One of the poorer performing teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference, the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens have recently had little, if anything, to cheer about. Since their most notable alumnus, quarterback Rich Gannon, was drafted in 1987, only four Delaware players have been selected in the NFL Draft. Senior tight end Ben Patrick, who led all tight ends in Division I-AA in receiving, will more than likely be the fifth.
Patrick grew up in Savannah, Ga., where he attended Jenkins High School.
In 2001, Patrick was named the Southeast Georgia Player of the Year by the Georgia High School Coaches Association. A remarkable athlete, Patrick played quarterback, tight end, linebacker and punter. He led Jenkins High in passing yards, receiving yards and tackles in 2001. He also played baseball and basketball.
Patrick started his collegiate career playing for the Duke Blue Devils in 2002 and was redshirted. Playing some H-back for the Blue Devils in addition to tight end, he had a total of 79 receptions for 781 yards and only two touchdowns in three years.
Disappointed with the direction Duke was headed with their football program, Patrick transferred to Delaware for his senior year.
During his senior year, he nearly equaled the stats of his previous three years at Duke. Patrick finished the season with 64 receptions for 639 yards and six touchdowns.
Patrick is looking to join Cleveland Browns defensive back Mike Adams as the only other former Fightin' Blue Hens player currently in the NFL.
One of Patrick's best qualities is his size. At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Patrick is a big target for any quarterback, and it enables him to get a few extra yards.
He's versatile, since he played fullback, halfback and tight end in college. This means that Patrick can be used in a number of different situations as needed in the NFL.
Catching the ball shouldn't be a problem for Patrick, and that's another reason why he'll be helpful to his quarterback. Patrick's size, combined with his great hands, give a quarterback an extra option if needed. He's powerful, but he also demonstrates good balance and body control.
A clear area in need of improvement for Patrick is his speed. In the 40-yard dash, Patrick ran a 4.74, which is more than two-tenths of a second slower than Miami Hurricanes tight end Greg Olsen. He also doesn't demonstrate a lot of flare or the ability to make moves and sell routes. He also hasn't demonstrated much of an ability to run downfield routes.
Although he has a lot of upper-body strength, Patrick lacks an ideal amount of lower-body strength to provide sufficient blocking. He has great size but plays like more of a finesse player.
Patrick's better stats have all come against poor competition in Division I-AA, so how he'll perform in the NFL against the very best players is still a big question.
Patrick's size and natural athletic ability make him one of the best tight ends in this year's draft in terms of upside potential. He certainly isn't the best, though, and may never be, but his ceiling is quite high. With the lack of major competition faced in his senior year, Patrick may not be drafted until the second day of the draft, somewhere near the fourth or fifth rounds.
Teams that have shown interest include the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals. The New Orleans Saints have also been mentioned as a possible landing spot. At that stage of the draft, any team with a need at tight end might be willing to take a chance on this project.