2003 NFL Draft: Tight ends rankings

This year's crop of tight ends may not be flashy or possess game-breaking skills, but overall is a group of complete players who are equally adept at blocking as they are at catching the ball. The Insiders draft expert - Tony Pauline - has watched reels of game film on every major tight end eligible for the draft.<p>

The Green Bay Packers probably will be in the hunt for a tight end this off-season because the depth drops off quickly after two-time Pro Bowler Bubba Franks. Tyrone Davis is getting older and David Martin struggled in his second season last year.

Here's a look at the draft's crop of tight ends:

1. Full Name: Jason Witten

School: Tennessee

Ht: 6-4

Wt: 260

40: 4.75

Year: 3Jr

Number: 1

"Formerly a nasty defensive lineman, Jason Witten took his skills, attitude and intellect to the offensive side of the ball and devastated the competition as a blocker and pass catcher," said Pauline. Scouting Report:

The Good: Former defensive lineman quickly becoming a complete tight end in all aspects of the game and turning into a dominant force on the field. Powerful blocker that plays with solid fundamentals, displaying brute strength at the point of attack. Drives defenders off the line blocking for the run or anchors and holds his ground in pass protection. Works to finish his blocks and approaches his assignments with the nastiness of a defender. Consistent pass catcher that continually makes the big reception during the games important moment. Extends his hands and catches the ball away from his frame, takes a pounding yet holds onto the ball. Soft hands and looks the pass in, displaying excellent concentration. Continually finds the open spot on the field, reads the defense and sneaks it down the seam when the opportunity arises. Lays out and makes the difficult grab.

The Bad: Not fast or a player that times well in the forty but then again, always making big plays down the field.

The Skinny: Surging towards the top of the tight end charts. Were it not for the way he runs would be a shoo-in as a top 20 selection next April but more than likely a late first round pick.

Projected order in draft: Middle 2nd round.

2. Full Name: Robert Johnson

School: Auburn Ht: 6-5 Wt: 260 40: 4.87 Year: 3Jr Number: 87

"An indomitable force since stepping on the football field two years ago, all signs are pointing to Robert Johnson being as dominant on the pro level as he's been for the Auburn Tigers. A complete tight end that blocks and catches the ball with equal effectiveness, what is the book on this junior who seemingly is playing his last season on the college level?," Pauline says.

Scouting Report:

The Good: Athletic tight end that has been a force on the football field since he was a freshman. Bends his knees, blocks with leverage and displays outstanding natural strength at the point of attack. Easily removes opponents from the play, getting movement from his run blocks or anchoring in pass protection. Offers his quarterback a big target, extends his hands, adjusting well to the oncoming throw and catches the pass away from his body. Works to make himself an available target, finds the open spot in the defense and occasionally sneaks it down the field. To his credit has turned up the intensity the past season.

The Bad: Not quick, explosive or an athlete that runs well for the stop watch.

The Skinny: His progression as a blocker and increased involvement in the offense makes him a complete tight end. Football skills warrant a first round choice but a poor 40 time makes a mid-second round pick if he enters April's draft.

Projected order in draft: Late 2nd round.

3. Full Name: Dallas Clark

School: Iowa Ht: 6-3 Wt: 232 40: 4.68 Year: 5Sr Number: 44

"One of the toughest and smartest football players in the Big Ten lies on the roster of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Not overly big, fast or explosive, Dallas Clark continually gets the job done catching the ball or works to open holes blocking for the running game," says Pauline.

Scouting Report:

The Good: Tough, hard working tight end reliable in the pinch. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, finds the open spot on the field and works back to the quarterback, making himself an available target. Extends, catches the pass away from his frame, looking the ball into his hands and displays excellent focus/concentration. Runs well laterally, catches the pass in stride, occasionally making the deep reception down the field.

The Bad: Sets up with a wide base and works his blocks but not strong at the point of attack. Lacks quickness off the line and gets no movement from his run blocks.

The Skinny: Would not be considered a top athlete but does not have to be for the position he plays. Tenacity coupled with football intellect could get Clark looks late in the first day when he enters the draft.

Projected order in draft: Late 2nd round.

4. Full Name: Mike Pinkard

School: Arizona St Ht: 6-5 Wt: 254 40: NA Year: 5Sr Number: 86

Projected order in draft: Late 3rd round.

5. Full Name: Bennie Joppru

School: Michigan Ht: 6-5 Wt: 249 40: NA Year: 5Sr Number: 83

Projected order in draft: Middle 4th round.

6. Full Name: Aaron Walker

School: Florida Ht: 6-5 Wt: 255 40: 4.73 Year: 5Sr Number: 82

"Tight end has never been a target used much in past Florida offenses and it's too bad. Aaron Walker is one of the better pass catchers in the nation at the tight end position yet his skills went unused until this season. Still, we took notice of Walker two years ago, personally scouting him against Georgia and like his potential for the next level," Pauline says.

Scouting Report:

The Good: Athletic pass catching tight end that's slowly progressed on the football field. Blocks with leverage, bends his knees and light on his feet. Can shuffle and slide in pass protection and gets his hands into the opponent, keeping them away from the quarterback. Quick and fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, moves well laterally, easily adjusting to the errant throw during his route and catches the pass in stride. For the most part consistent hands and a reliable target. Works hard as both a receiver and blocker.

The Bad: Adequate strength at the point but by no means dominant in his role as a blocker. Productions numbers have never been great, though it could be a result of the prior offensive system which was oriented towards the wide outs.

The Skinny: Turning in a good campaign as a senior and should it continue through the post-season, a solid first day choice.

Projected order in draft: Late 4th round.

7. Full Name: George Wrighster

School: Oregon Ht: 6-4 Wt: 250 40: NA Year: 4Jr Number: 81

Projected order in draft: Late 4th round.

8. Full Name: Mike Seidman

School: UCLA Ht: 6-5 Wt: 254 40: NA Year: 4Sr Number: 18

Projected order in draft: Early 6th round.

9. Full Name: Donald Lee School: Mississippi St Ht: 6-3 Wt: 248 40: 4.83 Year: 4Sr Number: 84

"When one thinks of Mississippi State and the players they've offered to the NFL, those on the defensive side of the ball immediately come to mind as linemen and cover corners from the Bulldogs fill the rosters of pro-teams. The fact is tight end is another area where MSU has given the league quality prospects and Donald Lee could well be the best they've had in a long while," Pauline says.

Scouting Report:

The Good: Tremendous blocking tight end more than adequate as a receiver. Displays all the blocking techniques and skill of a top flight lineman; quick off the snap, breaks down well and plays low with leverage, keeping his knees bent throughout the action. Uses his blocking angles well, solid footwork sliding out to protect the edge and attacks his blocks. Strong at the point, handles opponents and very cognizant of his assignments. Effectively uses his hands to stay off jams releasing into his pass routes, settles into the open spot on the field and comes back to the ball, working to make the reception. Extends his hands, looks the ball in and takes a pounding but holds onto the pass. Strong running after the catch and gives effort in all aspects of his game.

The Bad: Not an agile or flexible athlete, lacks quickness as well as overall speed and effective only a few yards off the line of scrimmage as a receiver.

The Skinny: The kind of player that will be downgraded because of mediocre athletic workouts prior to the draft but will be an immediate and productive starter at the next level for a team that wants there tight end to be a blocker first and receiver second. Worthy of a first day selection next April but probably slips to the second day.

Projected order in draft: Late 6th round.

10. Full Name: Zachary Hilton

School: North Carolina Ht: 6-7 Wt: 255 40: 4.81 Year: 5Sr Number: 86

"Algea Crumpler and Duantae Finger were just a pair of solid tight end prospects the University of North Carolina has offered the past two seasons, with Crumpler now staring for the Atlanta Falcons. Sandwhiched somewhere between there is the newest Tar Heel tight end," Pauline says.

Scouting Report:

The Good: Big bodied tight end and fine athlete for the position. Offers his quarterback a huge target, extending his hands and for the most part, catching the pass away from his frame. Uses his size as an advantage boxing out defenders for the tough grab and out-positioning or out-muscling them for the ball. Displays decent strength at the point and sustains his blocks once engaged with the opponent.

The Bad: Stiff, does not break down well nor does he play with leverage. Also has difficulty adjusting to the errant throw.

The Skinny: Still more athlete than football player to this point and needs a lot of time and reps but mostly, needs to loosen up.

Projected order in draft: Late 6th round.

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