Niles Paul received some sage advice from Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe when they two talked earlier this week.
“He said ‘this is one of two steps. The next one of out the door,’” said Paul. “‘They’re trying to find you a home,’ he said. ‘Coach Shanahan believes in you enough to find you a home.’”
The home they are trying to find him is at tight end. After a rookie season spent at wide receiver, Mike Shanahan decided to move Paul to tight end this spring.
“A lot of those guys that can run, can catch and have that speed aren’t very good blockers,” said Shanahan. “I think he’ll be able to do both.”
He hopes to be able to exploit Paul’s speed (4.5 in the 40) to create some mismatches in the secondary.
Paul has added about 10 pounds and says that he’s maintaining his weight at 234. That’s on the light side in a league where most tight ends are in the 250-pound range.
“I’m fine at 234,” said Paul. “Shannon Sharpe told me he did it at 228. I’m not saying I’m Shannon Sharpe but it gives me hope.”
Shanahan said that Paul has maintained his speed despite the weight gain.
Sharpe earned his Canton bust playing for Shanahan in Denver and the coach thought it would be a good idea to have him come in and talk to Paul about playing tight end at a lighter weight.
Paul got some practical advice from Sharpe as well as reality check noted above.
“Sharpe told me when I was talking to him, that I’m a smaller guy and I’m not going to win every battle and my role is to protect the running back and the QB,” he said. “As long as I’m doing my job, that’s all that matters.”
The move to tight end is a step up both in terms of physical demands and playbook knowledge.
“With the receiver part, it’s the exact same thing as if I lined up at Z (wide receiver),” he said. “When it comes to running I’ve got to pick up on combo blocks, I’ve got to read the defense a lot better than I had to at receiver.”
During the OTA’s that the media has been able to see, it looks like Paul is doing well with the receiver portion of the job. We won’t know much about his blocking ability until the pads go on and full contact is allowed when training camp starts late next month. But Shanahan thinks it’s so far, so good for Paul in the blocking department.
“He’s done a good job getting in his stance and simulating as many blocking techniques as a tight end can do without pads on,” Shanahan said. “He’s done well in almost every area.”
As long as Paul can do well enough to keep from going out of that door, he’ll be happy.