Tight End - Purdue
Combine Height: 6-2
Combine Weight: 242
Combine 40 Time: 4.55
Caught 68 passes for 881 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.
Keller is the kind of tight end fantasy owners appreciate, in that blocking is merely something he tolerates in between catches. He’s an average blocker, a converted wide receiver who’s perhaps a bit undersized to be on the field in short-yardage situations, but that’s not why the NFL is salivating. No, it has more to do with the 4.55 40 he posted at the combine, fastest at his position. Keller’s 38-inch vertical was also a position best, and his 26 reps at 225 pounds was just one shy of the Combine’s top tight end as well.
Sure, some team could put Keller’s athleticism to use shielding defensive ends and pushing around cornerbacks. But it’s his pass-catching skills that could make him the first tight end off the board on Draft Day. He’s adept at finding holes in zone coverage, strong enough to shrug off defensive backs who try to take him on, and is just too fast to be covered by most linebackers. The team that drafts him will be able to move him around—on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, as an H-back—to create favorable matchups. More than one scout has compared him to Chris Cooley, and fantasy owners wouldn’t mind having another one of those around.
There’s a slim chance the Seahawks or Packers could go after a tight end at the end of the first round, and Keller would be an intriguing fit to each of those offenses. The Vikings have need for a weapon at the position, as do the Bills and Saints; all would get a shot at Keller in Round Two before the Seahawks and Packers (twice) go back on the clock at the end of the round. The Bengals’ offense has largely ignored the tight end position, but with Chris Henry gone and Chad Johnson asking for a trade it may be time to revisit that need.
If you’re banking on anything from Keller this season, it would behoove you to root for him to slide into the second round. As frequently discussed in The Huddle, rookie tight ends are more inclined to break hearts then help win championships. In fact, the average rookie campaign of the dozen tight ends taken in Round One since 2000—including Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, and Vernon Davis, amongst others—is a paltry 303 yards and two touchdowns. So while it may be tempting, should Keller land in Seattle or even Green Bay, to view him as an upside guy, he’d be bucking plenty of history just to put mediocre numbers on the board. That said, an athletic tight end in a West Coast offense that will overlook his average blocking skills and work to get him mismatches in coverage is usually a good bet for fantasy stats. Those numbers may not come immediately, especially if teams are forced to take him off the field in some situations until his blocking improves. But eventually, in the right situation, Keller could be the kind of guy who helps differentiate you at the position. Just remember: emphasis on “eventually”.