NFL draft profile: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku, a young, freakish and ascending athlete

Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
6-foot-4, 246 pounds

Key stat: In 26 career games (nine starts), Njoku caught 64 passes for 1,060 yards and nine touchdowns.

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Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku can heat up quickly but has a lot to learn. (AP)
Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku can heat up quickly but has a lot to learn. (AP)

The skinny: The son of Nigerian parents, Njoku was one of nine children. Ran track (won a national championship in the high jump at 6-foot-11) and played wide receiver in football as a prep. He chose Miami with the idea of bulking up and becoming a tight end with its great tradition at the position (Kellen Winslow II, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, et al). Redshirted in 2014 and became a regular offensive contributor over the following two seasons, sharing the starting TE role with Chris Herndon.

Njoku declared for the 2017 NFL draft following his redshirt sophomore season and turned in excellent numbers at the NFL scouting combine in the vertical jump (37.5 inches), broad jump (133 inches), 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds) and 40-yard dash (4.64). He will turn 21 in July.

Best-suited destination: Njoku is built perfectly to be an “F” tight end — most often detached from the line of scrimmage, either in the slot or out wide, as a threat to stretch the seam vertically. He likely would be miscast purely as an in-line tight end, especially from a blocking standpoint, but he has the growth potential to contribute in that area. Any team with a creative and open mind could find a home for Njoku, but we think teams that especially could be interested include the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots.

Upside: Freakish athletic ability. Still only 20 years old with his best football in front of him. Made clear progress from 2015 to 2016. Big hands and exceptionally long arms — 35 1/4 inches, longer than many OT prospects. Weighed in at a lean but notable 246 pounds at the combine and measured less than 7 percent body fat, the lowest figure among the tight ends in Indy. Built like a king-sized receiver and moves like one, too. Jumping numbers indicate exceptional lower-body explosion. No notable injuries in college.

Receiving skills developing but has nice body control and times his jumps well downfield. Can surprise linebackers and even safeties with his play speed. Will run through tackle attempts and turn short throws into long plays. Here’s a nice example of that against West Virginia:

Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku flashes his big-play ability against West Virginia in 2016. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku flashes his big-play ability against West Virginia in 2016. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Averaged more than 16.5 yards per catch in two years. Terrific in the red zone. Effort as a blocker is not bad at all; with a bit more bulk and technique refinement, he could be a contributor in this department.

Downside: Not by any means a finished product. Will need to add bulk and learn the intricacies of the position, especially with blocking. Cannot be left alone with skilled pass rushers (see Pitt game). Also needs to run crisper routes and not drift as much. Has to learn how to set up defenders better and disguise his routes. For all his athletic gifts, Njoku appeared tight in the hips to observers at the combine and his pro day workouts. Also has skinny legs by TE standards and needs more weight-room development. Never emerged as a full-time starter or weapon at Miami. Can be drop-prone at times. Still learning to harness his athletic gifts and likely won’t be a 60-snap-per-game contributor. Has potential to be impact special-teams player but hasn’t shown major work there yet. Will require patient coaches who can teach Njoku the small things, such as getting out of his stance faster and using his hands and leverage better in blocking.

Scouting hot take: “He would have been a 1,000-yard guy if he and the quarterback [Brad Kaaya] had come back for another year. I can’t blame [Njoku]; who is telling a first-round pick to stay in school? I just think the best is in front of him. I think he’s special.” — NFC area scout

Player comp: A souped-up Jared Cook. That might even be underselling Njoku.

Expected draft range: First-round pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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