If you follow this blog, odds are that you've heard the name Zach Sudfeld by now. The massive rookie tight end has impressed coaches and spectators alike throughout training camp.
Unless you've attended one of the team's six open sessions, odds are you haven't seen the tight end in action yet. Reddit/Youtube user Kipp Casper has taken the courtesy of splicing together some college game tape of Sudfeld. Here is every offensive play from the first half of Nevada's game against Air Force last year. Sudfeld is #44.
A couple of things (besides his Sunshine-esque hair) stand out. First is his size. At a listed 6'7" and 260 pounds, Sudfeld is absolutely massive. He also already knows to use that size to his advantage as a receiver. He does a good job of using his body to shield smaller defenders from the ball. He also runs decent routes for a man his size and does a good job using his long arms to go up and get the ball over defenders. He is one of those guys whose size can make him "open" even when covered. Having those kind of player can make a quarterback's life much easier.
At 5:36, the TV commentator notes the mismatches Sudfeld is creating down the middle of the field. Those mismatches will continue at the NFL level; there simply aren't any linebackers or safeties out there with the size to contest passes to a 6'7" receiving target
As a blocker, the results are mixed. There are times where he flashes ability, using his athleticism to reach defenders in space. However, he simply isn't nearly as dominating of a blocker as a guy his size should be. Some of it may be technique related (he struggles at times to maintain his blocks) and some of it may be strength related. Sudfeld only managed 11 reps of 225 pounds at Nevada's Pro Day, a very low number for a tight end (for comparisons sake, Rob Gronkowski did 23. The good news is that these are both correctable problems. A little work with the coaching staff and in the weight room should go a long way towards improving Sudfeld's blocking.
Sudfeld's size has led to many Gronkowski comparisons, which is simply unfair to the rookie. It would be foolish to expect Gronk level production from the kid. Sudfeld has decent speed for his size and good hands, but Gronk is on another freakish level. Sudfeld will never be as dynamic as a healthy Gronk, but he could be a very reliable target for Tom Brady, especially in the red zone. Remember when year after year went by with Patriots fans upset by the team's failure to get a big receiver? Now when Brady drops back to pass in the red zone, he'll have two 6'6" monsters at tight end, along with two tall receivers (Dobson and Thompkins) who can really get up and win jump balls against cornerbacks.
Bottom line: if Sudfeld can stay healthy (he battled some injury issues in college), he should be in the tight end mix as a rookie and has the potential to develop into more. Keep an eye on this kid.