100 Once in a decade prospect
95-99 Elite talent
90-95 Solid top 10 pick
85-90 Solid first round pick
80-85 Late 1st-early 2nd
75-80 Solid 2nd round pick
70-75 Solid 3rd round pick
65-70 3rd-4th round pick
60-65 4th-5th round pick
55-60 5th round pick
50-55 6th round pick
45-50 7th round pick
40-45 Undrafted, invite to training camp
30-40 Career practice squader
20-30 No NFL future
0-20 No football future
1. Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma State) 86
2/27/10: After his 4.76 40, questions about the health of his knee have resurfaced. That’s the last thing Gresham wants to happen at this point. 4.76 isn’t awful, but he was expected to run at least .1 to .15 seconds faster so this is a bit concerning.
Despite being injured all season, he’s still an elite tight end at the next level. Assuming his knee holds up strong through the combine and in team workouts, he’s a lock to be the first tight end off the board and a first round pick. He’s big, 6-6 260, and fast mid 4.6 40, and has amazingly soft hands. He’s not afraid to go over the middle and he’d be a welcome target for any quarterback in the league. He put together one of the greatest statistical seasons ever by a tight end in 2008 with 66 catches for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns and would have been the first tight end off the board in 2008 had he declared.
2. Rob Gronkowski (Arizona) 80
3/27/10: There were rumors that, after back surgery that caused him to miss all of last season, he was still not healthy. I think he proved that wrong because, simply put, you can’t run a 4.65 at 6-6 258 with a bad back. The injury, and the rust that comes along with not playing a whole year because of injury, are still issues, but this guy could have been a first rounder if he had a good year this year and there’s no doubting he could be a steal for a team in the 2nd round. I think he’s clearly the 2nd best tight end in this draft class, at least in my mind, because of Dennis Pitta’s lack of elite athleticism and upside and Aaron Hernandez’s small frame and inability to run block.
Surprisingly enough, the top two tight ends in this draft class didn’t play all season. Gronkowski has been amazing statistically in his career, but he hasn’t given scouts much of a statistical sample. He wasn’t a full time tight end as a freshman, he missed 3 games with mono as a sophomore, and back surgery cost him his entire junior season. However, what I do like about his state that is good going forward if his career 16 YPC, meaning he was extremely athletic and tough to bring down in the open field because its very unlike a quarterback is repeatedly throwing to a tight end 16 yards down field. Also 16 of his 75 catches in his short career were for touchdowns showing once again his physical dominance. Good ability in the open field and end zone dominance are a very good combination for a young tight end. He’s a big moving target at 6-6 270 and can run a 4.7 40 assuming his back is fully healed. He has football and sports in general in his blood. And he’s still 20 so his upside is huge. He would have been the top tight end in 2011 had he returned to school and been healthy so I’m a bit puzzled as to why he didn’t. This year he’s looking at anywhere from 2nd to 4th tight end off the board depending on how scouts see him bounce back from injury in workouts. That would mean 2nd or 3rd round range for him.
3. Dennis Pitta (BYU) 77
2/27/10: Not necessarily known as an elite as rather a guy with good hands, Pitta benched 225 pounds 27 times, 2nd most among tight ends, and ran a 4.63 40.
Over an entire career, its tough to find a tight end who was more productive than Pitta. After he came back from his Mormon mission in 2007, Pitta looked like a man among boys catching 204 passes for 2726 yards and 19 touchdowns in three years. The only thing, he practically was a man among boys. Because his mission lasted two years, Pitta is currently 24 years old and does not have a huge upside. He’s probably better than half of the starting tight ends in the league right now with his good agility and soft hands, but scouts don’t really think he’s going to get much better than that. He’d be an ideal fit for a west coast offense and can help a team out right away, but his lack of upside, along with Rob Gronkowski surprisingly declaring for the NFL draft, he could slip to the 3rd round.
4. Aaron Hernandez (Florida) 73
2/25/10: There aren’t a ton of tight ends under 6-3. There are some, Dustin Keller at 6-2, but after Hernandez measured in at 6-2 with short 32 ¼ inch arms, his value becomes more limited. He’s a great athlete and can run and catch well, but he can’t do much else. He’s not much of a blocker and he hasn’t run a lot of pro style routes.
If he measures out at 6-3 at the combine, teams could look at him as the 2nd best tight end in this draft class. If he measures out at 6-1 or 6-2, very few teams will even consider him as a tight end at all because of his height. Besides his height, he’s an amazing athletic freak who can run a mid 4.5 40 at 250 pounds. He’s extremely tough to defend and he was one of the most productive tight ends in college football this year despite being only 20 years old.
5. Ed Dickson (Oregon) 73
He’s another tight end with great measurables, 6-4 245 with a mid 4.6 40, but he hasn’t been as productive in his career as some of the guys above him on this list. He needs to work on his route running and his run blocking but he has the upside to be a starting tight end in the league for a long time so he should go in the 3rdround, or 4th round at worst. His ability in the open field is very good for a tight end.
6. Andrew Quarless (Penn State) 66
He is a former #1 recruit for Penn State and has amazing athleticism and great measurables, 6-5 260 high 4.6 40, so he has the potential to be a 1st round pick tight end. However, his career at Penn State was not exactly ideal, in fact quite the opposite. Arrests, probation, suspension, you name it, he had issues with it. He finally stayed out of trouble and on the field for one season, his senior season, and was able to put together a decent season with 41 catches for 536 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it may have been a case of too little too late. He’s looking at the 5th round range, but I think he’s a 4th round prospect because of his upside if he continues to improve his game and stay out of trouble.
7. Garrett Graham (Wisconsin) 63
2/25/10: He’s still on the small side but weighing in at 243 is a lot better than the 234 he weighed in at the combine.
1/30/10: He had a few nice catches, including a touchdown that got wiped away by a penalty, but overall it was a bad week for him. First he weighed in at 234 pounds and then showed himself to be small on the field by not being able to block anything. He is the worst run blocker of any tight end that played in this game and I’m not sure he has a position at the next level.
1/26/10: Very skinny for his position.
At 6-4 238 its clear he needs to bulk up a little before he can be a legitimate NFL tight end, but he has very refined fundamentals for his size. He would be a perfect fit, assuming he bulks up, to be the receiving tight end in a west coast offense. He reminds me a lot of Travis Beckum, the former Wisconsin tight end who was drafted in the late 3rd round last year despite being undersized at 6-3 239. Graham could be looking at the same range if not a little lower because he didn’t quite as productive of a year as Beckum, mostly because he played in Beckum’s shadow most of the time.
8. Tony Moeacki (Iowa) 58
Showed occasional flashes of brilliance when fully healthy, for instance in the Orange Bowl this year when he had 84 yards and a brilliant 53 reception that very few tight ends can make. Unfortunately, that rarely happened because of injuries. In his career, he only managed 953 yards on 76 catches for 11 touchdowns because of numerous injuries. You name it, he hurt it, he probably hurt things you didn’t even know were body parts. He could be snagged late as a flier tight end prospect and I think he deserves 5th round recognition as he could be a starting caliber tight end if he stays healthy, but his injury plagued past is a major red flag. Even this year, by far his best season of his career, he only had 30 catches for 387 yards and 4 scores because he missed 3 games.
9. Mike Homanawanui (Illinois) 57
1/26/10: He’s being looked at as a big blocker so weighing in at 267 pounds helps his case to get drafted. So do his long arms and hands.
A very big physical blocker who could be looked at in the 5th round by teams needing run blocking tight ends.
10. Clay Harbor (Missouri State) 56
A small school tight end who I hadn’t heard of until the Combine, but he looked like a natural athlete in the measurings at the combine and he looked like an NFL caliber tight end with reliable hands in the drills. Level of competition is an issue, but he has 40 or more catches in each of the last 3 seasons and 59 catches for 729 yards and 4 touchdowns this year. Size was an issue for him, but he bulked up for the Combine and still had a good time in the 40 yard dash.
11 Colin Peek (Alabama) 56
3/15/10: He’s a great blocker, but weighing in at just 252 pounds hurts and so does running a 4.93 40. He also only benched 19 reps of 225. He needed a good Pro Day to keep his status as the top blocking tight end in the class, with guys like Mike Hoomanawanui and Nate Byham impressing at the Senior Bowl and Combine. Peek did not do that and he could slip as a result. That slip could be pretty significant given his position as a run blocking tight end. That could be a 2 round slip.
If you look at his stat sheet you get confused as to why he’s an NFL prospect. In his career he had 51 catches for 561 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, he may be the best pure run blocking tight end in college football at the moment and that could get him drafted in the 4th or 5th round. He’s big and overpowering at 6-6 255 and has great technique. His receiving abilities, though limited, are extra. If you want to get a look at his run blocking abilities, he will be at the Senior Bowl next week.
12. Anthony McCoy (USC) 55
Mostly physical upside at this point, but despite his size he was an inconsistent blocker last year and he didn’t have a ton of catches last year, 22. However, he did play in a pro style offense and get good YAC. He averaged 20.8 YPC last year and that’s always a good sign going forward. The upside is there.
13. Nate Byham (Pittsburgh) 55
2/27/10: Yesterday, Byham impressed by weighing it at 268 pounds and making him the best run blocking tight end in my eyes, but today he ran like an offensive lineman with a 40 time of 4.97. That’s not good.
2/26/10: If Byham was going to get drafted, it would be as a blocker. Measuring in at 268 certainly helps his cause to be viewed as one of the best run blocking tight ends in this draft class.
One of the elite run blocking tight ends in this class, Byham only had 47 career catches, but he has good size. His route running, hands, and speed could all be a lot better, but he has a role for him in the NFL.
14. Jimmy Graham (Miami) 54
A basketball player playing football, but then again so is Antonio Gates. Graham was a forward on the Miami basketball team and only had one year on the Miami football team. He’s an athlete, but didn’t show a ton on the field.
15. Scott Sicko (New Hampshire) 52
3/15/10: I love him as a late round sleeper out of small school New Hampshire, but he had some issues with size in the past, being about 240 at New Hampshire. He was 251 at his Pro Day (plenty big) and still ran a 4.53 with a 35 inch vertical and looked comfortable in the drills playing with that weight.
Undersized, but with more teams switching to schemes that use smaller pass catching tight ends, Sicko should have a role an some upside in the NFL at the next level. He has 3 straight years of 50 catches or more and 2014 career yards and 22 career touchdowns, but he didn’t have a ton of tough competition. He’s, at the very least, interesting. For my exclusive interview with Scott Sicko, click here.
16. Nathan Overbay (Eastern Washington) 48
17. Dennis Morris (Louisiana Tech) 44
18. Cody Slate (Marshall) 44
19. Jeron Mastrud (Kansas State) 43
20. Caz Piurowski (Florida State) 43