NFL Combine TE analysis

The annual NFL combine usually sets Sunday aside for the quarterbacks and wide receivers. This year there was a twist as the tight ends also took part in the pass-catching drills. Here is an in-depth look at the tight ends after the stopwatches were put away.<p>

As has been the case every year, this is the hardest working group of players and it is rare any prospect leaves the field not dripping in sweat. In somewhat of a disappointment, scouts did not implement pass blocking drills for these prospects, so you never really got a good idea about their feet or abilities to shuffle and slide.

While there were several nice performances, no one stood out or really improved their draft grade.

Dan Curley of Eastern Washington is a fine athlete who ran excellent routes and displays speed. A hard worker, Curley needs a lot of improvement on his overall game. He lacked balance, did a lot of body catching and showed himself to be just an average receiver. That said, Curley offers a lot of tools to work with.

Mississippi State's Donald Lee had one of the better sessions of the afternoon. He practiced with speed, caught the ball well and displays nice overall strength. His route running must improve but it was a good effort with positive results.

An inconsistent effort is the best way to describe Robert Johnson's day. The Auburn junior is an awesome specimen on the field and easy to pick out. Athletic, he was fluid and smooth moving around the field and made several tough acrobatic catches. Seemingly going 75% at times on the dome turf, Johnson improved his overall focus and details of the game. All afternoon he'd make one great play then look rather ordinary for the next two.

Mike Pinkard caught the ball well all day and looks like a nice athlete. Lacking a sense of timing, he was not always ready to catch the pass and did a lot of fumbling around.

Gabriel Reid, the other tight end from BYU, had an excellent session. He ran good routes, displayed soft, consistent hands and caught the ball well all afternoon. Reid also showed the ability to contort and make the one handed stab. One more thing; he did a fine job long snapping. Reid really improved his draft ranking and outplayed his mush more heralded teammate, Spencer Nead.

Rutger's John L Smith practiced with great speed, ran terrific routes and caught everything thrown in his direction. Factor in 26 reps on the bench and a 4.67 hand-timed forty and Smith improved his grade by at least 30-45 slots.

Aaron Walker consistently caught the ball well but must improve his route running.

After not taking part in the forty Bennie Joppru caught the ball well and also had a nice session long snapping.

Washington's Kevin Ware is a good athlete with some strength but dropped a few passes, ran sloppy routes and proved he needs a good amount of work.

Oregon junior George Wrighster is a fluid, smooth athlete and natural receiver. He extends, adjusts and can pluck the ball out of the air, but looked very small compared to the rest of the tight ends on the field.

Another junior, Jason Witten of Tennessee, may not be the swiftest or quickest but is a terrific football player with strong hands, a good sense of timing and excellent focus. Slow and a poor route runner, Witten will be downgraded accordingly due to a lack of pure speed but gave everyone the idea he'd start as a rookie.

Morgan State's Visanthe Shiancoe had a fine athletic workout displaying both strength and speed, but needs a lot of work on his pass catching skills.

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