96 catches, 1,445 yards and 9 touchdowns for a tight end over the past two years is impressive. That gets even better when that tight end is listed at 6’6” 245lbs and a pretty good athlete. In the NFL, with the rules slanting more towards allowing tight ends to be productive, teams are on the lockout for tight ends that are virtually indefensible in the middle of the field because they are just too big. Add in some blocking in the run game and teams get excited. That is what San Jose State tight end Ryan Otten is bringing in the upcoming NFL Draft. Otten has the tools to succeed in the NFL and the production to back it up coming out of college. For a player many are projecting will be a third day prospect, this is an incredible value, which is why it should not come as a big surprise if he ends up picked sometime on the second day. With San Jose State's bowl game against Bowling Green still to play and the draft process still to come, Otten is going to try to show teams why he deserves that consideration. The ideal scenario for Otten appears to be for him to go to a team where he could start out as a second tight end to start his career, but he has the skillset and potential to evolve into a complete tight end and a playmaker in the NFL.
As a receiver, Otten has experience both in-line and as a joker tight end in the slot and even occasionally lined up wide. The best assets bring as a receiver are his size, hands, and most impressive his catch radius. Low, behind, or going up and high pointing the football, Otten has demonstrated he is reliable with occasional flashes of the spectacular. He has big strong hands to catch the ball and is fearless stretching out for the football, which is why quarterbacks are willing to go to him so much. Otten runs decent routes, but there is room for improvement as he is not an overly fluid athlete at this point. He rounds off routes that demand sharp cuts, which he can get away with because of his size. With better and smarter athletes on defense in the NFL, anything that might telegraph their route puts them at a huge disadvantage. Not only could it make it more difficult for Otten to make plays, but it may result in turnovers as defensive players undercut his routes. Otten also has not been much of a threat after the catch, but as long as he is moving the chains, that should not be much of a deterrent. It could be an indication that he does not do a good enough job gaining separation from defenders when he runs routes, which as mentioned, is something he will need to continue improving at the next level. At the very least, Otten should be a red zone threat at his size, but he has the potential to be much more than that. A reliable tight end is a quarterback’s best friend and Otten has been that for both David Fales and Matt Faulkner at San Jose State.
Ryan Otten has been a consistent performer for the Spartans. In 24 games, he was shut out from catching the ball just once; against UCLA as a junior. In 20 those games, Otten had a catch of at least 20 yards. Over the two years, he averaged 4 catches for 60 yards per game which was good enough to have him second in yards for the team both years.
When it comes to blocking, Ryan Otten is a technician compared to most prospects coming into the NFL. Since less and less teams are having their tight ends play in systems that ask them to block from an in-line position, the ones that do and do it well have a slight edge in the draft process. San Jose State’s offensive system had Otten in the slot but he has plenty of experience lining up inside and blocking and receiving good coaching on how to do it. Otten looks like a guy who not only cares about blocking, but takes pride in doing it well. He attacks the right shoulder, has a good understanding of angles, and shows good balance. He looks the part of someone who played tackle at some point in his career. He does not simply get in the way of defenders, but will not hesitate to turn them to completely take them out of running plays. Good hand use and quick feet allow him to stay in front of defenders consistently and it is uncommon to see him beaten once engaged. He fires off the ball and keeps fighting until the whistle blows. There are times when he finds himself overpowered which could be problematic early in his NFL career but should improve as he adds strength and gets more consistent with his leverage.
A comparison for Otten is a little difficult, because it comes with some ifs. Right now, Otten is somewhat like Anthony Fasano; a good, professional, lunch-pail type tight end that will may never be a super star, but is a reliable player that does a good job week in and week out. People are not going to buy his jersey, but they will rooting for him every week. If he can improve on gaining separation, get stronger as a blocker, and live up to his potential, he could maybe end up as a Heath Miller type tight end. That is a tall order for anyone, but Otten does have that kind of potential.
Ryan Otten received and accepted one of the earliest invites to the Senior Bowl in January, which might be an indication of how highly the NFL scouting community thinks of him. This will be a great opportunity for him to demonstrate not only why he has been so effective for the Spartans, but what he can against top level competition. It has been relatively easy for people to ignore Otten’s production against WAC competition, but if he is able to prove it against the competition in Mobile, it will become far more difficult to deny. And with a class of tight ends with little separation to this point, he could make a big move up draft boards. Many have called Otten a third day prospect up to this point in the process. He would be a fantastic value there, but given his talent and potential, he could start be a late riser starting with the upcoming bowl game against Bowling Green and then continue as people dig into the San Jose State tape and appreciate all this kid can do. It should not be a surprise if Otten ultimately ends up hearing his name called on day two of the draft because teams are afraid he might not last until their pick in the fourth round.
Colorado State/Utah State 2012
Stanford 2012 - Focuses on Fales, but you can see some of Otten. He's #82
BYU 2012 - Same deal. Focuses on Fales, but can see some Otten.
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