NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

This year's tight end class may be thin but that's not the fault of Maryland product Vernon Davis.  Davis, 6'3 ¼", 255 pounds, is a freakish prospect who will be a top 10 selection come April 29. 

Davis declared himself eligible for the draft after a dominating junior season.  He averaged 17.1 yards on his 51 receptions and Davis' 871 yards were the fifth largest total in school history.  Vernon wowed scouts in Indianapolis, racing to a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, benching 225 pounds 33 times, and then jumping 42 inches.  Davis uses that leaping ability to hop over helpless defenders and his speed is uncanny.  His blocking needs a little work but even Superman had Kryptonite. 

"I am excited to say, I will be in New York. I was invited to the Draft and am bringing the family – the extended family," wrote Pope on NFLPlayers.com.  "I will have a whole lot of support and encouragement with me: Mom, Dad, and both sides' families."

Most draft experts expect Georgia's Leonard Pope to become the second tight end selected.  The 6'7 7/8", 258-pound Pope is a huge target with long arms and could become a tremendous pro.  Pope saw his production increase in each of his three seasons in Georgia.  As a junior, Pope caught 39 balls and scored four times.  He weights 250 pounds and will probably add a few more before training camp.    

UCLA was prolific offensively last fall and Marcedes Lewis was an integral part of that Bruin attack.  Lewis' senior stats included 58 receptions, 741 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He doesn't own the speed of Davis or Pope, but Lewis is a good athlete who actually received a number of D-1 basketball scholarship offers coming out of high school.

Anthony Fasano departed Notre Dame following a successful junior season.  Fasano, 6'4 1/8", 259 pounds, has terrific hands and is a good blocker.  He won't be used to stretch the field but Fasano is a dependable receiver.  He averaged 12.1 yards per reception at Notre Dame and totaled eight touchdowns.

Colorado received consistent production from the tight end position as Joe Klopfenstein posted 33 catches in each of the past two seasons.  The 6'5 ¾", 255-pound Klopfenstein possesses good speed and averaged 12.5 yards per reception in '05. 

If you watched the Rose Bowl, then you saw Texas TE David Thomas make catch after catch in the Longhorns' National Championship upset over USC.  The 6'3 1/8", 252-pound Thomas, a favorite of QB Vince Young, made 10 catches on the night in helping Texas consistently move the chains.  He offsets a lack of physical tools with character.  Thomas, who caught 50 balls last season, could be a Day One selection.

Southern Cal TE Dominique Byrd, slowed by injuries throughout his collegiate career, is also a third round candidate.  Byrd's most productive season was 2004 when he registered 37 receptions for 384 yards and scored three touchdowns. 

Looking for a sleeper?  How about Tony Scheffler?  The Western Michigan product averaged 55 receptions and 620 receiving yards over the past two seasons.  This is an athletic player who has experience returning kicks and also played outfield for the Bronco baseball team. 

Other Notables
T.J. Williams (6'2 ¼", 256, N.C. State): Three-year starter had 36 receptions his senior season.

Tim Day (6'3 ¼", 256, Oregon): Didn't have a big senior season, but Day made second team all-conference in 2004 and added honorable mention all-Pac-10 honors in '03. 

Owen Daniels (6'3 ¼", 250, Wisconsin): A good receiving prospect who tore the ACL in his left knee on two separate occasions.  Daniels scored a career-high three touchdowns in last season's 65-0 trashing of Temple.

Charles Davis (6'5 ¼", 260, Purdue): Davis, a good sized prospect, also played some basketball with the Boilermakers.  He earned Academic All-Big 10 honors in both 2003 and '04.

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