By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on January 23, 2024.
NFL officials will have to wait to see Canadian tight end Tanner McLachlan up close and personal.
The six-foot-five, 240-pound tight end at Arizona had accepted an invitation to attend the Reese’s Senior Bowl later this month in Mobile, Ala. But executive director Jim Nagy said Tuesday that McLachlan wouldn’t be participating after sustaining an unspecified injury while training.
The injury comes at a bad time for McLachlan, of Lethbridge, Alta. The Senior Bowl is regarded as the premier American college football all-star event.
Officials with all 32 NFL teams – GMs, head coaches, co-ordinators and positional coaches – annually head to Alabama to grade and evaluate players there as part of their draft preparation. A solid showing in Mobile could invariably boost a player’s stock.
Nagy should know. Before joining the Senior Bowl in 2018, he spent 18 years as an NFL scout with the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Washington Commanders.
“I obviously think it hurts him not being here because he’s not around NFL decision-makers for a week,” Nagy said. “Right now, he’s projected to be a late-round player so he certainly has a lot of room to move up in the draft.
“And if the injury holds him out of the process and he can’t do pro day or a workout before April, that hurts any player. Hopefully he can work through this thing and at least have a pro day.”
McLachlan was Arizona’s third-leading receiver last season with 45 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns. He spent two seasons with the Wildcats after starting his college career at Southern Utah and finished with 79 career receptions, the most by a tight end at the school passing former NFL standout Rob Gronkowski (75 catches).
However, Nagy said it’s unfair to compare McLachlan to Gronkowski, a four-time Super Bowl champion and one of the NFL’s best tight ends ever.
“You’re talking about a first ballot Hall of Fame guy (in Gronkowski),” Nagy said. “I’m not going to do that to (McLachlan).”
Still, Nagy said there are positive elements of McLachlan’s game.
“He’s a big target, he can down the seam more than you think he can,” Nagy said. “The more you watch him he’s got more vertical ability than you think.
“He can really adjust to the football and he’s got really good hands.”
But like the majority of college prospects, Nagy said McLachlan remains a work in progress when it comes to playing in the NFL.
“The things he needs to work on moving forward, and it improved this year, is his blocking,” Nagy said. “You could probably say that for about 99 per cent of college tight ends.
“He needs to continue to add bulk and strength to provide versatility in the run game. Right now I think most teams see his primary value in the passing game.”
The NFL draft will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.