For all the jokes spawned when the selection was made, University of Connecticut tight end Ryan Griffin is only the sixth tight end selected in Houston Texans' draft history and the first since Wisconsin's Garrett Graham in 2010. It's particularly fitting to tie the two together since CBS Sports compared Griffin to Graham in their pre-Draft scouting report.
After the loss of James Casey, the Human Swiss Army Knife, selecting a tight end was an expectation. Houston was down to only Owen Daniels and Graham, one of whom stands to be a candidate for a 2014 cap casualty and the other entering the final year of his contract. This move certainly smells of keeping one eye on the future roster. The Texans have lacked a big goal line/blocking target after the loss of Joel Dreessen last offseason. Griffin can fill that void.
Griffin's scouting report, because there's not a lot of in-game video on a late round tight end who played at UConn, talks up both his ability to locate the ball and snatch it with his hands and his willingness to block. While technique and functional strength could be improved, willingness to block and finish blocks is 80% of the battle. At 6-6, 261 pounds, and with a 34.5 inch vertical, there are the physical abilities to support his aggression on the line and in the red zone. That doesn't mean Griffin can't play in space.
Ryan Griffin 74 YD TD Catch (via Jared Nuss)
Griffin's reception totals held steady through four seasons at UConn, but his yards and yards per catch made a significant leap in 2011 (499 yards and 15.1 YPC) and 2012 (484 and 16.7 YPC) under new coach Paul Pasqualoni and his desire to use his tight ends as more than safety valves. While on the upswing, and with the ability to line up at multiple spots, there's certainly room to grow as a receiver for the two-time All-Big East second teamer. UConn's offense was among the nation's worst over the last three seasons.
Playing with a more capable offense should help Griffin's game, as will learning from Daniels, Graham, and tight end coach Brian Parini. Parini, an unsung hero of a coach, has been with the Texans since 2007 and has been instrumental in developing mid-round selections Daniels, Graham, Dreessen, and Casey into, respectively, a two-time Pro Bowler and sought-after free agents. The athletic and versatile Griffin brings a similar skill set for Parini to shape and refine.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Griffin worked heavily into Houston's offense, particularly in red zone and short yardage scenarios. If you're looking at potential upside, I really do find Griffin to be similar to Dreessen. Maybe not as athletic and nimble as those Wisconsin tight ends, but sturdy and dependable enough to be a chain mover. I'd expect more blocking than catching in 2013, which wouldn't be a disappointment considering the offense's red zone struggles, but there is certainly a place for Griffin to become the team's second tight end/Dresseen 2.0 in 2014 and play partner to a dynamic tight end, be it Daniels or a 2014 draft pick.
Houston Texans schedule | Houston Texans roster
Battle Red Blog on the 2013 Houston Texans Rookies: Film Room: Breaking Down First Round Pick DeAndre Hopkins | Looking At New Texans Safety D.J. Swearinger | Scouting OT Brennan Williams | Collin Klein To Get A Shot At Quarterback | A Better Look At WR Alan Bonner
From Around The Network: Shakin' The Southland (Clemson) on DeAndre Hopkins | Garnet & Black Attack (South Carolina) on D.J. Swearinger | Hustle Belt (Mid-American Conference a.k.a. #MACtion) on Chris Jones