Rico Gathers presents an interesting situation for NFL teams. While his name has not been thrown around a whole lot, he most definitely is on some teams big boards, as he has the athleticism to potentially be a great tight end, but does not have the in-game experience most teams want. Not familiar with the name? Well, here’s all you need to know about the prospect before Draft Day:
Gathers, a power forward at Baylor, is trying to make the transition from basketball to the NFL, something that is not all that uncommon nowadays. He has the look of an NFL player, measuring in at 6’7, but if he hopes to make it as a tight end, he may have to drop down from his current weight of 275. While he didn’t make it out to the combine, he has been working with former-Saints QB Matt Flynn this offseason to better prepare him for the NFL, running through Pro Day-style drills. His numbers are as follows:
- 10-Yard Split*: 1.5 seconds
- High Jump: cleared 5 feet 6 inches
- Hands: 11 1/4 inches
- Wingspan: 83 5/8 inches
*Gathers will run his first official 40-yard dash on Monday (April 25)
Sure, the NFL has a long history with basketball players making it in the league, but for every Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates, there are dozens who do not live up to the hype, something every team interested has in the back of their minds. The Saints have already had Gathers in for an official private workout, as have the Dallas Cowboys, proving there is interest in the big fellow. The biggest question marks regarding Gathers is if he can block. While the technique required to do that may be a foreign concept to him, if he can get it down pat, it will boost his draft stock even more. Keep in mind, though, Gathers has not played organized team football since the age of 13. With 0 college football experience, his learning curve heading into the pros could be a steep one, to say the least.
What the Experts Say
Some scouts are surprisingly high on Gathers. His size combined with his pure athletic ability is what really draws people in. An unnamed scout told CBSSports that Gathers could go as high as the 5th round, stating “he’s 6-7, 6-8 and he can move […] The kid is a specimen.” Cleveland Browns GM even gave his thoughts, saying he expects a large turnout at Gathers’ Pro Day on April 25. But, the draft analysts are not as impressed. Majority of mock drafts you look at do not even have Gathers getting drafted at all, something that does not come as a surprise to this writer. There’s raw talent there, but you just do not know if it will translate over to the NFL. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to think at least one desperate team will not take a shot in the dark and draft the kid.
Where He Fits In
The Saints have been a name linked to Gathers in the past few weeks, but it is hard to imagine New Orleans wasting a pick on a tight end when 1) they have so many other holes to fill first and 2) they are not exactly in the market for a TE. As stated above, Dallas has also worked out Gathers and it would shock nobody if Jerry Jones reaches and drafts him, trying to make a splash for a team that struggled last season. Do not be surprised if a team like Cleveland takes Gathers in one of the later rounds in an effort to add decent pass catchers to their roster. It would not be a terrible fit for Gathers, considering expectations are extremely low in Cleveland, so the front office and coaches would not be demanding immediate results, giving him time to grow and learn the position.
PICK PROJECTION: Undrafted
Wherever Gathers goes, he is a work-in-progress, for sure. While teams may not be crazy about bringing on a project that they have to basically teach the game to, the move could turn out to be a high risk/high reward type pick. A handful of people in league circles believe Gathers has what it takes to be the next Antonio Gates. If that is true, then more teams might come calling in the coming days leading up to the 2016 Draft.
All Stats Courtesy of NFL.com and ESPN