Given the uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski’s future beyond this season, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the New England Patriots select a tight end in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Instead, they waited until late in Day 3 to do so, using pick No. 250 of 256 on Florida State’s Ryan Izzo.
The seventh-round selection now will be part of what amounts to an open competition for the Patriots’ No. 2 tight end spot behind Gronkowski — a battle that also includes incumbents Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye (practice squad) and fellow newcomers Troy Niklas (veteran free agent) and Shane Wimann (undrafted free agent).
For the final installment of our Patriots draft pick film review series, we dove into Izzo’s college tape to see what he might bring to New England if he can crack the 53-man roster. What we saw was an impressive and powerful blocker who might offer more upside as a pass catcher than his modest receiving stats would indicate.
There’s a reason Izzo’s pre-draft scouting reports lauded his blocking abilities. He was excellent in that capacity for the Seminoles, aggressively seeking out defenders in the run game and remaining glued to them through the whistle.
Florida State’s offense called for Izzo, a three-year starter who left school after his redshirt junior season, to line up both as a traditional in-line tight end and as an H-back. In the latter spot, he often was used as a lead blocker on runs to the opposite side of the formation.
Izzo, who measured in at a solid 6-foot-5, 256 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, also excelled in pass protection.
As mentioned, Izzo’s receiving numbers at Florida State were nothing special. He averaged 1.9 receptions per game over his college career, catching a total 54 passes for 761 yards and six touchdowns in 29 contests.
In 2017, Izzo tallied 20 catches for 317 yards and three scores. Sixty of those yards came on a reverse flea flicker against Clemson that went for a touchdown.
Take out that highlight-reel gadget play, and Izzo caught 19 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns in nine games. Not great, right?
Right, but stats don’t paint the full picture of Izzo’s talents. In the 2017 season opener, Florida State lost its starting quarterback, Deondre Francois, to a season-ending injury, forcing them to turn to true freshman James Blackman. Blackman is a promising prospect, but the Seminoles’ passing attack struggled with the youngster at the helm, ranking 65th in FBS in completion percentage and 89th in passing yards per game.
Despite his limited touches, Izzo was involved in the passing game, running routes on 301 of his offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He even was used in the slot from time to time, catching two of his three touchdown passes from that alignment.
Izzo’s final collegiate game arguably was his most productive from a statistical standpoint. He caught a career-high six passes for 59 yards in a blowout win over Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl, with five of those catches resulting in first downs.
None of this is to suggest Izzo, who lacks elite athleticism and is not an expert route-runner, suddenly will morph into a prolific pass catcher at the NFL level. His greatest value still is as a blocker. He does, however, possess more versatility than he’s given credit for. Expect him to be in the mix this summer as New England’s wide-open tight end competition rages on.
Thumbnail photo via Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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