Philadelphia, PA – The tight end position has evolved into a highly sought-after commodity at the NFL level.
A lot of that has to do with the type of athletes who are suiting up and honing their craft in college. The really talented ones are an integral part of any offensive scheme and bolster a quarterback's confidence when dropping back in the pocket.
Here is a list of the top tight ends at the FBS level in 2013:
AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS (Washington): While position rankings can be subjective, that isn't the case at tight end. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Seferian-Jenkins is a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle and is without a doubt the top player at his position in the country. He was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and was a finalist for the Mackey Award in 2012, hauling in 69 balls for 850 yards and seven touchdowns. He doesn't have the straight-line speed to blow by defenders, but he uses his size to his advantage and adjusts for the ball in flight. The only thing that could derail an All-America campaign this season outside of injury is Seferian-Jenkins himself. An off-season arrest for DUI has left the talented playmaker suspended from team activities, and until the case plays itself out in the court system, Seferian-Jenkins is in football limbo.
COLT LYERLA (Oregon): He may not have put up eye-popping numbers in Oregon's prolific offensive attack, but there is no mistaking Lyerla's enormous talent. This 6-5, 246-pounder can do it all on the field. Chip Kelly made sure to showcase that last year, as Lyerla finished with 25 catches for 392 yards and six touchdowns. He also added a seventh score on 13 carries. A prep standout at running back and linebacker, Lyerla is perhaps the most athletic tight end in the country, something the NFL is looking for at the position. Kelly is no longer calling the plays in Eugene, but the script won't change that much for Oregon going forward. The playmakers on offense will continue to shine, and Lyerla has as bright a future as any Duck on the roster.
ERIC EBRON (North Carolina): Another supreme athlete at the position, the 6-4, 245-pound Ebron is evolving into a complete player in Chapel Hill. The junior is extremely fast, explosive after the catch and doesn't mind blocking. A second-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 2012, Ebron finished with 40 receptions for 625 yards and four touchdowns. UNC's workhorse tailback Giovani Bernard has moved on to the NFL and North Carolina could get more vertical in its offensive play-calling as a result. That could mean big numbers for Ebron, who will undoubtedly be one of Bryn Renner's top targets in 2013.
C.J. FIEDOROWICZ (Iowa): This Iowa Hawkeye isn't the greatest athlete at the position, but he is as reliable as they come. A huge target at 6-7, 265 pounds, Fiedorowicz knows how to take advantage of smaller defenders. He earned All-Big Ten honorable mention a year ago, finishing with 45 receptions, for 433 yards and one touchdown. He also may be the best blocking tight end on this list, a skill set that will help bolster his NFL stock when draft time comes around.
XAVIER GRIMBLE (USC): On a team that featured two All-Americans in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods on the outside, it wasn't easy for this Trojan to earn recognition as a viable receiving threat. However, that was a common mistake for USC's opponents, as the 6-5, 250-pound Grimble made plays when on the field (nine starts last year), finishing 2012 with 29 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns. The Trojans are stock-piling at the position with Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick fighting to earn playing time, but it is Grimble who has been the most productive. Another big target with above- average athleticism for the position, Grimble will continue to produce in USC's offensive attack.
JACOB PEDERSEN (Wisconsin): The 6-4, 240-pound Pedersen gets better with each year in Madison. After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2011, he was an All-Big Ten first-team member as a junior in 2012. He finished last season with 27 receptions for 355 yards and four touchdowns, but his modest numbers were more a product of a heavy emphasis on the run (Montee Ball) and subpar quarterback play than anything else. While new head coach Gary Anderson has a defensive pedigree, he will maximize his offensive talent in his debut season with the Badgers and that is likely to include Pedersen.
NICK O'LEARY (Florida State): The 6-3, 238-pound Seminole is a bit undersized at this time, but he has shown flashes of brilliant play over the last two seasons and has some real potential. A receiving threat who can line up outside and make plays down the field, O'Leary finished last season with 21 receptions for 242 yards and three touchdowns. It marked the most TD catches by a tight end at FSU since 1994. With some added bulk and dedication to blocking, O'Leary has the chance to really make a name for himself in 2013.
ARTHUR LYNCH (Georgia): Relegated to backup duty until last year, the 6-5, 260-pound Lynch showed enough in 14 games (13 starts) to land on this list, finishing with 26 catches for 448 yards and three touchdowns. He has great size and is probably a better blocker than most on this list. The Bulldogs have supreme talent at the skill positions this year and Lynch certainly could take advantage with a seasoned quarterback, Aaron Murray, who wants to go out with a bang.
CHRIS COYLE (Arizona State): A special teams ace his first two seasons in Tempe, Coyle burst on the scene as a legitimate vertical threat in Arizona State's passing game last year, finishing with a team-high 57 receptions (a school record for a tight end) for 696 yards and five touchdowns. He falls into the "tweener" category, with marginal size (6-3, 238) for the tight end position, but that didn't stop Coyle from becoming a key target in 2012.
KANEAKUA FRIEL (BYU): The 6-5, 250-pound Friel took time off from football to do mission work in Africa, but got right back into the swing of things in 2012, finishing with 30 receptions for 308 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. He provided glimpses of strong play last year and is a competent blocker, but will need to be a more consistent offensive threat in 2013 to bolster his draft stock.
HONORABLE MENTION: Asa Watson (North Carolina State), Jordan Najvar (Baylor), Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), Ted Bosler (Indiana) and Ben Koyack (Notre Dame).