Having a tight end that's a touchdown threat really opens up an offense and spreads out a defense. If the tight end is effective in the flat, over the middle, or downfield, and has a nose for the endzone, it gives a quarterback an extra weapon to take advantage of. These players are hot commodities in today's NFL.
Shockingly, tight ends that have a knack for finding the endzone can be found on Day Two of the draft. Here are a few that have had some success: Jay Novacek (6th-round pick by the Cardinals in 1985), Shannon Sharpe (7th-round pick by the Broncos in 1990), and Ben Coates (5th-round pick by the Patriots in 1991).
The 2008 draft offers some quality tight end touchdown threats on Day One, but it's the Day Two prospects that will have scouts salivating to find the next Sharpe or Coates. Here's a list of five tight ends who can find pay dirt:
Dustin Keller (Sr.), Purdue
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 240
Keller is an athletic tight end with a great deal of potential. He's quick off the snap, delivers an initial punch against the opposition, moves well laterally to break off his block, and gets in an offensive position. He has good straight-line speed and is a threat downfield. He's a focused receiver who keeps his eyes on the ball before making a move. Keller has always been a good blocker, but he's really developed his game as a receiver over the last two seasons. In 2006, Keller had 56 receptions for 771 yards and four touchdowns, more than tripling his offensive output from his sophomore campaign. Through 12 games this season, Keller has 61 receptions for 731 yards and six touchdowns. Keller's improvement has done wonders for his draft status, raising him from a late-round selection to a third-round prospect.
Kellen Davis (Sr.), Michigan State
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 246
Davis is a big target who possesses great size, good speed, and excellent hands. He runs good routes, displays great focus, and makes difficult catches in traffic. He adjusts well to overthrown passes and uses his frame and athleticism to come down with the ball. After a few disappointing seasons with the Spartans, Davis has finally lived up to the promise this season. Not only has he been a reliable target for QB Brian Hoyer, but Davis has also been a red zone target for MSU. He has five touchdown receptions this season and is coming off of his best performance of the season against Penn State where he hauled in four receptions for 104 yards. Davis has a lot of upside and is a likely fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Gary Barnidge (Sr.), Louisville
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 234
Louisville's Gary Barnidge
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Barnidge is a talented tight end with receiver-like qualities. He's an effective pass-catching tight end with a good feel for the position. He finds holes within the defense, displays a sense of timing, and has natural hands. He plays with awareness and remains focused throughout the game. He runs solid routes and extends to make the reception away from his body. Barnidge has been a productive performer for Louisville's offense. During Week 2 against Middle Tennessee, Barnidge had a career game, hauling in four receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. In 11 games this season, Barnidge has 48 catches for 590 yards and seven touchdowns. His ability to break loose in the middle and downfield makes him an attractive option in the draft. He can be had in the fourth to fifth round.
Kolo Kapanui (Sr.), West Texas A&M
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 255
Kapanui is an interesting prospect who has great skills as a receiver. He moves well laterally, displays good speed downfield, and has soft hands. He runs hard routes, looks passes in, and makes touch catches in traffic. Kapanui started his career at USC before transferring to Division II West Texas A&M after his sophomore season. Last season, as a junior, he struggled with injuries and only played in eight games. This season, he's finally healthy and is showing his true talents, posting 31 receptions for 392 yards and seven touchdowns. Kapanui is a solid developmental prospect who will get consideration in rounds five through seven next April.
Adam Bishop (Sr.), Nevada
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 245
Bishop is a quality all-around football player who offers a team plenty of versatility. He has good speed, soft hands, and has the ability to be a big-play threat. He has good body control and is able to shield away defenders to make tough catches in traffic. He runs well laterally and adjusts well to errant throws. Bishop is a talented player who has been on a touchdown tear this season. He only has 14 receptions for the Wolfpack this season, but seven of those receptions have been for a touchdown. In his previous three seasons with Nevada, Bishop only managed one touchdown each year. He's been primarily used as a vertical threat down the middle, but he has the ability to be an effective weapon over the middle. Bishop's new-found role as a touchdown threat will help establish his case to be a late-round selection.
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.