ESPN analyst Mel Kiper sees Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft as third-round pick
|(John Blaine — For The Trentonian)|
Tyler Kroft's drop in numbers won't noticeably affect his draft stock, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Wednesday.
Pegged as a possible All-Big Ten first teamer, Kroft finished 2014 fourth on the team in targets (42) despite playing the second-most snaps (697) as a junior.
"Kroft I thought going into the year would be a little more highly rated," Kiper said on a conference call. "I was a little surprised he came out. I think on just on pure ability, which you've seen, (he's) probably a third rounder."
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Kroft finished last season with 269 yards on 24 receptions, noticeable lows from a 2013 performance that warranted preseason All-America honors.
Under former offensive coordinator Ron Prince, Kroft capped his first season as a starter with 573 yards and four touchdowns on 43 catches.
But Kroft cautioned against reading too much into his production when he declared for the draft.
"I just evaluated how I played this year and how I've come in all facets of the game," Kroft said. "I know a lot of people get caught up in the numbers, but I'm confident in my tape and I feel like it's the right time for me."
Kroft cited a shallow tight-end class when he declared, but Kiper says teams can still find valuable chips in a pass-heavy NFL. Kroft will be weighed against fellow Big Ten tight ends Maxx Williams (Minnesota), Jesse James (Penn State) and Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State), among others.
"It's not bad in terms of guys that can play in this league catching the football," Kiper said. "You're not looking for guys that can block. You're not looking for in-line guys. ... They're all different. Some can be in line, some can be flexed out, some are H-backs ... some are glorified receivers."
Kroft signed with Priority Sports agent Mike McCartney, who also represents Mohamed Sanu, among others. He's currently training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
"Another great day of training down at IMG!!" Kroft tweeted Tuesday. "Getting better everyday, one step closer to my dreams!"