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Who the hell will they draft 2008: Purdue TE Dustin Keller

I really hope you are all enjoying the new features associated with Stampede Blue 2.0. I want to take the time to give a big "OMFG You Are Da Jesus!" moment to SB Nation's technical genius, Trei. Trei is one of head gurus on SB Nation's tech side that ran this upgrade process, and he did a magnificent job creating a beautiful, fan-friendly upgrade. Guys like Trei make blogging at SB Nation easy, and like most tech guys he usually gets ZERO recognition, until now.

We love ya, Trei.

Ok, 'nuff on that loving the techie guy crap! Let's get back to more manly things, like making theoretical guesses on who the hell the Colts will draft this weekend. One of the things I'm going to start employing a bit is the use of Intro Paragraphs, like this one. To read the rest of this story, you just need to click the link below to read more. It's no biggie. This profile will focus on Purdue TE Dustin Keller, a player many feel the Colts will take in the 2nd Round at #59.


We profiled TEs John Carlson, Jacob Tamme, and Joey Haynos a while ago, and now Purdue's Dustin Keller will round out the TEs portion of Who the hell will they draft? Keller is also the second Boilermaker we will cover, the first being DE Cliff Avril, who was just drafted by our Steelers blogger in the SB Nation 2008 Mock Draft.

Of all the TEs we've profiled, Dustin Keller is the one scouts most compare to Indy's Dallas Clark. That's quite a comparison, because one could make a compelling argument that Clark is the best TE in football, or one of the best. Since the Colts run a base 2 TE set, and since former #2 TE Ben Utecht is now catching practice passes from Carson Palmer in Cincy, finding a capable #2 TE in the draft is important for the Colts.

Indy has taken a fancy to Keller because of his tremendous skills catching passes from the TE or H-Back position. Whenever you read scouting reports about Keller, these traits are the first to burst off the page:

New Era Scouting:

Concentration / Hands: Keller has big hands that allow him to easily catch the ball. Rarely catches with his body.

[Keller] has a high level of development in all aspects of receiving: line release, route-running, defense recognition, hands and run-after-the-catch speed.

NFL Draft Countdown:

Has soft hands...Good ball skills and body control...Adequate timed speed and can stretch the field vertically...Can do some damage after the catch.

The Colts often look for TEs (and receivers in general) who run great routes, have soft hands, and quick line release; all of which Keller has in spades. Interest in Keller shot up big time after he had a very impressive performance at the Combine. I know many fans, and many bloggers, like to dismiss the Combine, but Keller is one of those guys that shows how important the Combine can be. Keller ran a 4.53 and had 26 bench press reps. This caught the eye of many scouts, with some now considering him the best TE of the crop. Keller's Combine performance is a result of his well-noted work ethic:

New Era:

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: Keller is a weight room fanatic, but needs to learn how to better use that strength on the field. A fiery competitor who plays with a lot of toughness.

NFL Draft Countdown:

Great competitor...Hard worker with terrific intangibles...

Obviously, I like seeing these kinds of things. Players committed to developing and getting better are the kinds of players you want on your team. The part in the New Era scouting report about Keller better using his strength on the field is interesting to note. Keller certainly is not known as a "soft" player, but one of the "negatives" I see pop up is his inability to block consistently. Despite Keller's impressive strength, he doesn't seem to use it to its full potential, especially when it comes to blocking:

He needs significant improvement as an inline blocker. His ability to block for the running game is not up to NFL standards and may limit his ability to win a starting job. He needs to take better angles and use his quickness and natural knee bend to get better leverage.

NFL Draft Countdown:

Just an average blocker...Isn't stout at the point of attack and doesn't get a great push.

New Era:

Blocking: An inexperienced blocker. Terrible technique. Needs to control opponent’s hands better. Doesn’t lock out his arms. Should only improve with proper coaching.

I highlighted the last part because when you see a negative like this, it's important to make the note: Is this negative able to get solved with coaching? With something like blocking technique, the answer is yes. Dallas Clark was not known as a great blocker coming out of Iowa, and while he is not a dominating blocker today he is a pretty good one. The Colts have an excellent TE coach in Ricky Thomas and one-time Bills TE Pete Metzelaars is the Colts' Quality Control Coach. So, there is no shortage of good coaching at the TE spot for a prospect like Keller. Knowing that, the next question is can he be coached? I think the answer is yes, but the's Combine page makes a clear "Red Flag" note regarding Keller's blocking:

Must totally revamp his blocking technique, as he spends too much time catching defenders with his hands and will generally get those hands outside his frame, allowing the opponent to make a quick move over his outside shoulder...Must do a better job of anchoring and running his feet when asked to block in-line...

He doesn't love to block and doesn't show great desire to combat for the ball in a crowd...

If your team has a physical blocker at this position and you're looking for a complimentary intermediate-range receiver, Keller could fill that role. If you are looking for a complete, physical blocker at the position, you might be looking elsewhere.



Keller entered college as a WR and was converted to TE. If he has the skills and knowledge to make the transition, and also play H-Back, he strikes me as the kind of guy who is very open to coaching. There are no known character issues, and his work ethic has never been questioned. In fact, as stated earlier, Keller's work ethic is one of his biggest strengths. Knowing all this, I'm not one to worry about whether or not he can develop into a better blocking TE. Will he block like Ben Utecht? Probably not, but having a smart, gifted athlete like Keller paired with Dallas Clark is the kind of two-headed TE attack that would make Bill Belichick's head explode. The two TE attack killed New England in the AFC Championship Game in 2006. Deploying TEs as versatile and fast as Keller and Clark is a luxury very few (if any) teams can employ.

The final analysis of Keller is unknown, and likely won't be known until he's drafted, which puts Keller in the same boat with just about everyone else entering the 2008 draft. Some view Keller as a potential first round pick. Others see him as the 4th or 5th best TE in the group. Who knows. What we do know is Keller had excellent production at Purdue playing TE, which is all that you really look for from a draft prospect. Yes, the Combine is important (if it wasn't, why have it?) but more important is what does the guy do on Saturdays.

Dustin Keller is someone who could make an immediate impact on the Colts offense on day one, and if players like CJ, Forte, or Avril are gone by the late second round, look for the Colts to target Keller.