SQ NFL Draft Preview: TE Ben Koyack
The Sports Quotient’s annual NFL Draft Preview series has returned. Each week, we will analyze the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, the focus is on tight ends. Today’s prospect is Ben Koyack, TE out of Notre Dame.
After being billed as a top recruit coming out of high school, Koyack spent two years on the bench before gaining an increased role as an upperclassman. He netted 10 catches for 171 yards in his junior year, before having what could be considered his "breakout" season as a senior, totaling 30 catches for 317 yards and 3 TDs. His career, while moderately productive, failed to live up to the high standards of Notre Dame, which has been dubbed Tight End U, as each of their starting tight ends since 2003 has been drafted in the first two rounds.
Billed as a jack-of-all-trades, Koyack has at times demonstrated many skills, with occasional big plays and good pass-catching ability. He has steady hands and could be used as a reliable security blanket in short-yardage situations. However, he is clearly strongest as a run-blocker, where, at 6' 5" and 255 pounds, he has the size needed to match up with linebackers. With both the technique and effort to get downfield on blocks, he would benefit any running game.
Although he showed flashes of talent as a down-field threat, Koyack simply was not utilized frequently enough as a pass-catcher to properly evaluate his potential as a receiver. In all likelihood, he will never be able to exploit his athleticism as well as similarly built Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham, and scouts have criticized him for his inability to freestyle when a play breaks down.
Koyack declined to participate in athletic testing at the combine, sticking exclusively to position drills and electing to wait for his pro day. To some extent, his stock will depend on how he performs in drills. However, many of the doubts concerning Koyack involce his lack of experience in the receiving game, and as scouts have continued to analyze his play, this proficiency has appeared more pronounced. As such, he will probably be picking up his phone around the fourth or fifth round, and, in the process, breaking Notre Dame's historic streak of tight ends selected in the first two rounds.
It's difficult to predict picks in the later rounds, where Koyack will probably fall, but given that he can provide an immediate impact as a run blocker, he would probably be most effective on a team with a power running game, such as the 49ers or Texans. Also notable is that Koyack was raised just outside of Pittsburgh, so it would be fitting if he found himself blocking for Le'Veon Bell in his hometown Steelers' strong running game.