If Not Olsen, Then Who at TE?

Desmond Clark had the best performance of his career last season and was a reliable weapon for the Bears in the passing game, but GM Jerry Angelo is still probably looking to grab a young tight end in this month's draft. However, this is not the best year for TEs as Miami's Greg Olsen is the only one projected to go in Round 1. Are there any possible gems out there?

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Greg Olsen, Miami (6-6, 255)
Fourth-year junior ... A High School All-American who was one of three finalists for Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school senior ... Originally agreed to attend Notre Dame and attended spring practice before changing his mind and enrolling at Miami ... Was forced to redshirt as a freshman due to a shoulder injury ... In 2004, he was sidelined with a broken wrist ... A two-year starter who caught 71 passes for 940 yards and 5 touchdowns in that span ... Has a good combination of speed and size to be dangerous down the seam ... Catches the ball with his hands away from his body but could use some improvement ... Has a good burst at the snap to head down the seam quickly ... Has good upper body strength as shown at the Combine and can beat a jam ... Can make mismatches against linebackers with his speed and safeties with his size ... Doesn't have nearly as good lower body strength and will have problems in pass protection and trying to push defenders back on running plays ... Is not committed to bulking up, and that will have to change in the NFL ... Is not a good in-line blocker ... Like so many previous tight ends from Miami, he's pretty confident in himself ... Solidified his place as the top tight end available at the Combine by running the fastest 40 times by far (4.55 seconds), doing 23 reps with 225 pounds, tying for the best vertical jump (37.5 inches) and posting the third-best broad jump (9-7).

PROJECTION: While a long ways from being a complete tight end because of his blocking deficiencies, his offensive ability and big-play capability make him a dangerous threat, just like former Hurricanes Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. before him. While he may also bring some headaches with the attitude like those players, his talent may take precedence on draft day and could come off the board as early as No. 14 to Carolina in the first round.

Zach Miller, Arizona State, (6-4½, 255)
Third-year junior ... First Team USA Today All-American as a high school senior ... Also a standout track performer who threw the shot put and discus ... Set a freshman school record for receiving yards in a season with 552 ... Pac-10 Freshman of the Year ... A three-year starter who caught 144 passes for 1,512 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career at ASU ... Had shoulder surgery prior to his sophomore season and played through a left ankle injury much of his junior year ... A playmaker who lined up in various spots on the field depending on the situation ... Has excellent hands and keeps the ball away from his body ... Hits the seam and can run past a lot of linebackers ... Runs hard after making a catch and maximizes his gains after receptions ... Strong in pass protection and can hold his blocks on running plays or screens that don't involve him ... Can hold up as an in-line blocker ... Does not have a great burst off the snap or sustained speed ... Hurt his cause with poor times at the Combine ... Had his best statistical season as a freshman in catches, yards and touchdowns ... Not viewed as a true big-play threat ... Only ran a 4.72 40 at the Combine to go with just 16 reps (third worst among tight ends that lifted and are expected to go on draft weekend), a 34-inch vertical jump and a 9-7 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Once thought to be equal with Olsen, his Combine malaise ended most of the speculation as to who would be the top-drafted tight end and most likely dropped him into the second round. However, in the mold of guys like L.J. Smith and Jason Witten, he is more complete in all facets of the tight end game than Olsen but will likely stay on the board 20 or 30 picks longer.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Ben Patrick, Delaware (6-4, 250)
Fourth-year senior ... A versatile athlete in high school who played quarterback, tight end, linebacker and punter ... Enrolled at Duke in 2002 and after redshirting played three years for the Blue Devils after redshirting, catching 69 passes for 771 yards and 2 touchdowns ... Transferred to Delaware early in 2006 because he didn't like his role in the Duke football program ... Already had his degree when he came to Division I-AA ... Was slowed in the first two games of the season with a foot injury but still managed 64 catches for 639 yards and 6 touchdowns ... Has the body size and strength to be a very good in-line blocking tight end ... Runs good routes and makes yardage after the catch ... Intelligent player who knows about blocking angles and gives his all on every play ... Is fast enough to hit the seam route but doesn't have breakaway speed ... Isn't always aggressive in pursuing contact ... Doesn't break many tackles when he's been slowed down and gets brought down too often by D-backs one on one ... If he's not involved in most plays, he doesn't seem to give the same effort ... Has a history of injuries that last for weeks ... Didn't lift at the Combine and ran a 4.75 40 with a 345 inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Looked in great shape at the Senior Bowl, which helped his stock a lot and should be the third TE off the board some time late in the second or third round.

Matt Spaeth, Minnesota (6-7¼, 262)
Fifth-year senior ... Father played tight end for Nebraska and was drafted by Buffalo in 1978 ... Star basketball player in high school who averaged 28 points a game and 13 rebounds as a senior ... Came to Minnesota as a defensive end but moved to tight end after his redshirt season ... Four-year starter who caught 143 passes for 1,420 yard and 8 touchdowns ... Named team's Most Valuable Player as a senior and won the John Mackey Award, given each year to college football's top tight end ... Huge player who is an imposing target ... Can create mismatches ... Intelligent player who can read defenses in the passing game and take good blocking angles in the running game ... Makes plays over the middle ... Keeps passes away from his body ... Runs hard after the catch ... Has played through a lot of injuries and only missed two games, one being the Insight Bowl, having surgery to repair a shoulder separated in October which he played through ... Is not a great pure athlete ... Is not a deep threat and tends to get surrounded after making a lot of his catches ... Has a problem with bull-rushing defensive ends and will get out of position ... Tips his hand too often when he's a primary passing target ... Has very limited speed after getting chipped at the line ... Did not run or lift at the Combine because he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

PROJECTION: May have to accept the fact that, because of his speed limitations, he may well end up as a Mark Bruener-type of blocking back who is primarily used on play-fakes in the passing game. He has the size to be a monster TE that is almost an additional O-lineman, but missing the postseason all-star games and the Combine may knock him out of the first day or at least to the latter portions of it.

Scott Chandler, Iowa (6-3¾, 265)
Fourth-year senior ... His brother played quarterback at Iowa ... Played wide receiver as a freshman before moving to tight end ... Two-year starter who caught 93 passes for 1,143 yards and 8 touchdowns in that span ... Very tall for a tight end ... Was lined up all over the field, so he learned how to find soft spots in zones and read defenses ... Runs sharp routes ... Doesn't drop passes over the middle even though he knows he's going to get drilled ... Used a lot in the red zone as a senior ... Can play either in-line tight end or as an H-back ... Doesn't have the burst off the line to threaten defenses vertically ... Some believe he might be too tall because it's easy for defenders to lock on him and jam him off his routes ... Needs work on run blocking ... Takes four or five steps to hit top speed, which is much too long in the NFL ... Needs to get in the weight room and develop more upper-body strength ... Ran a 4.87 40 at the Combine with 17 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump (tied for third-worst among draft eligible TEs) and a 9-1 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Iowa has placed quite a few solid tight ends into the NFL over the years, but scouts are divided on what impact Chandler can have. Likely a Day 2 project selection, he could be a valuable asset to a team that has blocking tight ends and are looking for a receiving threat. But his lack of deep speed will make him someone that will be a luxury pick on the second day of the draft.

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Martrez Milner, Georgia (6-4, 252)
Fifth-year senior ... Did not become a full-time starter until his senior year after backing up Leonard Pope ... In his only year as a starter, he caught 30 passes for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns ... A nice combination of athleticism and leaping ability ... Has the upper-body strength to get a push off the line ... Has the quickness off the line to be a problem down the seam of the defense ... Can play both in-line tight end and H-back ... Will lay out to catch a poorly thrown pass ... Has a serious problem with drops and was benched for a time during his senior season for dropping too many balls ... Lets passes get too close to his body ... Doesn't push defenders backwards when blocking and looks more to just hold his ground ... Had a horrible Combine during the position drills and seemed a bit intimidated ... Ran a 4.82 40 at the Combine with 19 reps of 225 pounds, a 34-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump.

PROJECTION: Has all the measurables teams look for in a tight end, but anyone who has seen a lot of film of him knows that he's been an underachiever who doesn't step up big. That could drop him into the third round if not the second day of the draft.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Gijon Robinson, Missouri Western State (6-0¾, 249)
Fourth-year senior ... Three-year starter who caught 80 passes for 1,019 yards and 7 touchdowns in that span ... Has very good upper-body strength and can shield off defenders as a blocker ... Has the speed to get separation in the passing game ... Has a mean streak and seems to like making contact, even when has the ball ... Has experience as an in-line tight end, H-back and fullback ... Is a little too short to be the prototypical NFL TE/H-back ... Making the jump from Division II to the pros is a huge leap and will need time to adjust ... Needs to work on keeping his blocks in the running game ... Doesn't get in and out of his routes with authority ... Doesn't change gears when running pass routes ... Ran a 4.71 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump.

PROJECTION: One of the few Division II players invited to the Combine, Robinson has the potential to be a playmaker at the next level. But his lack of size and tangible big-game experience will keep him on the board a long time.

Michael Allan, Whitworth (6-6, 255)
Fifth-year senior who was a non-scholarship walk-on as a freshman ... Played basketball at Whitworth as a sophomore and junior ... A three-year starter who caught 118 passes for 2,202 yards and 29 touchdowns ... A huge big-play threat who averaged more than 19 yards per reception in 2005 when he scored 15 touchdowns and almost 21 yards per catch as a senior when he caught 53 passes for 1,100 yards and 9 TDs ... Named to the Associated Press Little All-America Team for the second straight year ... Three-time first-team All-Northwest Conference selection ... The only Division III player invited to the Combine ... A huge athlete who runs very good routes and makes big plays all over the field ... Was used extensively in the red zone where his height and leaping ability made him a big threat ... Gets a lot of yardage after the catch ... Some of his stats are discounted by some scouts because they came against Division III competition ... Doesn't have great upper-body strength or blocking skills and was used more like an Antonio Gates-type ... Seemed tentative and a bit nervous competing with the big boys at the postseason all-star games and didn't play particularly well at the Intajuice North-South Classic ... Ran a 4.73 40 at the Combine with 19 reps, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-3 broad jump (the best leap of any tight end at the Combine).

PROJECTION: Clearly a project, Allan has never faced top competition and was a man among boys at the D-III level. Likely to go off the board in the fifth or sixth round, but whoever takes him will do so knowing that he might be a two- or three-year project that may never see the glory days.

Clark Harris, Rutgers (6-5¾, 256)
Fifth-year senior ... Had shoulder surgery in early 2003 and suffered a knee injury during spring ball of the same year that limited him for his freshman season ... A three-year starter from that point on, he started every game he played catching 125 passes for 1,802 yards and 11 touchdowns ... Uses his hands well to keep passes away from his body ... Reads defenses well ... Was a long-snapper in high school and college, which is a resume-builder when prospects are viewed as essentially equal in other respects ... Can take big hits and not drop passes ... Doesn't play as strong as his lifting would indicate at the Combine ... Not a complete tight end in that he doesn't commit himself to the grinding aspect of being a run blocker or pass protector and is more interested in being a receiver ... Has short arms for a man of his height, which allow DEs to toss him aside because he has to get too close when making post-snap contact ... Ran a 4.78 40 at the Combine, with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump.

PROJECTION: His athletic limitations may catch up with him on draft weekend. His only hope is to find an offense that needs a receiver-only H-back in certain formations because he won't hold up as an in-line tight end that is expected to block. For that reason, he will fall into the later rounds.

Derek Schouman, Boise State (6-2, 244)
Fourth-year senior ... Two-year starter who caught 46 passes for 453 yards and 5 touchdowns in that span ... Has an injury history, including a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee and a couple of concussions ... Is married ... Had one of the best Combine performances of any player that came to Indianapolis ... Despite being a little on the short side, he has a nasty streak and likes to finish off blocks up to and occasionally after the whistle ... Can hold his blocks with anyone ... Doesn't have the best hands and will drop catchable passes ... Wasn't used very much at BSU, catching just 78 passes for 1,009 yards over a four-year span ... Doesn't get a lot of yards after the catch and was used primarily as a run-down-the-field-and-turn-around receiver ... Wowed some scouts at the Combine with 27 reps of 225 pounds (second-best among TEs), a 37½ inch vertical jump (tied for first) and a 10-2 broad jump (second).

PROJECTION: He made a name for himself at the Combine by showing the athletic ability teams look for in Day 2 picks. He may vault past several players listed above him here as a result but still looks to be a project pick in the fifth or sixth round.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Cody Boyd, Washington State (6-7½, 249)
Tyler Ecker, Michigan (6-5½, 245)
Joe Newton, Oregon State (6-7¼, 256)
Jonny Harline, BYU (6-3¾, 245)
Anthony Pudewell, Nevada, (6-4, 252)
Kevin Boss, Western Oregon (6-7, 252)


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