He can also concentrate on the football well and adjust to deflections on occasion. As long as he has a quarterback who can put the ball on him with pretty good accuracy, Blanchflower is a pretty reliable pass catcher.
Run After Catch
Blanchflower can be a threat after the catch if he catches a pass and is already in position to turn and run quickly. On vertical routes, crosses and drags or outs when he is already going down the field or he is basically a step from going down field, he can pick up yards. Blanchflower’s long speed is probably going to be categorized as warning track power, but he can make some big plays for teams.
On passes where Blanchflower is coming back to the quarterback or is near the sideline on a comeback, he is not really going to do too much after the catch. Few tight ends can really make plays where they start from a stopped position facing the line of scrimmage and make a huge play.
Blanchflower is not going to make too many opponents miss with quickness, though he can occasionally set opponents up with good footwork. More often, Blanchflower is going to take advantage of his strength and either lower his shoulder and punish the opponent or use a nasty stiff arm as he goes down the field.
Blanchflower does a really good job with blocking. He has been effective both inline and in space and takes a lot of pride in how he blocks, staying with them and fighting to the whistle the vast majority of the time.
Blanchflower does a good job of engaging contact and moving his body to get in between the ball carrier and the defender. He does a good job of not overextending and lunging in space. Occasionally, he will make a mental mistake and give up an inside lane when he mirror blocks.
He has a pretty solid punch and works to create space and dominate the opponent when possible. As mentioned earlier, he works to shield the opponent from the play, but after he establishes that, he looks to use his strength and send a message with more than a few instances of putting opponents on skates as he drives them down the field.
Blanchflower avoids overextending, but he may need to work to do a better job of getting behind his pads in the NFL. He tends to block extremely tall and while that has worked for him, he tends to have a strength advantage against most everyone he plays against. Going to the NFL, he will likely need to shift his body to play behind his hands in order to have the success of creating space down the field.
Blanchflower uses great effort almost all of the time anyway, but seems to engage a second gear when it comes to blocking down the field. When he gets to the second level or feels like a play can go a long way, he goes down the field like a wrecking ball. The important part for Blanchflower is he does not throw himself at the opponent and just does a good job of maintaining control while potentially pancaking the opponent and going to try to make another block.
Blanchflower has experience lining up in the backfield as well as a wing that can come across and land a wham block. He has enough quickness and strength to play in the backfield but needs to work on getting lower at the point of contact, especially with the boss block. It seems as though they have him cut as a way to make up for his height, but he needs to work to try to get lower so he can dig opponents out and be a viable option in short yardage and goal line situations.
First and foremost, Blanchflower fits as a second or third tight end. He has enough versatility where he can be a utility player on special teams as well as different offensive formations to be a valuable asset. His value gets considerably higher if he can prove to be a viable fullback option that can lead block, potentially saving a roster spot.
He should be able to come in and contribute as a blocker, but could work to improve as a receiver and potentially become a player that can come in and extend drives and potentially be a red zone target. With time, that role could expand and improve.
Blanchflower could end up being similar to Logan Paulsen of the Washington Redskins. He has been a utility player since he came out of UCLA and while he is not a star by any stretch, he has been able to find himself a useful niche. They have similar size and fulfill similar roles. That could be the same path that Blanchflower has in the NFL, but he could end up being a more accomplished receiving threat than Paulsen has to this point. Both Paulsen and Blanchflower are important utility players.
Blanchflower’s ability be a good blocker while having the receiving skills to make him interesting in that respect with the potential to get better. He plays with a high level of effort and really seems to take pride in being able to help his team, but can make plays when he has the chance. Blanchflower projects as a third day pick but if he shows well in the postseason, he could end up possibly at the fringes of the top 100. There is a small question as to the nature of the injury that kept him out the first three games of the season. UMass does not give out injury info, so that will be answered in interviews and the combine.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com