Professional football has become almost unrecognizable to our NFL forefathers. Gone are the days of run first, pass second game play. In today's NFL, teams go to the pass more often than not, and a trend in this pass heavy philosophy is to utilize the tight end position more and more...
In the past, great tight ends were the exception, not the rule. Very few teams featured great tight ends. Names like Jay Novacek, Dave Casper, and Kellen Winslow Sr. are easily recognizable to fans of the NFL. How they played their positions can't be compared to the way tight ends are used today. The modern day tight end often finds themselves running routes coming off of motion, running routes as slick as a wide receiver. Oh, they block for a run play or two, but they now specialize in running pass patterns against smaller defensive backs in routes more traditionally given to wide receivers.
The Rams under Jeff Fisher promise to deliver a more run heavy offense, but there will be a time and place for the passing game. With few elite weapons on the offensive side of the ball, Brian Schottenheimer will elect to spread the ball around the field, and the tight end position will be called upon to move the chains more often than past offensive schemes. The Rams have a few options at the tight end position.
DeAngelo Peterson is a strange player to analyze. His career was not nearly as successful as he would have liked. According to the man himself:
"My main thing is I want to show people what I couldn't show them at LSU: that I can catch the ball, I can run routes, also that I can block," he said. "That's the main thing I'm really focused on, to show people what I can do that I couldn't show at LSU."
Peterson feels as though his talents at LSU were under used, and he's right to a certain extent. LSU's offense under head coach Les Miles is very much a run first scheme. The Tigers pound the ball and throw the occasional pass. The tight end is used to block and is a third read for the quarterback on pass plays.
A receiver in high school, Peterson has the ability to catch the ball. Peterson never had enough "looks" for us to get a good sample of his ability in college, with only a 10.10% target rate his senior season. Certainly a contributing factor in his low collegiate production was his starting quarterbacks ability. Jarret Lee and Jordan Jefferson both spent time under center in 2011, and during the regular season only threw for 20 touchdowns and a combined and 2024 passing yards. Compared to other offenses around the NCAA, it's was a mediocre performance. Peterson targeted only three times during the Senior Bowl, with two catches and one pass that was picked off. Peterson needs work in his blocking, but considering he was a wide receiver in high school, it's to be expected.
Peterson's measurables are not archetypal at the tight end position. He is 6'-3" and weighs in at 243 lbs. Peterson does play bigger than his height though. He has long arms at 32 1/2" and good hand size at just over 9 1/2" long. At the LSU pro day and the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.76 40 yard dash and had a 36" vertical jump along with a 10'-1" broad jump. Peterson was ranked as high as the number nine tight end prospect out of 73 available in the draft by nfldraftscout.com. Here is a highlight video for your enjoyment.
Again, we don't have a huge body of work to go off of with Peterson. He does seem a bit timid when contact is imminent as evidenced in this vid from 2010:
Did you see that? He pulled up at the last second instead of catching the ball and getting hit by the safety coming over the top. The St. Louis Rams coaching staff has a reputation for toughness, and perhaps that part of Peterson's game can be refined over the next few seasons. With Peterson's raw ability and size, the Rams would be wise to keep Peterson around to contribute on special teams, while his potential to develop into the new breed of tight end can be accessed. After all, he is another undrafted free agent, who at the end of the day won't cost very much to keep around. Is he worth a roster spot? Well, we should see enough in the preseason to know whether he's worthy of a St. Louis Rams uniform, or not....