The tight end and H-back spots can be very important positions for teams. If you can find the right athlete, he can be a true mismatch for defenders -- too fast for linebackers and too strong for cornerbacks.
The fun thing about the H-back is that your more athletic tight ends can line up in the backfield to add yet another dimension to an offense.
This year’s crop is a little younger, but could contain budding stars in the league.
Here’s a look at some of the top players at these positions:
1. Orson Charles, Georgia, Jr.: Charles has the nice combination of strength and speed to give defenders fits and could flex out to wide receiver if needed. He’s elevated his game throughout each of his two seasons with the Bulldogs and should be a star in the league this fall. He’s not as fast as receiver Tavarres King, but should eat into his production.
2. Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt, Sr.: Barden was Vanderbilt’s leading pass catcher a year ago. He hauled in 34 catches (nine more than the leading wide receiver) for 425 yards and three touchdowns. He’s easily the best option in the passing game for the Commodores and should continue to put up solid numbers at the tight end position.
3. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, Jr.: He didn’t have the most exciting stats a year ago, but he’ll be a major factor in the Tigers’ offense this fall. He took over as a leader for the young offense this spring and will be used in and out of the backfield as an H-back. He’ll be a very reliable target for whomever takes over at quarterback.
4. Jordan Reed, Florida, So.: Reed did most of his damage last fall at quarterback, but people around Gainesville think he could be the Gators’ most athletic offensive weapon now that he’s back at tight end. He’s a big target, at 6-3, 237 pounds and he doesn’t lack speed. In fact, he used most of the offseason working on becoming more fleet-footed.
5. Deangelo Peterson, LSU, Sr.: Like Charles, Peterson has the athleticism to flex out to wide receiver as well. He grabbed 16 passes for 198 yards in 2010, but had a solid spring and should get more attention in the offense this fall.
6. Chris Gragg, Arkansas, Jr.: Gragg actually moved from receiver to tight end, so he’s already a headache for linebackers with his speed. Backing up D.J. Williams, Gragg only caught eight passes last season, but one of them went 57 yards for a touchdown.
7. Trey Burton, Florida, So.: Florida was short on offensive playmakers last year, but Burton definitely made that short list. He’s no longer lining up at quarterback, but will be Florida’s H-back. Burton caught 32 passes as a freshman and has good speed and a little elusiveness to continue to be a reliable target for quarterback John Brantley.
8. Marcus Green, Mississippi State, Sr.: Injuries have been his downfall, but if he’s healthy, he’ll be a valuable weapon for quarterback Chris Relf. He was only healthy enough to catch three passes last year, but hauled in 27 catches for 306 yards in 2009, so the talent is there.
9. Mychal Rivera, Tennessee, Jr.: There’s no secret that Tennessee is going to air it out this fall. Rivera backed up Luke Stocker last season, so his numbers weren’t great, but the staff is confident that he’ll be a reliable target in the offense. He’ll be a good third option with the talent at receiver.
10. Michael Williams, Alabama, Jr.: Williams was overlooked because he was staring up at Preston Dial on the depth chart. But he’s far from inexperienced. Williams has appeared in 27 games, making 14 starts. He’s a good run blocker and is athletic enough to challenge most linebackers opposite him.