POSITION OVERVIEW: With the proliferation of the West Coast Offense throughout the NFL, the need for athletic tight ends in the mold of former WCO kingpins Brent Jones and Mark Chmura becomes a must. While more and more teams have adapted the WCO in recent years, few of them have adequately put the tight end position in place to make the short passing game more effective.
That may change this season. This year's tight end crop is viewed as the deepest in several years and, while the Vikings may not be in the market for a TE since re-signing Byron Chamberlain and shifting Jimmy Kleinsasser over to a TE-H-back hybrid, it won't prevent a lot of teams from hitting the tight end in the early rounds of the draft, with a pair likely gone by the latter stages of the first round.
THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Jeremy Shockey, Miami, 6-5, 245 — A third-year junior who went unrecruited by major schools, came to Miami after one year at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M...As a backup in 2000, he caught 21 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns...As a starter last year, he was an All-Big East selection with 40 catches for 519 yards and seven touchdowns...Excellent receiver who was a former WR and has the size to fight with linebackers over the middle...On a team with a lot of weapons, Miami made sure he got the ball at critical points in the game...Doesn't have big or powerful legs, which will hurt his blocking ability...Added weight and strength as a junior to make himself a commodity...Will never be a great blocker, so will have to rely on pass-catching ability. PROJECTION: He has all the ability to be a Pro Bowler, but it will be as a receiver in a team that uses a West Coast system. Otherwise, he'll get beat up on the line of scrimmage. He should be the first TE off the board, maybe as early as No. 15 to the Giants.
Daniel Graham, Colorado, 6-3, 245 — Son of Tom Graham, who was a linebacker for the Denver Broncos...Fifth-year senior, who has started the last three years...In the last two seasons, he caught 84 passes for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns...Two-time All-Big 12, All-American last season and winner of John Mackey Award in 2001, given to best tight end in college football...A tremendous receiver who can be lined up in the slot as an extra wide receiver...Big hands that don't drop many passes...Big target over the middle and isn't afraid to take a big hit and make a catch...Impressive runner after receptions, he is hard for safeties to bring down in coverage...Has improved his game every season...Has good speed and has been compared to Eagles Pro Bowler Chad Lewis...Not a great blocker, but showed he could handle line blocking at the Senior Bowl...A little smaller than most tight ends and not a flashy receiver. PROJECTION: Has an experience edge over Shockey and may be a better pro, but will likely be drafted second among tight ends, maybe at No. 20 by Seattle.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Jerramy Stevens, Washington, 6-7, 262 — Monstrous size, much bigger than Shockey or Graham, and more of a NFL prototype tight end...Fourth-year junior who came to Huskies as a quarterback...Three-year starter who missed much of 2001 season with a foot injury after catching 64 passes for 865 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons...After disappointing junior year, he came on strong when he returned late, catching nine passes in the Holiday Bowl for 109 yards and one TD vs. a tough Texas defense...Huge target and long arms surpass the ideal size for an NFL TE...Isn't an overpowering blocker, but is as good as the other top tight ends in this class, and scouts believe he can get better...Off-field problems — assault and battery arrest, marijuana possession, hit-and-run car accident and accusations of rape — will take him totally off the board of some teams. PROJECTION: If you look at the numbers and the dimensions, he would be the first TE off the board. However, his baggage won't fit in the overhead bin. It must be stowed, so any team taking him realizes they're taking a chance on a great player who could be a ticking time bomb.
Doug Jolley, BYU, 6-4, 250 — Father Gordon Jolley was an NFL offensive lineman with the Seahawks and Lions...Fifth-year senior who came to BYU as a quarterback...Never was a full-time starter but was still named First Team All-Mountain West last year by catching 32 passes for 497 yards and seven TDs...Good size and speed combination...Has had trouble gaining and sustaining weight...Isn't viewed as a big downfield threat like a Tony Gonzalez type...As developmental skills continue to improve, he has more upside than a lot of the tight ends in this group. PROJECTION: Teams will be drafting on potential, not what he has shown at BYU. He could slide into the second round but ideally will be drafted by a team with an aging veteran that can teach him the ropes.
Matt Schobel, TCU, 6-4, 259 — The younger brother of DE Aaron Schobel, taken on the second round by Buffalo last year...Fourth-year senior who enrolled at Texas A&M to play quarterback and had to sit out a year after transferring...Played tight end, wide receiver and H-back in 2001, but injuries kept him out of half the team's games, finishing with 19 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns...Has good size and the downfield instincts of a wide receiver...Getting better as a blocker, but to be an NFL starter he must get better...Lacks a lot of experience, having never been a full-time starter in college. PROJECTION: May be better suited as an H-back, but has the versatility — including time as a holder for field goals — that could make him more marketable than tight ends with more time in. Likely a third-rounder.
Terry Jones, Alabama, 6-3, 266 — Father Terry Sr. played for the Green Bay Packers for eight seasons...Fourth-year senior who saw starting time as a true freshman, where his dad is strength and conditioning coach...Missed most of his junior year after tearing his left ACL...Huge body allows him to be an effective blocker...Catches the ball well, but wasn't used as a receiver very much in his college career...Balls thrown to him have to be on target, because he doesn't make very good route adjustments...Knocks people over once he makes a catch. PROJECTION: Worked as hard as any player could after tearing his ACL and, while his durability is a question, his work ethic isn't. He could be a third-rounder and has the toughness to adapt to the challenges of the NFL.
Justin Peelle, Oregon, 6-4, 251 — Recruited by a lot of colleges to play linebacker...Fifth-year senior...As a redshirt freshman sustained a kneecap injury that ended his season with surgery...Two-year starter and All-Pac 10 TE last year...In two years of full-time play, caught 54 passes for 831 yards and 13 TDs, including nine touchdowns last year...Became a favorite target of Joey Harrington last year...Has added both bulk and strength the last two years...Solid receiver over the middle who isn't afraid to mix it up...A little undersized and looks to have added as much bulk as he's going to be able to...Seen primarily as a pass-catching tight end. PROJECTION: He will benefit from so many teams scouting Harrington and, in the process, getting to see him. He has the chance to be a solid tight end in the Byron Chamberlain mold, except his size limitations may hurt him and drop him late in the third round or maybe to the second day of the draft.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Tracey Wistrom, Nebraska, 6-4, 241
Randy McMichael, Georgia, 6-3, 242
Darnell Sanders, Ohio State, 6-5, 265
Chris Baker, Michigan State, 6-3, 260
Derek Smith, Kentucky, 6-5, 265
Robert Royal, LSU, 6-4, 250
Keith Heinrich, Sam Houston State, 6-6, 254
Chris Luzar, Virginia, 6-7, 265
Ryan Hannam, Northern Iowa, 6-3, 251
VU Draft Profiles: TE
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