With UCLA’s football season less than two months away, we thought we’d take a look at some 2013 NFL draft prospects here in Westwood.
We already took a gander at our boy Johnathan Franklin, whom we projected to get picked late in the first or late in the second round of the draft (reaching, we’re sure, but something tells me otherwise). We continue with top tight end in the nation, Joe Fauria.
Joe Fauria’s a freaking animal. At 6’8”, he seems damn near uncoverable most times and he uses every inch he has to his advantage.
Statistically? Fauria isn’t such a pretty prospect. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
39 catches for nearly 500 yards is respectable. He led the team in reception touchdowns with six last season and did well in the much-maligned-in-Westwood pistol offense, which was designed for Fauria to not excel. With Kevin Prince’s primary weapon being his legs, and with Richard Brehaut breaking his, the team’s passing attack was pretty damn non-existent. The team ran the ball because it was their only source of somewhat-consistent offense, and Fauria’s numbers suffered.
But that’s not on Joseph Fauria. The dude ran routes well and caught extremely difficult passes in traffic quite often, indicative of his solid hands. As we’ve said before, he uses all of that 6’8” height, and is damn near always the favorite in a vertical battle. We’re not too sure how solid of a blocker he is, but with all that size, it’s tough to imagine he cannot add that to his game with practice.
But it’ll be his receiving skills that’ll be most coveted at the next level. Consider that UCLA will have implemented a vertical-ass offense in 2012 under Noel Mazzone, one which will see the field stretched incredible amounts, and seeing Fauria go high in the 2013 NFL draft doesn’t seem like such a pipe-dream (especially if Brehaut or Brett Hundley, whichever you prefer, can adjust to the offense well enough).
Basically, Fauria could be a late first round pick at best and a mid- to late-second round pick at worst, if he performs up to expectations. While tight ends may not be valued that highly in the draft, the ascent of big, receiving tight ends in the NFL has made guys like Fauria extremely valuable in a pass-happy league. If you want an example, look no further than New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, who signed the biggest contract ever for an NFL tight end at six years and $54 million. (And Fauria has two inches on Gronkowski, mind you.)
So Fauria will be heavily coveted by pretty much the same teams that we project Johnathan Franklin will be coveted by. Dude’s a dangerous target and is a hell of a prospect.