The battle appears to be for what tight will be next off the board. The current frontrunner is Stanford's Alex Smith. He had a productive career for the Cardinal, he holds the school mark for most receptions by a tight end.
However, it was his senior bowl performance that led to one AFC scout calling him the number one tight end prospect in the nation, ahead of Miller. "Alex Smith is a beast," the scout said.
Although that might not be the opinion held in the majority, Smith could be an option for the Bears in the second round. Depending on what happens on the NFL Combine later this month his stock could continue to rise into the first round, but the way it stands right now he's projected as a top 45 prospect. The Bears own the 39th pick.
At 6-foot-4, 257 pounds, Smith is an athletic pass catching tight end who makes plays into the defensive secondary. With his size he's an improving blocker that would fit best in a west coast offensive system.
Ron Turner's scheme doesn't stress tight ends in the same fashion that Terry Shea's was supposed to, but going into next season with Desmond Clark as the unchallenged starter would be a disappointment. In '04 the position accounted for 36 receptions for 366 yards and two touchdowns.
Another intriguing tight end prospect is Matt Jones. Not since Antwaan Randle-El several years back has a college quarterback come to the Senior Bowl and made a seamless transition to another position. Jones looked like a natural catching the ball and did so anywhere on the field with ease. The former Arkansas passer also impressed with his willingness to long snap and even field kick returns. Whether he stays at the wide out position or grows into a tight end is for another debate but there is no question that Jones left Mobile greatly enhancing his draft stock.
The Bears traded out of an opportunity to select Randle-El in 2002. Under Jerry Angelo have stayed away from drafting projects, but Jones could sway the critics if he can prove his 6-foot-5, 242-pound frame can be used for blocking on the pro level.
Jones has already been rated the fourth best tight end prospect in April's draft, which either shows how good he could be or how weak the class is as a whole.
Post Senior Bowl TE Rankings
|3||Joel Dreessen||Colorado State||5Sr|
|8||Jerome Collins||Notre Dame||5Sr|
|9||Tony Curtis||Portland State||5Sr|
|10||David Kashetta||Boston College||5Sr|
|16||Andy Thorn||Northern Iowa||5Sr|
|17||Billy Bajema||Oklahoma State||4Sr|
|18||Brian Casey||Kansas State||5Sr|
|19||Kelly Griffeth||Fort Hays State||5Sr|
|21||Madison Hedgecock||North Carolina||4Sr|
|23||Jason Randall||Michigan State||4Sr|
|24||Jared Clark||Notre Dame||5Sr|
|26||Eric Knott||Michigan State||4Sr|
|30||Tory Humphrey||Central Michigan||4Sr|
|33||Mark Wood||Fresno State||5Sr|
|34||Jocques Dumas||North Carolina||4Sr|
|37||Billy Palmer||Notre Dame||5Sr|
|39||Stephen Spach||Fresno State||5Sr|
|41||Mike Larson||Illinois State||4Sr|
|43||Nick Brzezinski||Saginaw Valley State||5Sr|