Editor’s note: The 2022 NFL Draft is on its way (April 28), and it's shaping up to be an unprecedented stage for Cyclone football.
The Iowa State Daily spoke with five NFL Draft analysts to get their opinions on the Cyclones' biggest draft prospects and examine their respective strengths, weaknesses and pro potential.
The analysts are Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Chris Trapasso (CBSSports), Anthony Treash (Pro Football Focus), Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) and Keith Sanchez (The Draft Network).
Breece Hall is considered one of the best running backs in this class, but what about another Iowa State program-changer, Charlie Kolar?
For reference, the highest tight end ever selected from Iowa State was in 1974 when the Philadelphia Eagles took Keith Krepfle in the fifth round with the 115th overall pick.
Where does Charlie rank in this year's tight end class?
Kolar rewrote the tight-end record books in Ames and put up three productive seasons in consecutive fashion.
The Norman, Okla., native caught a career-high 62 passes for a career-best 756 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Kolar had at least 590 receiving yards and six touchdowns in each of his final three seasons as a Cyclone.
His 62 catches and 756 receiving yards broke his own school record for a tight end, all while pacing the Big 12 in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in two-straight seasons.
However, the grade on him is a mixed bag.
Kolar's name is included in a crowded field of tight-end prospects, including Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State), Trey McBride (Colorado State) and Jelani Woods (Virginia Tech).
“Charlie Kolar is so good. I get Mark Andrews vibes from him.” -Chris Trapasso, NFL Draft/Young Player analyst CBSSports
Trapasso has Kolar as his second-rated tight end. Jeremy Ruckert is his No. 1 tight end in his latest prospect rankings.
“I have him as my TE5." -Lance Zierlein, NFL Draft analyst for NFL.com
Dane Brugler has Kolar as his sixth overall tight end in his 288-page draft scouting report.
Strengths of his game?
Kolar was the focal point of Iowa State's offense over the last three seasons, acting as a productive red-zone target and a chain-mover for Brock Purdy.
In fact, of Kolar's 168 career receptions, 129 resulted in either a touchdown or first down.
"He's got great size and length and looks like an NFL in-line tight end," Zierlien said. "He showed very good separation talent at the Senior Bowl, which I didn't think was always apparent on tape.”
Analysts love Kolar's strong hands and ability to use his large frame (6 feet, 6 inches, 252 pounds) to overpower defenders and win in tight coverage.
Kolar also posted just five career drops at Iowa State.
While his down-field speed doesn't blow people away, his ability to separate himself from defenders and strong leverage on his routes stands.
Trapasso compared Kolar to Baltimore Ravens' tight end Mark Andrews, including the potential for a team to pick up a steal like the Ravens did in 2018.
Andrews was drafted 86th overall in the third round.
“At tight end, he catches everything," Trapasso said of Kolar. "He can have defenders on his back and he’ll make the catch.”
Treash cited Kolar's ability to pick up first downs and become a trusted target for a quarterback as one of his standout abilities.
In single coverage, Treash said Kolar will win plenty of matchups at the next level.
“He’s going to move the chains and find soft spots in zone coverage to get open," Treash said.
What are his weaknesses?
Without question, Kolar's biggest perceived weakness comes in his blocking ability.
The knock on Kolar's blocking comes in his lack of quickness and explosive ability to hold his own after his initial blocking strike despite his 34.5-inch arms.
“One of the things that may bother evaluators is that he looks like a big combination tight end but he's not much of a blocker," Zierlien said. "Teams would love to see him put a little more effort and grit into his blocking.”
In today's NFL, tight ends with great receiving ability are not as uncommon as once before. Finding someone with the ability to block and catch passes at the same level is what separates the good from great in teams' eyes.
“He’s not a tremendous blocker," Trapasso said.
Outside of blocking, other analysts have questions about Kolar's explosiveness as a route-runner and his ability to get open at the top of diverse routes.
He did run a 4.62 40-yard dash at Iowa State's Pro Day, but Brugler said Kolar's speed likely won't threaten many defenses at the next level.
“If you watch him, you don’t ever say, ‘oh, woah, he’s explosive.'" -Brugler
“If you’re not necessarily deemed a speed guy, you may fall a little bit.” -Sanchez
Best fit? When will he be drafted?
As previously stated, Kolar is not seen as the clear-cut No. 1 tight end in the eyes of evaluators; rather, a potential name to come off as a middle-round selection.
Here's what the draft experts gave as their official prediction for Kolar come draft weekend:
"I could see the [Tennessee] Titans, [Cincinnati] Bengals, [Detroit] Lions or [New Orleans] Saints interested." -Trapasso
“There’s a good chance he goes in the third round.” -Brugler
“I would expect Charlie to be picked some time on Day Three. Maybe once we get into pick 100, I’d be perfectly fine with taking him. I think I’m higher on Charlie than most." -Treash
“I think he has a chance to go late second to early third [round].” -Zierlien