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2018 NFL Draft

WAIT TO BE GREAT? Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli Could Be a Middle-Round “Steal” for the Saints

It's been often said that: "good things happen to those who wait". For the New Orleans Saints last year, that was clearly the case when they were able to snag University of Tennessee RB and eventual 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara in the 3rd Round (Day 2) of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Saints had to give up their 2nd Round pick in next month's 2018 Draft to the San Francisco 49ers, in exchange for the chance to get back into the 3rd Round to take Kamara — whom head coach Sean Payton had personally seen work out at his Pro Day in Knoxville and then later at a private work-out at the Saints Practice Facility in Metairie — with the #67th overall pick.

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Looking back on it a year later: every single team in the NFL Draft missed on Alvin Kamara last year in hindsight.

That's 32 teams in all, that passed at least twice on the player that became the NFL Rookie of the Year and a "superstar sensation" practically overnight.

And the dynamic 22-year old is already regarded as one of the biggest mid-round (Rounds 3 thru 5) "steals" in NFL Draft history.

Kamara was just one of many undervalued players at the college level throughout the years that scouts didn't think would become major stars (or even "superstars") in the NFL, but far exceeded expectations.

Of course, now NFL every team next month will be looking for their own version of Alvin Kamara, although not at the  RB position specifically so much as just a player that appears to have 1st Round talent but somehow still manages to be available by the much later time that he's eventually drafted.

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

In the case of Kamara and many more players from past NFL Drafts like him:

They had to "wait to be great".

In next month's incoming 2018 NFL Draft class, there are a handful of players at a variety of different positions; all of whom have the potential to become the next mid-round "steal" just like New Orleans got with Kamara last year.

And this year ironically, there just happens to be such a player at a position of need for the Saints: the tight end position.

That young man's name is University of Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli

Photo courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal

A former walk-on who eventually "blossomed" into a Mackey Award finalist (for the nation's top tight end) in 2017, Fumagalli actually 'broke out' as a junior during the 2016 regular season; recording 47 receptions for 580 yards, and two touchdowns.

He put himself on the map with a seven-catch, 100-yard performance in a season opening win over then No. 5-ranked LSU (as many Saints fans that also are fans of LSU would like to forget about), and hasn't ever looked back since.

Compared often to former Green Bay Packers tight end Mark Chmura, last year as a senior Fumagalli put up similar numbers; catching 46 balls for 547 yards and four scores en route to being named first-team All-Big Ten (coaches) and second-team Associated Press All-American in 2017.

Fumagalli ranks No. 13 all-time in school history with 1,627 receiving yards.

Fumagalli  who lost the index finger on his left hand from a birth defect that forced it to be amputated the day after he was born, but yet has still been able to have a very successful career without it — is a hard-nosed tight end who is just as effective as a road grader in the run game as he is a dangerous weapon as a receiver.

Even more impressive is his blocking ability, which Saints head coach Sean Payton would undoubtedly find to be a quality trait. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Fumagalli has the size to be used trapping and pulling in the backfield on running plays.

Saturday Blitz NFL Draft analyst Trevor Jossart says that one thing that will be in question for Fumagalli in the NFL (besides his missing finger) is his speed and whether or not he will be able to utilize his route-running skills in a much faster game.

Jossart notes that while Fumagalli might not be considered the top tight end target entering the 2018 NFL Draft, he definitely serves as a viable option that many teams in need of his position (especially the Saints if they don't address TE with their first pick at #27) cannot pass up, if given the opportunity.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Jossart makes the observation that Fumagalli has tremendous hands that when paired with his athletic ability and strength, makes his ability to catch passes in traffic hard to ignore. Using his big frame, Fumagalli boxes out his defenders and shields them off to give himself a chance at the ball.

With much faster athletes in the professional setting, Jossart notes that Fumagalli will need to prove he has the speed to match his other attributes.

Nevertheless with Fumagalli still currently rising up many draft boards, don't be shocked when some team (like the Saints, maybe?) takes him as early as Day 2 (in Round 3).

Fumagalli will not be someone who's seen by most observers, analysts, or even NFL Draft "experts" as someone that will be selected in the 1st round or even the 2nd Round.

In a much deeper than usual class with valuable and possibly even one or two "superstar" tight ends to choose from, Fumagalli will likely slip down into the early part of 3 and possibly even further; until the team that needs a TE but hasn't taken one yet, finally decides to 'pull the trigger' and selects him.

There's always the chance that team could be the New Orleans Saints with the 91st overall pick in Round 3, or perhaps even as far down the 4th Round at #`127 overall.

In either case, if the Saints decide to address another position besides tight end with their first pick at #27, a player like Fumagalli could still provide them with the viable option of getting a top-notch talent at a position of need, without having to invest a higher pick to do it.

Photo courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal

From Fumagalli's perspective, it would seem that like with Alvin Kamara last year and the many other players throughout the years who have gone on to exceed expectations, that he will have to "wait to be great".

By this time next month, we'll see if Troy Fumagalli will get that opportunity to become great for the New Orleans Saints as the next "mid-round steal" of the NFL Draft..............

 

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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