The longest day of the combine takes place between the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. This might wind up being the best tight end draft class we have ever seen. That’s not a joke either. 10 of the 14 guys who ran 40-yard dashes ran faster than 4.70 which shows how athletic this group is as a whole. Could we see three tight ends sneak into the first round? Having said that let’s take a look at my initial thoughts on the group as a whole at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
It’s hard to ignore O.J. Howard. This guy literally resembles a statue and is a complete tight end. He showed good blocking form in the bad drills and performed very well in that department at Alabama. He ripped out 22 bench press reps at 225 which shows his power. After putting on a clinic at the Senior Bowl, Howard may have moved into top 10 conversation at the combine. He ran a 4.51 – 40 time at 6’6″, 251. Do people realize how absurd that is! I thought he caught the ball really well which was originally a concern because Alabama simply doesn’t throw very often. What might be more impressive is he ranked near the top of the list in all the cone drills too.
Talk about another guy that boosted his draft stock at the Senior Bowl, I think Evan Engram moved into the first round. His 4.42 – 40 time is faster than most receivers. At 6’3″, 234, you hope he can become the sort of Jordan Reed type of tight end. Are those guys worth a first round pick? South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett comes in the same sort of mold running a 4.62. He didn’t run as fast but show a ton of lower body explosion as a top performer in the vertical jump (37.5 inches), broad jump (126 inches), and cone drills.
Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges also is a catch-first tight end. He is a former quarterback but ran a 4.57 and set a new combine record for best broad jump every by a tight end (134 inches). He also jumped 39 inches at the vertical which won’t even be topped by most of the defensive backs. The downside to his day was he struggled to make some routine catches and displayed horrible technique blocking. Trust me it was downright ugly.
Miami’s David Njoku had a nice day but he didn’t look nearly as dynamic as he did when I watched his games. He averaged 17.2 yards per reception but only ran 4.64. At 6’4″, 246 that is still a very good run but didn’t look nearly as good in a loaded tight end class. His athleticism was on display jumping 37.5 inches in the vertical jump and 133 inches in the broad jump. Miami has produced some great tight end in the past including Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen I just wouldn’t take him in the first round.
Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett dropped a ton of passes in the drills which surprised me because he ran his routes very crisply. I’m not sure why he didn’t run either which could bother some people. He also showed better than average form blocking but probably falls into the 4th round range in a loaded tight end group.
A couple small school tight ends also really caught my eye in a good way. Eric Saubert from Drake caught the ball a lot better than he did at the East-West game and showed some elite route runner traits. At 6’5″, 253, Saubert has the size and speed to get open. I just couldn’t figure out why he didn’t run his 40. Adam Shaheen may have been more impressive. When you look at him he sort of resembles that Gronkowski build as a huge presence. The Ashland product measures in at 6’6″, 278 and ran a 4.79 – 40 time which is outstanding for his size. He will get open with his size and power ripping out 24 bench press reps.
*Michael Roberts, Jeremy Sprinkle, and Jonnu Smith all competed at the Senior Bowl where more information can be seen in those archives.
*Jake Butt from Michigan didn’t compete as he is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in the final game of 2016.
Top 5 Tight End Rankings:
- O.J. Howard (Alabama)
- Evan Engram (Ole Miss)
- Adam Shaheen (Ashland)
- David Njoku (Miami)
- Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech)