The tight end position is a strength for the Eagles. While Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey make for a talented trio, the Eagles are all about getting better at every position. Chip Kelly has shown a real interest in the position and it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Eagles could want to add another to the group. If the Eagles decide to build the unit with a high pick, Notre Dame's Troy Niklas is a two-way tight end that could be of help in all aspects of the offense.
An offensive and defensive lineman, who was named the Los Angeles Times lineman of the year in 2010, Niklas committed to Notre Dame. He played in 12 games (one start) at outside linebacker as a freshman. He totaled 20 tackles (0.5 for loss) and a fumble recovery. He moved to tight end as a sophomore and appeared in 13 games (seven starts). He recorded five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in his first year at the position.
In his final season at Notre Dame, Niklas started all 13 games and collected 32 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns. He was selected to the All-Independent first team for his efforts.
Weight: 270 lbs
Arm Length: 34 1/8"
Bench Press: 27 reps (fourth among TEs in 2014)
Vertical Jump: 32.0 inches
Broad Jump: 114.0 inches
3 Cone: 7.57 seconds
Shuttle: 4.55 seconds
Niklas has been used at several different positions since high school. As a high school offensive lineman, he understands how to block and his size makes him an imposing presence as a blocker. He has very, very soft hands and can catch contested balls. He will go up for the ball and has good balance after the catch. He is a physical specimen that has great measureables. He is very hard to bring down after the catch. He thrived as a receiver despite Tommy Rees' inadequacies as a passer.
Niklas is still very new to the tight end position. His route running needs serious work and he is stiff as a runner. His hips are stiff, which forces him to round out routes. He also needs to improve his ability to block downfield. He is a very good blocker but could improve on his ability to go one-on-one with defenders in the passing game.
On paper, tight end is not a concern, but Niklas may be a special player for Kelly. He has qualities that Kelly and his staff look for and he is still very easy to mold at the position. Casey rarely played last year, but the acquisition of Niklas could force his release and an expanded role for the third tight end. Niklas is likely a Day 2 pick, so the Eagles would really have to fall in love with him to make Niklas as a selection.