Cardinals select Notre Dame TE Niklas in 2nd round

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals have selected big Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas in the second round of the NFL draft.

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Niklas was the 52nd player selected in the draft. It is the first time the Cardinals have drafted a tight end this high since they selected Doug Marsh of Michigan with the 33rd pick in 1980.

Niklas is considered the best blocking tight end in this year's draft crop.

He converted from outside linebacker after his freshman season and chose to enter the NFL draft after his junior year. In his 26 games at tight end, including starts in all 13 last season, Niklas caught 37 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns. The bulk of those catches came last season, when he had 32 receptions for 498 yards and five scores, including a 66-yard scoring play in the season opener against Temple.

Niklas has an impressive football lineage.

Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews is his uncle and current NFL players Clay and Casey Matthews are cousins. Another cousin, Jake Matthews, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round on Thursday.

Although he is primarily a blocker, Niklas has had some effective performances as a receiver. He caught six passes for 76 yards against Michigan and four for 76 yards in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said his team's draft board was "pretty well picked clean" but that Niklas was "a guy that we've followed for quite some time now."

"He's a guy that in our mind has just started to scratch the surface on what he can become," Keim said.

Niklas was a highly recruited player out of Servite High School in Anaheim, California, choosing Notre Dame over USC.

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