Vance McDonald Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Rice TE

Ryan Lownes@@ryanlownesFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29:  Vance McDonald #88 of the Rice Owls looks for room to run as Colton Valencia #20 of the Houston Cougars defends at Reliant Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Vance McDonald

San Francisco 49ers (via trade with Green Bay Packers for 61st and 173rd picks)

Second Round: 55th Pick

A former wide receiver, Vance McDonald was named a consensus All-Conference USA tight end after switching positions as a senior.

He was a relative unknown just a few months ago. While he contributed at Rice for four years, most draft analysts learned his name after he impressed onlookers at the Senior Bowl.

Is he too raw, however, to be considered worthy of a pick on the draft’s second day? Or will McDonald live up to his potential and become a matchup nightmare?

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Physical, willing blocker with good power - Not sure-handed, struggles with drops
+ Ideal size at 6'4", 260 pounds, with long arms - Does not have experience as an in-line tight end
+ Impressive athlete, fluid and fairly sudden - Has a bit of an injury history
+ Rugged and powerful after the catch - Draft stock is largely based on upside


At roughly 6’4”, 260 pounds, McDonald possesses a muscular build with a large wingspan.

Despite his arms measuring 34 3/8” at the NFL Scouting Combine, he showed off his strength by leading the tight end group in the bench press with 31 reps of 225 pounds.

McDonald is an excellent athlete, moving with the fluidity of a much smaller player.

That athleticism was on display in Indianapolis, where he ran a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash. He also posted above-average results in the vertical jump (33.5”), broad jump (9’11”) and three-cone drill (7.08).


While character does not appear to be an issue, teams may be concerned about his injury history. McDonald sat out in 2008 to rehab a surgically repaired shoulder. In 2010, he would miss two games due to injury. This past season, he missed three games because of a toe issue.

He comes from a football background, with his father having played linebacker for the University of Texas. A well-rounded athlete in high school, McDonald participated in track and basketball in addition to football.



During his time at Rice, the Owls operated a spread offense. It featured primarily shotgun and pistol looks. For three years, McDonald was played as an oversized slot receiver.

While still operating from the slot, he transitioned to a “Joker” tight end role as a senior. He was used in a variety of ways and even lined up in the backfield at times.


McDonald is sudden for his size and very quick to make himself a target in the flat. Whether in-line or playing in the slot, he releases well from the line of scrimmage. A potential go-to option in the red zone or on third down, he also threatens the seam quickly and can exploit gaps in coverage.


A former wide receiver, McDonald is very fluid for his size and can be a mismatch against linebackers. Though his route running is not extremely crisp, he shows the ability to separate from lesser athletes. He is a physical player who will use his hands to disengage at the top of routes.


McDonald usually catches the ball cleanly when thrown away from his body, but he has historically had issues with drops. Whether it occurred due to passes getting into his body or lapses in concentration, he typically will not go a game without one dropped ball.

Ball Skills

While drops are a concern, McDonald shows the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and make difficult plays. Equipped with long arms, he possesses a wide catch radius. He demonstrates body control at times, adjusting to poorly thrown passes.

Run After Catch

After the catch, McDonald fights hard for yardage. He is a very physical runner with power and good balance. While he may not be elusive, he is a great athlete for his size with some speed. He even took some carries at Rice, on which he demonstrated glimpses of vision.


A relentless, physical blocker, McDonald bullied defensive backs from his position in the slot. He flashed aggression as a blocker, playing to the whistle and displaying some pop in his hands. Though operating from the slot, he showed the ability to block with his arms and legs, driving and steering defenders out of harms way.

He has very limited experience as an in-line blocker, however. With the jump in competition, notably the size and strength of his opponents, it could take some time for McDonald to be brought up to speed.


Future Role/Versatility

Considering his athleticism and experience in the slot, McDonald could be seen as a “Joker” tight end at the next level. It would not be a surprise, however, if he were drafted with the expectation of playing a more traditional in-line role.

There is reason to believe he could excel in either role due to his size and willingness as a blocker. Also worth noting: He worked as the long snapper on punts the last two weeks of the 2012 season.

Draft Projection: Middle Second-Early Fourth Round


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