Positional Analysis: Tight Ends

For those NFL teams in desperate need of a starting tight end, the draft pickings are pretty slim. But for the Vikings, who could be a looking for a developmental prospect down the line, there are some decent mid-round options.

Vikings' Tight Ends – Jim Kleinsasser, Jermaine Wiggins, Sean Berton, Jeff Dugan, Richard Angulo, Richard Owens, T.J. Cottrell.

Vikings' Needs – With Jim Kleinsasser and Jermaine Wiggins locked into new contracts in the last two years, the Vikings won't be in search of an immediate starter. They have, however, shown an interest in second-day or free agent prospects that may be able to compete for a roster spot.

Class of 2005 – The tight end position has become one of prominence on draft day in the early rounds. After being relegated to second-tier status on draft for several years, the infusion of West Coast offenses and a talented group of tight end specialists have dotted the first round. In the previous three drafts, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Dallas Clark, Jerramy Stevens and Ben Watson have all been taken in the first round. This year's crop, however, is borderline dismal. Heath Miller is likely the only TE with first-round potential and there could very well only be three or four TEs off the board on the first day. For teams in need, the pressure will be on to move quickly, because the pickings are awfully slim at a position that has been rich in first-round talent in recent years.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Heath Miller, Virginia, 6-4½, 255 –
Fourth-year junior … Three-year starter who caught 144 passes for 1,703 yards and 20 touchdowns … Two-time first-team All-ACC and All-American in 2004 … Won the Mackey Award for the best TE in college football last season … Academic All-American … The most productive TE in the class … Adept at finding the soft spot in the zone and getting open … Runs excellent patterns … A decent blocker who can hold up on running downs … Very intelligent … Doesn't have the lower-body strength to be an every-down NFL tight end … Missed the Combine with a sports hernia injury that required surgery in January, which may have some questioning his durability … Didn't work out at the Combine but runs a 4.66 40 and had a very good Wonderlic score of 39.

PROJECTION: For a team needing a tight end, it might be Miller or nothing. He has the skills to be a first-rounder and, considering the Jets offered Denver's Jeb Putzier a spendy offer sheet, they have clearly demonstrated a need and Miller could be the answer to that problem late in the first round.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Alex Smith, Stanford, 6-4, 258 –
Fifth-year senior … Three-year starter who caught 106 passes for 1,271 yards and eight TDs in that span … His father Edwin played in the NFL with the Broncos … A black belt in Tae Kwon Do … Broke the school record for receptions by a tight end … First-team All-Pac 10 and several All-American notices as a senior … Has long arms … Very solid receiver who rarely drops a catchable ball … Can make the highlight film catch … Has a decent lower boy for maintaining blocks in the running game … Very hard worker … Doesn't make many tacklers miss in the open field … Needs to improve blocking technique … Didn't work out at the Combine but runs a 4.75 40, did 28 reps with 225 pounds and had a Wonderlic score of 32.

PROJECTION: A left knee injury prevented him from showcasing his talent at the Combine, which could hurt him in the long run, but after Miller is gone, he is likely the next to go – probably somewhere in the second round.

Kevin Everett, Miami, 6-4½, 241 – Fourth-year senior who transferred to Miami after two years at Kilgore (Tex.) Junior College … Spent his junior year backing up Kellen Winslow, whom he beat in a practice race … Became the starter last year and caught 23 passes for 310 yards and no TDs … Looks like an adonis … Had a 39-1/2 inch vertical jump his senior year … Makes the difficult catch look routine … Fluid route runner … Drops too many easy passes trying to run before he secures the ball … Raw and inexperienced … Doesn't have prototype NFL lower-body strength … Inconsistent run blocker … Had shoulder surgery in January and was forced to miss the Combine … He runs a 4.75 40 and had a awful Wonderlic score of 12.

PROJECTION: Has plenty of God-given talent, but has never fully applied those skills to become a better football player. He will be a gamble if taken in the second round, but won't make it past the third round because of his big-time potential.

Joel Dreesen, Colorado State, 6-4, 260 – Fifth-year senior … Four-year starter who caught 123 passes for 1,295 yards and 10 touchdowns … First-team All-Mountain West selection as a senior and two-time Academic All-MWC … Has experience as a long snapper … Doesn't drop many passes thrown his way … Has a strong upper body and uses it to neutralize defenders at the point of attack … Doesn't have good lower-body strength and struggles to stop big-time defensive ends … Doesn't pick up a lot of yards after the catch and seems content to corral the ball instead of trying to make plays after the catch … Had a solid Combine effort, running a 4.72 40 with 22 reps of 225 pounds, a 36-inch vertical jump, a 9-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 25.

PROJECTION: He is still likely going to be a Day Two selection, but, after a solid performance at both the Combine and the Senior Bowl, he has a chance to slip into the first day if a team likes what it saw.

Dave Kashetta, Boston College, 6-3, 245 – Fifth-year senior … Started only one year, catching 22 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns … Named first-team All-Big East in 2004 … A strong blocker who has a good upper body … A solid run blocker who seeks people out in the open field … Maintains his blocks when he locks up … Finds the soft spots in zone coverage … Can make catches on the run … Served as a long snapper his final two seasons … Doesn't have NFL-required lower body strength … Doesn't have great speed – he opted not to run at the Combine for fear it could hurt his standing – and his last listed 40 time was an unimpressive 4.91 … Did 22 reps at the Combine with a 34-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 21.

PROJECTION: He needs to refine his technique, but his versatility as a receiver and long snapper should have him off the board somewhere late on Day 1 or early on Day 2.

BEST OF THE REST

Adam Bergen, Lehigh, 6-4½, 249 –
Fourth-year senior who played quarterback in high school … Two-year starter who caught 124 passes for 1,474 yards and 14 TDs in his final two seasons … Two-time first-team All-Patriot League and two-time Division I-AA All-American … Good hands … Productive receiver who became the team's leading passing threat … Is tough and gains everything he can out of every catch … Plays with a bit of mean streak … Doesn't have deep speed down the middle … Needs to add some bulk, especially in his lower body … Ran a 4.65 40 at the Combine, with 25 reps of 225 pounds, a 38-inch vertical jump, a 10-1 broad jump and Wonderlic score of 27.

PROJECTION: He helped his stock with a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game, but is still likely to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick at best.

Bo Sciafe, Texas, 6-2½, 249 – Sixth-year senior who missed time as a true freshman in 1999, redshirted in 2000 after tearing his left ACL and granted a medical redshirt in 2002 … In three healthy seasons, he caught 72 passes for 949 yards and five TDs … First-team All-Big 12 in 2004 … Got some of his speed back as a senior … Adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage … Has good hands and is willing to catch passes over the middle in heavy traffic … Has greatly improved his run blocking in the open field … Durability is a major concern after having two years washed away with injuries … Doesn't have prototype speed … Is a little undersized for NFL TEs … Didn't run at the Combine, but did 24 reps, had a 32-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-6 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 18.

PROJECTION: He could turn out to be a productive H-back if he stays healthy, but his injury concerns will probably drop him into the later rounds.

Billy Bajema, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 259 – Fourth-year senior who played quarterback in high school … Three-year starter who caught 48 passes for 693 yards and four TDs in that span … Four-time Academic All-Big 12 … Has good size and quickness … Is fearless going over the middle to make a key catch … Hard worker in the blocking department … Is not a consistent deep threat over the top … Needs to work a lot more on footwork and coordination when fighting off blocks at the line in the passing game … Doesn't have ideal NFL lower-body strength to consistently maintain leverage on defenders … Drops too many passes … Ran a 4.74 40 at the Combine, with 17 reps of 225 pounds, a 31-1/2 inch vertical jump, a 9-5 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 37 – among the best of all players tested and second among TEs only to Heath Miller.

PROJECTION: He doesn't have a lot of experience and will likely be a late-round selection who will have a chance to make an NFL roster.

Jerome Collins, Notre Dame, 6-4, 267 – Fifth-year senior … Was a victim of his own versatility – came to Notre Dame as a wide receiver, was shifted to outside linebacker in 2001-02 and played defensive end and linebacker in 2003 before being moved to TE last season … Played in every game at TE last year, but caught just six passes for 67 yards and no TDs … Is an excellent special teams player who has shown the versatility to take on whatever role he is called on to do … Unselfish … Has had a vertical jump measured at 38 inches, but didn't do the vertical at the Combine … Very intelligent and picks up assignments very fast … Very limited experience at the position in college, which will make him a project … Needs to work on technique … Ran a 4.71 40 at the Combine with a 9-10 broad jump and a Wonderlic score of 26.

PROJECTION: Has all the needed physical tools to be a NFL tight end, but his lack of experience will likely make him a late-round project at best who could win a roster spot because of his skills playing special teams.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Tony Jackson, Iowa (6-2, 268)
Garrett Cross, California (6-4½, 245)
Steve Fleming, Arizona (6-4½, 267)
Kelly Griffeth, Fort Hayes (Kan.) State (6-5, 284)
Tony Curtis, Portland State (6-5½, 269)
Cody McCarty, TCU (6-4, 263)


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