I know that Bills fans have been hankering for a tight end worthy of being a key component of the offense since the team lost Pete Metzelaars in 1994. While Scott Chandler has done an admirable job given his lack of athleticism, he’s undoubtedly upgradable.
One of the names that seems to be spoken of in glowing terms among Bills fans and the media alike from the 2015 tight end class is Florida State’s Nick O’Leary.
O’Leary has been a contributor to the FSU offense in all 4 years of his collegiate career. His senior season has seen him grab 47 catches for 614 yards and 6 touchdowns. Overall, he has 113 catches for 1587 yards and 17 touchdowns.
We’ll start off with one of his biggest plus points. O’Leary possesses hands like buckets. In watching him, I’ve only seen one accurate target hit the floor and that was thrown into triple coverage. He’s comfortable catching the ball in traffic and, as the Vine below shows, he shows an ability to catch the ball away from his body.
Nick O'Leary displaying a good set of hands. https://t.co/GWDIe4NxAI
— Blokestradamus (@StephenCulley) March 16, 2015
Blocking is an area that seems to get overlooked a little when evaluating tight ends but it’s a multi-dimensional position for a reason. O’Leary has a lot of inconsistent tape when it comes to blocking. While he’s absolutely willing to stay in-line and get his hands dirty, he tends to block with a narrow base and that can get ugly fast, especially against bigger opponents.
250lb ragdoll. https://t.co/oLNpuZrXc4
— Blokestradamus (@StephenCulley) December 26, 2014
The tape isn’t all bad though. During the Notre Dame game in October, he acted almost as a 6th lineman at times to allow Jameis Winston a cleaner pocket. He was arguably one of their better blockers on those assignments too. The inconsistencies are due to a lack of functional strength and the base he sets. When he gets it right, it can be very impressive. He latches on to Notre Dame LB Joe Schmidt, keeps his hands inside and drives his legs and the linebacker 10+ yards downfield.
But he's so damn gritty! https://t.co/qE0u8lxuPO
— Blokestradamus (@StephenCulley) December 27, 2014
And we hit my major stumbling block with Nick. While he has managed to be productive during his time in Tallahassee, he’s one of the most awkward and least likely athletes I’ve seen. He’s a very one-paced player and seems to be a very straight line athlete. The stiffness he shows in his hips affects his route running and his agility in the open field.
He seems to get off the line sluggishly which will affect the timing on certain routes. Contact at the line of scrimmage can completely re-route him and needs a free release to get into his stride.
Nick O’Leary has been a fine player in the college ranks. He’s shown great determination and leadership. His work ethic will have coaches enamoured with him. It just might not be enough.
(3/16 Update) – With the Bills recent pursuit of Charles Clay, Greg Roman seems hell bent on getting himself a H-Back and this is a versatile role that O’Leary could fill with some success. O’Leary’s jack-of-all-trades nature lends itself well to the H-Back position and he certainly has no issues with getting his hands dirty in the trenches. While he’s not close to Clay as an athlete, he’s got the required mental composition for certain elements of a ground & pound offense.
He’s graded out as a 4th-5th round pick for me.