NFL's TE trend favors JCA product Fleener

Joliet Catholic alum Coby Fleener had 10 touchdown receptions for Stanford last season. Mark Zerof/US Presswire

Joliet Catholic Academy product Coby Fleener plans to be front and center when the NFL draft kicks off on April 26.

"The NFL invited me to New York City for the event, so I'll be sitting there at the draft," Fleener said during a recent phone interview between workouts.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper has the tight end Fleener, who is training on the Stanford campus as he attempts to finish up school, going to the New York Giants with the 32nd pick.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Fleener said. "I really don't know where I'm going. I just want to get drafted. A lot of this stuff is done to throw off other teams, and I guess to throw me off. I don't know."

Fleener enters the NFL at an ideal time. Last year was considered to be the year of the pass-catching tight end, after the likes of the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham, the San Francisco 49ers' Vernon Davis, and the New England Patriots' duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez put up monster numbers during the regular season and postseason.

At 6-foot-6 and 244 pounds, Fleener appears to be in that mold after hauling in 17 touchdowns the past two seasons. He set career-highs with 34 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Stanford.

"It's an exciting time that I'm trying to make the most of and enjoy," Fleener said. "I've said this a bunch of times, but the guys that played in the NFL this year, the Jimmy Grahams, the Gronkowskis of the world have really done our class of tight ends a favor this year. I can’t say enough about the guys that have already played, and I hope to one day go play just like that."

The Bears would seem to have more pressing needs on the defensive side of the football at No. 19. However, there is no question the club could eventually use an upgrade at tight end. Starter Kellen Davis, who was re-signed to a two-year deal, caught 18 passes for 206 yards last season.

The last time the Bears selected a tight end in the first round was Greg Olsen at No. 31 back in 2007. Olsen was shipped to the Carolina Panthers last summer on the eve of training camp in a move that netted the Bears a 2012 third-round pick that was used in the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins.

"I definitely grew up a Chicago sports fan," Fleener said. "It would be exciting [to be taken by the Bears], but I think I would be excited to be drafted by any team. But my hometown Bears, that would be exciting as well."