Editor's note: This is the sixth and final installment of profiles on the Atlanta Falcons' 2017 rookie class.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Training camp is underway, and there are some exciting new players joining the Falcons' Brotherhood. And now is the perfect opportunity to analyze the 2017 rookie class and what they bring to the team.
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Our sixth and final installment of this rookie profile series will shed light on tight end Eric Saubert, the Falcons' final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Atlanta opted to not re-sign veteran tight end Jacob Tamme after last season, opting instead to bolster its numbers at the position in the draft. Saubert hails from Drake, where he emerged as a talented pass-catcher. The tight end group will be an interesting one to watch during training camp given its youth and potential upside, and Saubert is an intriguing addition.
Let's find out what he's got to offer.
Saubert's stats at Drake (four seasons):
- 190 receptions
- 2,253 yards
- 21 touchdowns
Saubert was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, and he had great production from the tight end position. A first-team all-conference player and All-American in 2015 and 2016, Saubert had a combined 111 catches for 1,356 yards and 17 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons.
Since Tony Gonzalez's retirement, the Falcons have been looking for a tight end who can become a true threat in the passing game. Austin Hooper showed flashes of that type of potential as a rookie in 2016, and Levine Toilolo has contributed in that aspect since his arrival, but Saubert's college production far surpasses that of his new teammates.
Drake did not hold a pro day of its own, so Saubert joined the one held at Iowa State to show off his athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds, which is an impressive time considering his 6-foot-5, 253-pound frame. Saubert's size and long arms should make him an interesting red-zone option, and he's got the speed to gain an advantage against slower linebackers and safeties.
There is a sizeable difference between the competition Saubert faced at Drake and the players he will line up against in the NFL. Although his college production was noteworthy, Saubert's NFL.com draft profile notes that he drops the ball a little more often than one might like: "Slow getting hands catch-ready on short, possession throws. Tape is littered with drops for days. Open catches became drops and contested catches became drops. Hand-eye coordination simply isn't where it needs to be."
What to watch for in camp
Saubert will likely be used heavily in the passing game during training camp. He isn't the best in-line blocker of the group, and his greatest potential is as a receiving threat. Following his selection, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff explained his vision for Saubert. "He's a guy that has the ability to run routes well, catches the ball well, can run after the catch well. He'll add to our (group) the potential to be an explosive type of tight end in our scheme."