Who the hell will they draft 2008: Notre Dame TE John Carlson

Notre Dame TE John Carlson would fit right in to the Colt's offense.
I'm crashing BBS's Who the hell will they draft 2008 party with an analysis of my former classmate, Notre Dame TE John Carlson.  In the latest Mock Draft, BBS has Carlson as the first player chosen by the Colts in the second round.  He would definitely fit right in with the Colts.

The Colts TE situation got a little thinner recently with the Bengals signing Ben Utecht.  Before this happened, I don't think the Colts were a player in the TE market.  With a semi-reliable 2nd option gone to another team, that only leaves Clark and Fletcher left at the position.  Tight End has now become a definite need in the draft, and Bill Polian has not hesitated in the past to use his first pick on an offensive hole, even when conventional wisdom said to go defense first.

Carlson is 6'5", 256 pounds, which is pretty good size for a TE.  As a comparison, Clark is 6'3", 252, so they are roughly the same size.  Some stats on Carlson:

YEAR TEAM REC YDS AVG LNG TD FD FUM LOST
2004 ND 6 31 5.2 12 0 0 0 0
2005 ND 7 56 8.0 22 1 0 0 0
2006 ND 47 634 13.5 62 4 0 0 0
2007 ND 40 372 9.3 41 3 0 0 0

Do NOT be fooled by his reduction in stats from 2006 to 2007.  This had absolutely nothing to do with him.  In 2006, he had Brady Quinn throwing to him, 2 other NFL caliber Wide Receivers, and an offensive line that could block without his help.  In 2007 he had an awful OL to play with, and a freshman QB throwing to him.  He led the team in receptions in 2007, even though he was constantly doubled.  He also was a Mackey Award Finalist each of the past 2 seasons.  The other thing to take notice of in his stats: ZERO fumbles.  We all know how much Coach Dungy hates fumbling.  It looks like he can hold on to the ball.

At the combine, Carlson was a top performer in the Vertical Jump, 20-yard Shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.  Carlson's overview from NFL.com says:

Productive but not flashy in an NFL-style offense at Notre Dame. He can make the tough catch and gives top effort, assets that could see him come off the board in the first two rounds.

Positives: Has good size and is a complete tight end. ... Can block and get open down the seam. ... Quick off the snap and blocks with a purpose. ... Keeps a square frame and can seal the edge or get to linebackers. ... Smooth adjusting to off-target throws. ... Reliable route runner. ... Has build-up speed.

Negatives: He's not Jeremy Shockey or Vernon Davis athletically, but he's not a complete slouch. ... Could be stronger. ... Was prone to drops and lapses in concentration. ... Has long arms and decent strength, but tries to block with his shoulders and loses leverage.

This is a pretty good summary of Carlson, and actually hits both a positive and a negative of him that I have as well.  With an extremely young OL last year at ND, he was forced to stay in and help block a good majority of the time, so he has lots of practice blocking.  His best attribute, however, is his ability to catch the ball down the seam.  This is only good when you have a quarterback that can actually throw a seam pass, and Peyton obviously is one of the best at it.  In the video below, check out the catches at the 1:23 mark:  Up the seam, in between 3 defenders.  You'll also notice that almost all of his catches are over the middle, which is a very good thing.  The video looks like it is exclusively from 2006, when he had teammates like he'll see in the NFL, and ran an offense like an NFL team. (I apologize for the Intro...the actual highlights start at 0:44, for those of you who don't want to see the beautiful images of Notre Dame).

The one negative, which the NFL.com overview also said, is he had a tendency to drop a pass or two when thrown to him.  This seemed to be more of an issue in '07 rather than in '06.  I really don't see this as a problem going forward.  It also says he isn't athletic enough, which I don't buy.  He played on the ND basketball team as a freshman, which, in my opinion, makes him pretty versatile and athletic.  I think it helped him gain some strength, as well as agility, which he used later in his career.

Carlson recently had his Pro Day workout, and made a great impression on those in attendance.  This is a good news / bad news situation.  The good news is he is getting the attention he deserves.  The bad news is his draft stock is rising, meaning he probably won't be there in the third round.  The Colts cannot rely solely on Bryan Fletcher to play in the second TE slot.  John Carlson would be perfect fit into the Colts offense.  He is a two-time Academic All-America, and has a great "Football IQ".  New Era Scouting says about his "Football IQ":

Carlson is a player who understands his role and seems to grasp what is expected of him quickly. He has had no trouble taking in Charlie Weis's complicated, pro-style playbook in terms of both his routes and blocking schemes.
All of these things are exactly what the Colts look for in a player.  I'd love for him to wear the Colts blue, and I think everyone else here would too.
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