Bears tight end Fendi Onobun ready for a bigger role
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter April 28, 2014 8:55PM
Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz makes a catch as he runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: INMC111
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa, 6-5, 265: Fiedorowicz never emerged as the star tight end many projected him to be after starring at Johnsburg and becoming a coveted recruit. Blame Iowa’s offense because Fiedorowicz’s abilities are gaining considerable attention after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. Fiedorowicz, who is considered a mid-round pick, has drawn interest from the Broncos, Patriots and Falcons, among others. He said at the NFL combine that he models his game after Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, 6-5, 265: He is really a giant receiver who hauled in 106 catches for 1,352 yards (a Division I record for a tight end) and seven touchdowns in 2013. Amaro figures to be a second-round pick.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina, 6-4, 250: He’s the consensus cream of the crop, possessing the size, speed, strength and athleticism wanted for modern tight ends. Ebron will be the first one taken.
Marcel Jensen, Fresno State, 6-6, 259: Teams open to a developmental project may look at Jensen on Day 3. He has many physical attributes teams value.
Colt Lyerla, Oregon, 6-4, 242: Projected to be a mid-rounder, Lyerla has a number of off-the-field issues, including drugs, but he has a friend on the Bears in guard Kyle Long.
Troy Niklas, Note Dame, 6-6, 270: He’s a massive target who is considered a player on the rise after spending time behind 2013 first-rounder Tyler Eifert.
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Updated: April 29, 2014 12:38PM
Leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8, the Sun-Times will take a position-by-position look at the Bears’ needs and which players might be available to fill them.
Whether it was an awkward landing in the end zone or getting flipped onto the crown of his helmet, some of the hits that Bears tight end Martellus Bennett withstood last season were scary.
The Bears and Bennett were fortunate that he always got up.
Bennett brought the Bears into the modern era of tight-end play, finishing with 65 catches, 759 yards and five touchdowns. The question is depth, especially if the licks keep coming for Bennett.
Behind Bennett are Dante Rosario, Fendi Onobun, Matthew Mulligan and Zach Miller. Coach Marc Trestman also has used offensive lineman Eben Britton in some personnel groupings.
Of all the players, Onobun is the most intriguing and comparable to Bennett.
“It was definitely a year to watch and learn,” said Onobun, who spent last season on the practice squad. “It was a great situation for me with my history. It was a great opportunity to learn football, play football and practice and just continue to work on my skill set.”
Unlike his previous five teams, the Bears seem committed to Onobun. He was waived after the preseason but was re-signed quickly to the practice squad and later to a reserve/future contract.
Onobun even went to Florida twice for the workouts and activities organized by receiver Brandon Marshall.
The Bears see what others have seen in Onobun: an athletically gifted player with a basketball background that fits the mold of the modern tight end. Onobun, who played four years of basketball at Arizona, just needed more time. After all, he didn’t start playing football until he was 23 at the University of Houston. He’s 27 now.
“Instead of being an athlete, it’s be a football player,” said Onobun, a longtime friend of Bennett’s. “That’s the biggest thing I’m really looking forward to this year, just turning my skill set into a football skill set and how I can be a better football player as opposed to just an athlete out there running and catching a football.”
Overall, it’s a thin draft class. But there will be some quality available after Round 1, including Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz (a Johnsburg product), Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Oregon’s Colt Lyerla.
Trestman wouldn’t mind more weapons, but that could come via receiver or running back.
Onobun might just be the backup needed at tight end.
“I really believe in myself and my abilities,” Onobun said. “It’s just translating what we do in shorts into pads.”