NFL Draft 2008: Top Ten Tight Ends

Chris Steuber shares his early-season picks of the top college athletes who could be in the mix for the 2008 NFL Draft. Find out who you should be keeping an eye on as the college football season progresses!

1. Chase Coffman (6-foot-6, 245-pounds), Missouri (Jr.)

Coffman is the best tight end in the country and he is only a junior still learning the game. Coffman combines size, speed, strength, and soft hands that make him a vital part of the Missouri offensive attack. Coffman, who stars with Missouri's other top tight end, senior Martin Rucker, totaled 58 receptions for 638 yards and nine touchdowns in 2006. Not only is he an excellent receiver, but Coffman has developed his game as a blocker. He is one of the best on the team as he won the Tigers' 2006 Hammer Award that goes to the player with the most big blocks during a season.

2. John Carlson (6-foot-6, 259-pounds), Notre Dame (Sr.)

A fifth year senior, Carlson brings leadership and consistency to an offense. He is an excellent athlete and played basketball for the Irish as a freshman, but has since made football his priority. He uses his body very well and is an excellent blocker. He emerged as one of college football's best tight ends in 2006 and he's ready to take his game to a higher level in 2007. However, the quarterback situation in South Bend will likely end up in the hands of a youngster, and Carlson's offensive production may suffer a bit. Overall, he's an outstanding tight end who shouldn't get overlooked due to inconsistent quarterback play. Last season, Carlson recorded 47 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns for the Irish.

Travis Beckum
Doug Benc/Getty

3. Travis Beckum (6-foot-4, 224-pounds), Wisconsin (Jr.)

Beckum is the best receiving tight end in the country. He's got smooth skills and excellent hands that make him a threat at any time on the football field. At 224-pounds, Beckum doesn't have adequate size for a tight end, therefore he struggles as a blocker. Still maturing as a player, he's entering his junior season with Wisconsin and there's a lot of hype surrounding the 20-year old after he amassed 61 receptions for 903 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore.

4. Martin Rucker (6-foot-6, 255-pounds), Missouri (Sr.)

Missouri has the best tight end combination in the country, featuring Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. Rucker has all the tools of becoming an elite tight end at the next level. He's an excellent blocker and has great hands. He creates mismatches on the field with the opposition with his big frame, and he's a reliable intermediate route-runner with the ability to get vertical. As a sophomore, Rucker totaled 47 receptions for 567 yards and a touchdown. And as a junior he recorded 53 receptions for 511 yards and five touchdowns. Consistency is key for a tight end, and Rucker demonstrates that quality to the fullest.

5. Fred Davis (6-foot-4, 260-pounds), USC (Sr.)

Davis is a steady tight end who works hard and plays well in the USC offense. USC has a lot of explosive playmakers in their offense and they don't utilize their tight ends like most other teams in the country. Davis is a major talent at the position, but when you have elite running backs and wide receivers, the demand is much higher to get them the ball. In 2006, he managed to haul in 38 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. With players like Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith gone from the USC lineup and now in the NFL, the field should open up for Davis and his production should increase in 2007.

6. Shawn Nelson (6-foot-5, 242-pounds), Southern Mississippi (Jr.)

Entering his third year as the starting tight end at Southern Miss, Nelson isn't a household name, but he's as productive as any tight end in the country. An elite weapon as a receiver, Nelson is the ultimate mismatch on the field. But he's still developing his overall game and needs to improve his blocking technique. Nelson's got a big body and is as aggressive and physical a receiver as there is in college football. Despite battling through a fractured hand and a sprained ankle in 2006, he still managed to play in all 14 games for the Golden Eagles. Nelson is a consistent receiver, posting 35 receptions for 540 yards and five touchdowns in 2005, and 36 receptions for 506 yards and three touchdowns in 2006.

Martellus Bennett
David J. Phillips/AP

7. Martellus Bennett (6-foot-7, 248-pounds), Texas A&M (Jr.)

A tremendous athlete with a two-sport background, Bennett played basketball and football for the Aggies in 2005 and 2006 but decided to give basketball up this season to concentrate on football. With football as his first priority, Bennett is prime to make a major impact this season for Texas A&M. Only 20-years old, he is still learning the game and has a lot of room for improvement. He uses his big frame to his advantage and is a mismatch over the middle. Bennett has to develop proper blocking technique and show more explosion off the line of scrimmage. In 2006, he caught 38 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns.

8. Dustin Keller (6-foot-4, 240-pounds), Purdue (Sr.)

A player who's developed his game more than any other tight end in college football, Dustin Keller has come from obscurity to emerge as a complete player. He's always been a good blocker, but his game as a receiver wasn't very productive. In his first two seasons with Purdue, Keller only managed 18 receptions for 230 yards and five touchdowns. Last season, Keller more than tripled his receptions (56) and yardage (771) and became a receiving threat for the Boilermakers offense.

9. Darius Hill (6-foot-6, 233-pounds), Ball State (Jr.)

Many college football fans have never heard of Darius Hill. He's a young player who's still developing physically, but athletically he's a major talent. As a freshman in 2005, he was still learning the college game.  But as a sophomore in 2006, he showed himself as a playmaker by managing 42 receptions for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hill is still developing his overall game, especially as a blocker, but as his body matures and starts to fill out he will become more confident in his ability to handle himself in the trenches.

10. Jacob Tamme (6-foot-5, 240-pounds), Kentucky (Sr.)

Tamme is destined to have a breakout season in 2007. He has a lot of talent, but just hasn't been able to put it together. He has one of the best quarterbacks in the country, Andre Woodson, at the helm, but as of yet he hasn't been very productive statistically. Tamme is considered to be more of a pass-receiving tight end, rather than a blocking tight end. He's going to have to become more physical at the line of scrimmage and help protect the quarterback at the next level. In 2006, Tamme had 32 receptions for 386 yards and two touchdowns. In an offense that likes to pass the ball, he should get more touches this season.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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