The team at Vikings Territory has been busy working to get to know each of our newest Vikings draft selections, and this week we will give you a chance to learn everything we know about these players through our reintroduction of the “Welcome to the Big Show” series. Next up is UTSA tight end David Morgan II.
HEIGHT: 6′ 4″
WEIGHT: 260 pounds
ARM LENGTH: 33.625 inches
HANDS: 10.5 inches
NFL SCOUTING COMBINE RESULTS
40-YARD DASH: 5.02 seconds
BENCH PRESS: 29 repetitions (of 225 pounds)
VERTICAL JUMP: 30 inches
BROAD JUMP: 10 feet, 11 inches
20-YARD SHORT SHUTTLE: 4.10 seconds
3-CONE: 6.65 seconds
Morgan grew up in Marble Falls, Texas, where he played both basketball and soccer as a kid. It wasn’t until seventh grade that Morgan took up football, beginning his young career as a quarterback. After a year spent throwing the football, the Texas native knew he wanted to be on the receiving end, switching to wideout the following year and playing there all the way through high school.
The Marble Falls Mustang was named all-district as a three-year varsity starter in both football and basketball. He garnered attention from colleges like Texas State and UTEP, but didn’t receive offers from the bigger, more notable universities; Division I programs viewed Morgan as a tight end, and at 225 pounds, he wasn’t necessarily fit to survive in the trenches.
But one school, the University of Texas San Antonio, caught Morgan’s eye. UTSA started its football program in September 2011, just months after Morgan had graduated high school. He accepted the offer, seeing it as a chance for a fresh start with few preconceived expectations. ““I was intrigued by the fact that it was a new program,” he explained to Vikings Corner. “I wanted to be a part of a lot of the firsts for the program.”
That he was, becoming the first player ever drafted to the NFL from UTSA when the Minnesota Vikings made him the 188th-overall pick (6th round) in the 2016 NFL Draft.
- 2011: 13 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns
- 2012: Redshirt due to injury
- 2013: Seven catches for 69 yards
- 2014: 20 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown
- 2015: 45 receptions for 566 yards and five touchdowns
Morgan played all five years at UTSA as a tight end, where he was used more as a blocker than as a pass-catching threat. Despite being relegated to the end of the offensive line early in his collegiate career, the Roadrunner earned honorable mention All-Conference USA Recognition as a junior and truly found his form in his final year at UTSA.
His most productive season came in 2015, when he was used all over the field. Morgan enjoyed time split wide, lined up in the backfield, as a wing, and in his natural position at tight end. He hauled in 45 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns, and at the end of the year, was named a second-team All-American and second-team All-Conference USA selection.
- The best run-blocking tight end in the 2016 NFL Draft, per Rick Spielman and Pro Football Focus
- Reliable target in the passing game — just three total drops over the past two seasons
- Impressive leaping ability and success rate in jump-ball situations
- Versatility to play multiple positions at the next level, from tight end to H-back to fullback
- Natural pass-catcher who uses his hands, not his chest, as a receiver
- Exceptional short-area quickness — was a top performer at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 3-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle, and the 60-yard shuttle
- “Shake” at the top of routes to create separation in the short area of the field
- Naturally strong, especially as a blocker in the run game. Benched 225 pounds 29 times at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was best among all participating tight ends
- Slow mover — ran a 5.02-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine
- Lacks the straight-line speed to beat linebackers down the field and the burst to explode off the line of scrimmage
- Competition level caps Morgan’s ceiling (for now) — can he dominate NFL defensive ends like he did Conference USA defensive ends?
- Needs to refine his route running, specifically, tipping defenders to where he’s headed on the field. Despite playing wide receiver in high school, is an “obvious” route runner who telegraphs straight through his stem
NFL.COM PROFILE: Lance Zierlein concluded that Morgan’s “willingness to block and potential to become a move tight end who can handle fullback responsibilities should help his cause” in the NFL.
WALTER FOOTBALL: Like Zierlein, the team at Walter Football projected Morgan as a fourth, fifth, or sixth-round prospect. They praised his strength as a drive blocker, ability to catch the football with his hands, and performance in the NFL Scouting Combine’s on-field drills.
PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS: PFF lauded Morgan’s blocking prowess, but warned that his position is being phased out of the NFL. Still, the analytics site said Morgan provides “more than enough” as a blocking tight end to earn a spot with a team.
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DIVISION I CHALLENGE: Morgan held his own against the then 22nd-ranked Arizona Wildcats, lining up everywhere for UTSA. He was a primary receiver on multiple plays and was effective blocking on the edge as an H-back and in-line tight end.
THIS LITTLE PIGGY…: Morgan catches a pass over the middle and carries a defender on his back past the first down marker. No wonder PFF called Morgan an “ox of a tight end.”
THROWBACK: Who’s that kid out-jumping defensive backs? A skinnier, smaller David Morgan, who played wide receiver in high school and weighed just 225 pounds.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: The Vikings steal the show with a highlight reel that encapsulates everything that makes Morgan a perfect fit in Minnesota.
“We felt very strongly that he was the best blocking tight end in the draft,” Spielman said following the seventh round. “Not only can he block, he has size, he is a good athlete.”
The Vikings actually traded up to draft Morgan, using the 196th pick and a seventh round selection (240th) in a deal with Philadelphia for the 188th pick. Spielman had ammunition to use after a previous deal with the Miami Dolphins and pulled the trigger on Morgan, a player that was high on the team’s board at that point of the draft.
“His 40 time was a little slower but what he does at the point of attack when he is blocking,” Spielman said. “Also extremely very good hands, he can catch anything. Made some plays down the field. Very good red zone threat. So he did a lot of things positive as we sat there and watched the tape on him.”
Readers at Vikings Territory didn’t necessarily love the Morgan pick, with more than 60 percent of readers giving the selection a “B” or “C” grade.
THE VIKINGS FIT
Everything hinges on the health of Rhett Ellison, who tore his patellar tendon in Week 17 last season. All signs point to Morgan filling Ellison’s role in training camp if the incumbent tight end can’t return. If Ellison does make a miraculous early recovery, then Morgan has all of the tools to contribute right away on special teams.
Coming out of college, Ellison was the better athlete of the two and had played Division I football at USC. He rotated in at fullback before making the full-time switch to tight end, where he’s been a key cog for the Vikings. Morgan should have no problem following in Ellison’s footsteps by lining up everywhere in Minnesota and finding multiple ways to impact the offense.
He has a slightly different skill set than a player like MyCole Pruitt, who the Vikings drafted in the fifth round last year. Pruitt is probably Minnesota’s most athletic tight end, and the Vikings often split him wide when he did play in 2015. The “move” tight end role in the offense is Pruitt’s to lose, making Morgan a potential No. 3 if and when he does hear his name called in 2016.