With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on Feb. 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done. We continue our series with Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.
Pros: At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Stocker has the size needed to absorb hits over the middle at the NFL level, and he showed that he possessed the toughness to handle it during Senior Bowl week, when Alabama's Greg McElroy threw him into an evil two-defender hit in practice, and Stocker held on to the ball. He was absolutely fearless in traffic during his Vols career as well.
Stocker has good second-level burst for his size, which allows him to angle past defensive backs in the open field, though he's more conversant with just running people over. Sits well in zones and turns upfield with a good blast. Consistent route-runner with the slants, crosses, and seam routes tight ends see most of the time. Played for three different coaches in his last three seasons, going through different offenses with toughness and consistency. A willing and physical blocker. Fits all the traditional tight-end models.
Cons: However, if you're looking for one of the new breed of hybrid tight ends who plays more like big wide receivers, Stocker is not your guy. He's not a burner off the snap -- it takes him a bit of time to get up to speed, though he's surprisingly nimble in short spaces. And at times, his size leads him to look stocky and blocky in quick turnaround and comeback routes -- he's better as a strider after the catch.
Doesn't get separation against faster corners who can press him in space; his option in those situations is to jump his way out of coverage. Best used in a balanced or West Coast system where the tight end is not required to get immediately vertical.
Conclusion: The rise of spread offenses in the NCAA has given birth to a new generation of tight ends who may have been possession receivers in previous eras. They can run, but they can't block, and they're more about getting downfield or taking stick screens upfield than chipping off the line and running the perfect slant or cross. Stocker is not that kind of flashy player, but he is absolutely the type of tight end you want if you're looking for the do-it-all traditionalist.
Tough, consistent and multi-faceted, Stocker is just as much about the little things done right as the obvious flash points. Finished his collegiate career with 80 catches in 51 games for 898 yards and seven touchdowns.
More Shutdown 40
No. 40 Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State