NFL Draft’s Justifiable Jets: Vance McDonald

With the 2013 NFL Draft less than a month away, TJB will offer some daily insight on players in this year’s draft class.  Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Jets to make a selection.

McDonaldVANCE McDONALD
Position: Tight End
School: Rice
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 267 pounds

Achievements:
Consensus All C-USA selection (2012)

Where the Jets could get him: Rounds 2-4, McDonald might be gone by the end of the second round based on how much he’s been talked up in recent weeks and should Eifert get picked in the first round,  a run on tight ends in the second seems likely.  I’ve seen McDonald ranked as high as the 3rd TE to as low as the 8th ranked TE on draft websites but I think he’ll wind up in the higher end of that range.  Should Eifert make it into the second round, a player like McDonald could theoretically stay on the board until the fourth, but that seems unlikely.

Explaining his game: McDonald didn’t get the attention out of the major programs in college because he came from a very small town, but his father was a linebacker at Texas so he has some football pedigree.  McDonald has size, speed and is a rare athlete.  The Rice Owl had one of the fastest 40 times for TEs at the Combine and led all at his position in bench reps (31). McDonald has the frame to be a versatile tight end in the NFL: large shoulders, long arms (34.5″) and big hands (10″) to extend and pluck the ball out of the air.

McDonald has all the measurables to be a versatile tight end in the NFL, so why is he a Day Two / Day Three prospect?  Partly it is the program and partly it was that McDonald was used at Rice as a slot receiver.  McDonald excelled in that role, is an experienced route-runner and can catch the ball cleanly has good fluidity for a player of his size. McDonald is projected as a size/speed mismatch but it’s unknown whether or not he’d be able to be used effectively as a blocker in the NFL.  He just doesn’t have enough tape for teams to know for sure.

During the Senior Bowl, McDonald was lauded for being aggressive in  blocking drills and was able to maintain balance through contact and finishing strong.  Despite all the concerns about his ability to block, he’s a player that a dedicated offensive line or tight end coach could work with to improve his technique.  Don’t be surprised should some team reach for the intriguing prospect.

Notes: Marty Morhinweg used Brent Celek as a big part of his passing game and it’s fair to assume that the Jets are looking for a similar type player to help ease the transition into the new offense.  Celek was an underrated player coming into the league who had good athleticism and has proven to be a wall-off blocker in the NFL when required.  Not having to shuttle tight ends in and out can help to disguise the intent of the play.

The Jets have expressed interest in a number of veteran tight ends in free agency, but obviously none of them have worked out.  While there’s some interesting depth on the Jets roster right now, it seems that the Jets are looking for a receiving tight end to bolster the front of the depth chart and that’s why it’s feasible that the Jets could draft a player who could contribute in their first season.  McDonald will need to become a better blocker, but he was asked to play a different role in college because of his skills and the needs of his team.  McDonald will have to work hard to become a better inline player, but his sheer size and athleticism would seem to make it a good bet for any team that’s interested in him that he can project to becoming a better blocker than he is at this point.

Articles on McDonald:

Vance McDonald gets Rice back into postseason, Senior Bowl

Fast-rising prospect Vance McDonald doesn’t disappoint

Video: A tape of Vance McDonald against Louisiana Tech.