The Massachusetts Minutemen football team had an abysmal first two years in the MAC. The only real bright spot on the team was tight end Rob Blanchflower. He may remind you of fellow New Englander Rob Gronkowski based on his physique and the feature role both play in their teams' offenses. This has even caused students around campus and UMass fans to nickname him Baby Gronk.
Blanchflower didn't put up jaw dropping stats in either of his two seasons in the MAC, but that was due to injuries and playing in an offense with the firepower of a squirt gun. In 2013 UMass averaged 156.4 passing yards per game and scored 11.7 points per game, ranking 111th and 124th in the country respectively. To go along with playing in this lackluster passing game Blanchflower also missed six games last year, but was still able to have 27 receptions for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2012 he hauled in 43 passes for 464 yards and two scores in ten games, missing two due to injury.
Blanchflower brought much more to the UMass squad than just his physical style of play. He was a team captain and was a valuable source of veteran leadership when he was sidelined during those six games in 2013. He was also named the John Mackey tight end of the week after he grabbed five balls for 98 yards including the game winning touchdown against Miami (Ohio) on 10/16/14 giving UMass its lone win of the season. He also ranked 56th on our 2013 MAC Top 68 football player rankings.
Despite Blanchflower having an injury plagued senior season, he still received an invitation to the NFL combine. Since he was still recovering from injury, which he told reporters was a bilateral sports hernia, he was only available to take part in the medical exams, the Wonderlic test, and team interviews. NFL.com grades him a 5.11 out of 10, which on their chart says he has a better than average chance to make an NFL roster.
So why do NFL teams seem to have interest in a tight end on a very bad team who was injured for half of his senior season? Well for one he is a tenacious run blocker and is considered to be a player with a high football IQ. NFL.com lists him at 6'4'' and 256 pounds, which gives him very good size for his position. CBSsports.com has him ranked as the 18th tight end and drafttek.com has Rob going to the St. Louis Rams at pick 226.
If Blanchflower hears his name called it won't be before day three, and will most likely be in the latter part of the day. He is a talented player, but he was unable to compete in any drills at the combine and the UMass pro day which is frustrating for a player trying to recover from injuries. His injuries may scare some teams away as he couldn't complete a full season at the FBS level. He has an individual workout scheduled for April 23rd; It sounds like he will be a full participant in the drills, and it will give him a last shot to prove to NFL scouts that he is healthy.
Hopefully Blanchflower's private workout goes smoothly and we will hear his name called at the Radio City Music Hall. The nearby New England Patriots could use another tight end and would be a very nice landing spot for both parties. If he isn't drafted there is little doubt that he will make a roster as an undrafted free-agent.
But for the love of god, is it too much to ask for UMass football fans to have a small moment of joy and hear Blanchflower get drafted on national TV after suffering through last season?