When Nick Kasa signed on with Colorado out of high school, he was heralded as a star recruit to help the struggling program turn around its fortunes. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, things didn't go as planned and he wasn't making a big impact. However, 6-foot-6, 270-pounders who are fast and strong are a tough commodity to find. Partway through his junior season, Kasa and Colorado started him on the path of being a producer on the field.
"It came about because I wasn't producing on the defensive line really," said Kasa. "It was a tough couple of years my first few years at CU. I got hurt before the season before my first year. It started rough, as I got back into it, I wasn't doing the things I wanted to do at defensive end. I felt like I was letting a lot of people down after being a big recruit to CU. I was lower on the depth chart and only had a few starts. I felt like I let myself down and a lot of people down.
"Halfway into my junior year, I met with the coaches about it and said I felt I could do more for the team whether it was getting in on all the special teams and if they needed I could sub anywhere on the lines. We talked for awhile and narrowed it down to tight end. I probably moved a week or two after I talked to them and got a little bit of playing time at the end of my junior year, and my senior year I started every game. I got better every game and I think you can see from game to game some tremendous improvement. Right now,I just have to keep that going."
Kasa took to his new position as a senior and made lots of improvements. He caught 25 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. Kasa helped ignite a big comeback over Washington State with three receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. He made strides at his new position each week of the season. Kasa attributes the improvement to a lot of studying along with the field work.
"A lot of film with my tight ends coach J.D. Burkheart and watched guys he coached. Burkheart coached Larry Fitzgerald and that always helps to see perfection of how to catch a football and run routes," said Kasa. "Obviously, [Fitzgerald] is one of the best wide receivers that there might ever be. The coaches really helped me out and I watched a lot of tape on guys like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Tony Gonzalez. The guys that are the best because that's what I want to be. I definitely tried to watch guys that were more of my size and speed comparison. I looked a lot at Gronkowski because we're both around 6-foot-6, 260. I try and emulate what he does."
Kasa showed more improvement at the Senior Bowl, and his natural athleticism makes him a good fit as a tight end for the NFL. He is actually further along as a blocker due to his strength and experience of battling along the line of scrimmage. His receiving ability is what Kasa is really grinding on.
"Yeah, knowing from the other side of the ball what guys are thinking and trying to do helps, but I need to work on everything," said Kasa. "I think, right now, the biggest improvements I need to make are in the passing game; catching balls and that kind of thing. Game-to-game I improved on everything, but that was the kind of thing that continued to stick out; take notes and work on the natural ability to catch the ball. I've been putting in a lot of work on that. As I keep progressing, it is getting better."
WalterFootball.com has learned of a number of teams that are showing significant interest in Kasa. The group includes the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. Among those teams, the Browns and Giants stick out as the most serious. Kasa didn't have any predictions about which franchise would be his NFL home at the end of draft weekend.
"There are a few teams. The Giants' tight ends coach ran my pro day.ere I think they're definitely interested," said Kasa. "I'm not too sure, honestly. I'm ready to go anywhere. Whoever calls my name and wherever I end up is just fine with me. I'm ready to get there and work."
Kasa spoke with WalterFootball.com while he was on his way home from the Combine medical re-check in Indianapolis. He said it was good to get clarity that he has a clean bill of health entering the start of his pro career. Kasa was called back to Indiana to double check his left knee.
"Nothing really happened to my knee actually," said Kasa. "My knee was fine, and when I went to the Combine the first time they looked at my knee because I sprained the MCL my freshman year of college. When they looked [at] my MRI they saw a contusion in my left knee; the same knee that had the MCL sprain. They thought I had a bone bruise underneath my knee cap, so I had to comeback for another MRI, but every doctor said it was all cleared up and I was fine. I had no idea I even had it until I got to the Combine. I don't know why I had to go back and that is what they all said: you don't need to be here."
Sources said that Kasa could go as high as the third round and shouldn't go lower than fourth round. There have been some tight end steals who have gone in that range in recent years. The 2010 NFL Draft featured tight end superstars like Gronkowski as a second-round pick, Hernandez as a fourth-round pick and the Saints' Jimmy Graham as a third-round pick. Kasa's combination of size and speed could make him the next tight end who is a draft day steal.