OJ Howard and David Njoku get a lot of love for the TE class and both are often connected to the Patriots in mock drafts, but there is one player that shouldn’t be overlooked. That player is Toledo TE Mike Roberts. Despite playing for a non-Power 5 school and coming out of a spread offense, his game translates very well to the NFL level. Howard and Njoku are likely surefire first round picks and there’s a good chance they’re both off the board when the Patriots pick at 32. Roberts gives the Patriots a good 2nd day alternative in the long term.
The first thing to mention about Roberts is his hand size. At the Senior Bowl, Roberts weighed in at 6’4” 261 with 31 3/4” arms and 11 5/8” hands. That would give him larger hands than Rob Gronkowski (10 3/4”) and Malcolm Mitchell (10 1/2”). Roberts at 6’4” 260 is about average size for the position. Roberts didn’t catch a lot of passes, finishing 3rd on the team in receptions with 45 and 4th in yards at 533, but he did lead the team in TD catches with 16. The lack of overwhelming production at a small school will drop Roberts a late Day 2/early Day 3 in the draft. I’d lean more towards the latter.
Vs. BYU 2016
Patriots Fit: Roberts can contribute as an extra receiver in a 3 TE set, although I’m not sure he’s ready to be more than a part-timer that sees about 20% of the snaps at most as a rookie. While he shows a willingness to block, technique needs work in order for him to develop as a 2nd TE. His huge hands and solid size should make him a red zone weapon in case teams double Gronk. I still think the Patriots will need to sign a FA TE regardless of who they draft.
Pro Comp: Daniel Fells. Roberts is probably a #2/3 TE in most offenses, although he’s a better receiver than Fells. Roberts’ large hands and long arms gives him a solid catching radius for a 6’4” TE, although I haven’t seen if he can make any adjustments to a slightly off-target pass. I’d probably wait until the end of the 3rd round to consider taking him, although I think there’s a good shot he’ll be available at pick 137.