Draft Talk

Fleener is considered the draft's best tight end.

Have you noticed the perception of the tight end position changing dramatically in just the last year, and how does it affect you and the other prospects?
Fleener: The guys that played in the NFL this year, the Jimmy Graham's the Gronkowski's of the world, have really done our class of tight ends a favor this year. I can't say enough about the guys that have already played and I hope to one day go play just like that.

Is there anything you've picked up from watching those guys to help your own game?
Fleener: When you watch film on those guys, I like to take the positive and the negative, and kind of pick and choose and see what I can learn from that. ... That's something that I need to do more of, film study on guys that I look up to. It's just more of watching as a fan, but (I) really notice the tight end position.

How much did your offense at Stanford resemble the ones you see on Sundays?
Fleener: I think everyone realized that Stanford was a run-first team and threw off of that using play action, so when we can run the ball effectively we do it, and when we have to pass we pass, so that's how it went. I think our staff carried on the same offense that coach (Jim) Harbaugh's staff left and essentially we ran the same offense. I think there are always tweaks that you make depending on the team that you're playing, the personnel that you're going against, but it's one of those things that the base concepts pretty much stay the same.

And that meant, more often than not, featuring yourself with other tight ends on the field at the same time?
Fleener: Quite a bit. Our offensive coordinator and offensive coaches did a real good job of utilizing the talent that we had at the tight end position. We had some young guys (who) played real well, who probably will be here in the next couple of years. It was great for me to have them on my team and for the coaches to put us in a position to be successful. I think it's tough on defenses to figure out: Are we going to run the ball, because we can with three big guys up there? Or are we going to pass the ball? You create mismatches and it's tough for a defense to cover.

That could be helpful if you wind up in an offense that uses the two-tight set predominantly. Do you think that could be your role?
Fleener: That's yet to be decided. I'd like to do anything I can to help the team win. If that means just running routes, just blocking, just playing special teams, I want to help the team win, so that's really going to be a coach's decision.

Aside from the offense that was run, what did it mean to you to play at Stanford?
Fleener: I wanted to play great football. There's no doubt about that. I think coach Harbaugh, his enthusiasm led me to believe that we were going to be a great football team. But to have a backup plan and a Stanford education is not a bad thing. ... One of the biggest things I'm proud of in going to Stanford is taking a team that was 1-11 and helping to turn that around to two straight BCS games. The coaching staff just did an awesome job bringing in a great bunch of recruits, so I think for years to come they're going to be a pretty good team.

It didn't hurt having Andrew Luck at quarterback, right?
Fleener: Oh, absolutely. It was more than a daily thing. It was kind of ... you'd watch film after practice and just be in awe. The best player I've played with and played against. An unbelievable guy as well. It's not just his skills on the field, but he's a really great guy off as well. Andrew's redshirt year, he was on scout team and threw the ball from one hash all the way across the field on a rope and at that point we all kind of went, "Wow, this kid's for real." His freshman year you could definitely see the potential, and as he grew to become more polished, he's what you see today.

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