Carolina Panthers

2015 NFL draft: Top 5 tight ends

Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (88), with good size and above-average athleticism, is the best of a slim crop in 2015.
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (88), with good size and above-average athleticism, is the best of a slim crop in 2015. MCT

The Observer’s top 5 available in the 2015 NFL draft:

1. Maxx Williams

College: Minnesota.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 249.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Good size and above-average athleticism puts Williams on top of a weak tight end group.

2. Clive Walford

College: Miami.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 251.

Projected round: 2nd.

Comment: Played in Senior Bowl despite undergoing surgery after injury knee in regular-season finale.

3. Jeff Heuerman

College: Ohio State.

Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 254.

Projected round: 3rd.

Comment: Had solid pro day showing after skipping every drill but bench press because of an ankle injury at combine.

4. Tyler Kroft

College: Rutgers.

Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 246.

Projected round: 4th.

Comment: Entered the draft a year early despite a drop in production in 2014 after a big sophomore season.

5. MyCole Pruitt

College: Southern Illinois.

Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 251.

Projected round: 4th.

Comment: His 81 catches and 13 touchdown receptions last season were the most among FBS tight ends.

Panthers’ perspective

Dave Gettleman sunk some money into the tight end position this offseason, locking up Greg Olsen with a three-year extension and re-signing No. 2 tight end Ed Dickson to a three-year deal. The Panthers also have tight end Brandon Williams and tight end/fullback Richie Brockel on the roster. Good thing they don’t need a tight end because the pickings are slim this year.

Local connection

South Carolina’s Rory Anderson was in the midst of a good senior season before a series of triceps injuries set him back. Anderson tore his triceps against Clemson and missed the Gamecocks’ bowl game. Anderson (6-5, 244) is athletic with good speed, but he is a little light to succeed in the NFL as a combination tight end.

Sleeper

Wes Saxton of South Alabama blistered the 40 in 4.65 seconds at the combine, and impressed with a 36-inch vertical leap. Saxton (6-3, 248) isn’t much of a blocker but should be a late-round pick because of his speed. Was a high school teammate of Jameis Winston in Hueytown, Ala., and is the cousin of former Dolphins back Tony Nathan.

Worth noting

Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, the grandson of Jack Nicklaus, won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. But with suspect speed (4.93 seconds in the 40) and an inability to stretch defenses, he’ll likely have to wait until the third day of the draft to be picked. ... Walford was a high school teammate of Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at Glades Central in south Florida. Concentration was an issue at times for Walford, who had 10 drops during the 2012-13 seasons. ... Anderson’s nickname is “Busta,” given to him by his mother when he was a young child because of his penchant for getting into things.

Joseph Person

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