INDIANAPOLIS – Most media analysts will say that this year's tight end crop isn't strong, but I believe there is plenty of talent available that can come in and make an impact in the NFL. Whether you're looking for a classic in-line player who can block and catch passes over the middle or more athletic receivers who can play in space, this class has plenty of options. Use this preview as a cheat sheet for today's action (4 PM on NFL Network) to understand which drills are most important throughout the workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. For a full explanation of each category, jump down to the bottom of the piece.
Top of the heap: Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
There is a lot of debate about who the top tight end is in this class with Kmet, Dayton's Adam Trautman, and Florida Atlantic's Harrison Bryant all in the discussion. At this point, though, Kmet appears to be appearing in most first-round mock drafts. The well-rounded junior started just one year for the Irish, but his game translates well to the NFL.
Workout warrior: Hunter Bryant, Washington
A space player for the Huskies who spent most of his time lined up in the slot or as a wing, Bryant is basically an oversized receiver at 6-2, 239 pounds with speed down the seam and natural fluidity in and out of breaks. He should test very well.
Off the radar: Stephen Sullivan, LSU
There's more attention being paid toward Randy Moss' son, Thaddeus, who also hails from LSU, but don't forget about Sullivan. A longtime receiver who started a bunch of games for the Tigers over the last few years, Sullivan (6-5, 245 pounds) has the ability to be a field stretcher with his long, athletic frame.
Stopwatch shocker: Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
Hopkins caught 130 passes for Purdue over the course of his career and was first-team All-Big Ten this past fall, but people aren't talking enough about his athletic ability. The senior is extremely fluid and comfortable in and out of breaks, and his ball skills are outstanding. He should fare well in Indy this week.
Will kill the drills: Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
The John Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in all of college football this past season, Bryant is a bit on the smaller side, but he has very good hands and looks crisp when he's asked to cut and change direction, which will look good when he's running routes on air. I think he'll look great in blocking drills as well. Bryant is more violent and urgent in the run game than people give him credit for.
Trust the tape: Thaddeus Moss, LSU
People see the son of Hall of Fame wideout Randy Moss and expect a high-level athlete with great upside in the pass game. After all, Moss set LSU records this year at the tight end position from a production standpoint. In a way, though, his playing style is more of the opposite. Moss is a really fun blocker who gets after people in the run game with the ability to be a serviceable pass catcher. Don't knock Moss for a subpar workout, because his game is built on toughness and grit.
Most productive college player: Adam Trautman, Dayton
No tight end in this class has more career catches (178) than Trautman. Only five tight ends drafted in the last decade can claim that feat, and one of them is Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (198). Trautman does everything well. He will be in the discussion to be one of the first tight ends off the board in April.
One-year wonder: Devin Asiasi, UCLA
Asiasi began his career at Michigan but made the transition to UCLA to play for former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. A thick prospect at 279 pounds, Asiasi started just one season for the Bruins, but is a player seemingly on the rise in media circles.
Best pro comparison: Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati
Deguara is a fun player to study on film because of his combination of athleticism and toughness. When I look at his body type, I'm reminded of former South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett, who was a Day 2 selection of the Los Angeles Rams. Everett tested extremely well at the Combine. Can Deguara follow suit?
Best story: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
A lanky tight end with position versatility, Okwuegbunam was on my radar since his redshirt freshman season when he led the entire country in touchdowns by tight ends. Fast forward a couple of years, and the junior is one of the more intriguing options at the position. Okwuegbunam, whose parents immigrated from Nigeria, is a very accomplished student and has big plans beyond his football career.
Small-school standout: Charlie Taumoepeau, Portland State
Taumoepeau was a productive player for the last three seasons on campus for Portland State and averaged an astounding 16.0 yards per catch over his career, showcasing his ability to get down the seam and make plays. The senior has a solid all-around game and, even though he's undersized, should factor into an NFL tight end room.
Philly connection: Colby Parkinson, Stanford
Is Parkinson exactly like Eagles (and former Stanford) tight end Zach Ertz? Of course not. Standing at 6-7, 251 pounds, he's a lanky receiver with the ability to make plays over the middle of the field while also chipping in as a blocker. Stanford continues to churn out tight ends for the NFL, and he is the next in line.
Most to prove: Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt
Some analysts regarded Pinkney as the top tight end in the country entering the year. He's a solid player with great ball skills and competent blocking ability, but the film begs questions about his overall speed and athletic profile. He can quell a lot of those concerns with a good performance in the athletic testing portion of the workout today.
Position Drill To Watch
Like the receivers, the tight ends will run through the gauntlet drill, which is one of my favorite things to watch at the Combine, but let's pick something different for the tight ends. These position drills are meant to make these players uncomfortable and, for a lot of these players, blocking is not something they're used to doing.
When these tight ends strike the bags, you want to see explosiveness out of their stance, you want them to knock the bag back, and you want to see active feet and urgency through contact. Ideally, you should be able to hear the "thud" on contact if the microphones are turned up on the field!
|Hand Size||968 (9 3/4")|
|Arm Length||3318 (33 1/8")|
|Wingspan||7958 (79 5/8")|
|Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch)||4.69 seconds|
|Official 40-Time (Laser)||4.75 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.63 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||7.12 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.38 seconds|
The rest of the pack
Jake Breeland (Oregon), Dalton Keene (Virginia Tech), Sean McKeon (Michigan), C.J. O'Grady (Arkansas), Mitchell Wilcox (USF), Charlie Woerner (Georgia), Dominick Wood-Anderson (Tennessee)
Breakdown of the categories
Top of the heap: This is the player who, based on media projections, is at the top of the class and will likely hear his name called first at his position in April.
Workout warrior: This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Off the radar: This is the player who will come out of nowhere to post great numbers in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Stopwatch shocker: This is the player who I expect to perform better in the athletic tests than most in the media predict.
Will kill the drills: This is the player who will look the best in the position-specific drills following the athletic portion of the workout.
Trust the tape: This is the player who I don't expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don't drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
Most productive college player: This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or over the course of his entire career.
One-year wonder: This is the player who performed at a high level in college, but only for a limited time on campus.
Best pro comparison: Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at his NFL future through my eyes.
Best story: All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in his career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Small-school standout: This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a potentially bright future in the NFL.
Philly connection: This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on.
Most to prove: This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it's during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
Mr. Average: We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks, but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" time in the 40-yard dash? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
The rest of the pack: A list of everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order).
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.