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NFL Combine: Scouting the Tight Ends
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Ricky Henne’s Take: Last year I sat back and was wowed by a raw prospect out of tiny Louisiana-Lafayette light it up for the tight ends. That young man of course was Ladarius Green, who the Chargers drafted in the fourth round and is now developing behind one of the best to ever play the game in Antonio Gates. So this year while watching the tight ends, I was concentrating on trying to find the next Green rather than focusing in on the top three prospects of Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Gavin Escobar. The one guy who caught not only my attention but the entire Combine’s was Arkansas’ Chris Gragg. He led all at his position in three major categories, running a ridiculously fast 4.50 in the 40-yard dish, posting a vertical of 37.5 inches and leaping 125.0 inches in the broad jump. Gragg is a bit of tweener, measuring in at 6-foot-3, 244-pounds and he has had injury issues during his collegiate career. Still, he proved he is worth a mid-round pick with tremendous upside as a pass catcher with top-flight speed to separate from linebackers in coverage. Another prospect that impressed me that has flown under the radar was Michigan State’s Dion Simms. The guy has a hulking frame and plucked the ball out of the air nicely. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the kid, so I did some research and found out that he only played two games this past year as a senior due to injury after having a monster junior campaign. I think Simms did enough to prove he’s healthy and a worthy pick at some point during the draft, so I’m eager to see where he ends up in April.
Ryan Schuler’s Take: When the tight ends took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium following the offensive linemen at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, everyone’s focus was on the killer E’s: Eifert, Ertz and Escobar. Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, ranked the No. 1 tight end by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, continued to prove he should be the first tight end taken in April’s NFL Draft by outcompeting his two peers in the measurables on Saturday. Eifert ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, outdoing Stanford’s Zach Ertz’s 4.76 time and San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar’s 4.84 mark. Mayock believes Escobar’s disappointing 40 time will cause teams to go back and re-evaluate Escobar’s game tapes. Eifert’s 35.5-inch vertical leap was the second best of all the tight ends, better than Escobar’s 32-inch leap and Ertz’s 30.5-inch mark. To reaffirm his position as the top of the class, Eifert recorded a distance of 9-feet-11-inches in the broad jump, while Escobar jumped 9-feet-6-inches and Ertz jumped 9-feet-3-inches. All three did very well in catching drills, showing fluidity and soft hands running a variety of routes. Though all three came into Saturday relatively close in rankings, Eifert separated himself in my opinion from the other two by running the fastest and jumping the furthest and highest. A darkhorse for the tight end group was Arkansas’ Chris Gragg, who ranked first in the 40-yard dash (4.50 seconds), vertical leap (37.5 inches) and broad jump (125 inches). Gragg’s size and durability - he missed significant time in two of his four seasons at Arkansas - are concerns.
TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES
1. Chris Gragg, Arkansas – 4.50
2. Matt Furstenburg, Maryland – 4.62
3. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio St. – 4.65
4. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – 4.68
5. Vance McDonald, Rice – 4.69
1. Vance McDonald, Rice - 31
2. Zach Ertz, Stanford - 24
T-3. Dion Sims, Michigan St. -22
T-3. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame - 22
T-3. Nick Kasa, Colorado - 22
1. Chris Gragg, Arkansas – 37.5
T-2. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – 35.5
T-2. Matt Furstenburg, Maryland – 35.5
4. Dion Simms, Michigan St. – 35.0
5. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio St. – 34.5
1. Chris Gragg, Arkansas – 125.0
T-2. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – 119.0
T-2. Vance McDonald, Rice – 119.0
T-4. Justice Cunningham, South Carolina – 116.0
T-4. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio St. – 116.0
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – 6.92
2. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State – 7.07
T-3. Zach Ertz, Stanford – 7.08
T-3. Chris Gragg, Arkansas – 7.08
T-3. Vance McDonald, Rice – 7.08