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2021 NFL Draft: Virginia TE Tony Poljan

Abilene Christian v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Virginia Cavaliers football fans are used to star TEs who started at QB. It’s The Heath Miller Experience. Jake McGee, less of an NFL star but a very good college TE, also started his career at QB. Tony Poljan didn’t start at UVA, but at Central Michigan he went a lot further at QB than Miller or McGee did.

Poljan actually started six games at QB for the Chippewas. In total, he completed 89/168 (53%) for 703 yards (4.2 ypa) and 2 TDs versus 5 INTs. He rushed 91 times for 248 yards (2.7 ypc). Those are not particularly good numbers. At first, he split between QB and WR/TE before eventually moving to TE full-time.

At CMU, he caught 45 passes for 718 yards (16 ypc) with six TDs. Most of that came in 2019, after moving to TE. For the Hoos, Poljan totaled 38 catches for 411 yards (10.8 ypc) with six TDs over 10 games. Considering the team averaged under 12 ypc, 10.8 is solid for a TE.

As a former QB, Poljan is still learning how to be a TE. Blocking is not his strength right now, although he has improved. He’s likely not going to win one-on-one matchups against elite NFL pass rushers right now, but he can hold his own in space and in blitz-pickup. And at 6’7” 260, Poljan has the size to be a lot better than that. Remember, he’s still only been a TE for two years.

One advantage of being a former QB is that Poljan still sees the game as a QB. That makes him deadly on option routes, when he has to read the defense. His QB can trust him to make the right read and get open.

Poljan’s biggest weakness is his hands. He simply dropped too many passes, and it’s the biggest thing NFL scouts are complaining about. At 6’7”, he needs to be able to use that length to grab every pass near him. Especially considering his other weakness, his speed. Or rather, his lack of speed. Poljan is likely running in the 4.9 second range for the 40 yard dash. Not fast, even for a TE. But speed isn’t Poljan’s game. Size is. Size, and understanding. He just knows how to get open.

Tony knows exactly where the first down marker is, and knows where the defenders are. He turns around and that is an easy pitch and catch. QBs love a TE who can make that read correctly every time.

This one is man coverage underneath, Tony reads it and knows where to go. Once again, he’s open for the first down.

Just because Poljan isn’t fast doesn’t mean he isn’t athletic. Let’s not forget that Tony was a running QB.

How many 6’7” 260 guys do you see hurdling DBs? At that size, Tony is also tough to bring down when he gets going.

He catches this pass five yards shy of the first down, with two defenders between him and the line to gain. But he lowers his shoulder and gets the yards.

Mock drafts have Poljan going anywhere from 4th to 7th round. Some teams could like his size at the position and hope to work on his blocking and his hands. He could be a real asset as a second TE with blocking and receiving skills. If he continues to develop, he could become even more than that.