Ed. note—The following is the third installment in a nine-part series previewing the 2006 NFL draft. This installment features tight end prospects.
A premium crop of tight ends is likely to attract the Jaguars' interest in this year's NFL draft. Heading the list of prospects is Maryland's Vernon Davis, who stole the show at the February scouting combine.
"He's a more athletic version of Kellen Winslow but not as polished at this point," jaguars.com draft analyst Tony Pauline said of Davis, who is likely to be off the board in the first seven picks.
Davis, 6-3, 254, ran in the low 4.4's at the combine. He's an excellent pass-catcher and plays to his speed. Quarterbacks at the combine were having difficulty hitting Davis in stride, as Davis continually out-ran passes. He's a player who will create mismatches in the passing game and he's a reliable receiver. He's developing his blocking skills and is a player of great upside value.
Georgia's Leonard Pope, 6-7, 258, is a mouth-watering combination of size and speed (4.6). He makes important catches and creates obvious red-zone mismatches. Pope needs to improve his blocking. He's a mid to late-first round prospect.
UCLA's Mercedes Lewis, 6-6, 261, is also a first-round prospect. Lewis is a top receiver but marginal blocker. He ran a poor 4.85 at the combine but consistently plays faster than that time. Lewis has natural skills and rarely drops passes. Speed concerns could force Lewis into the second round.
Joe Klopfenstein, 6-6, 255, of Colorado is an accomplished pass-catcher and an improving blocker. He had a good Senior Bowl and has run 4.66. Klopfenstein is likely to be drafted early in the second round.
USC's Dominique Byrd, 6-2, 255, is an excellent pass-catcher. He makes big catches at big times and is a natural receiver who uses his hands to make the catch. Byrd plays faster than his 4.8 time, but poor blocking skills and a reputation for being soft and not going after the ball in the crowd will likely drop his stock to the middle of the second round or later.
Anthony Fasano, 6-4, 250, of Notre Dame saw his stock soar on the strength of a strong senior season. Fasano has natural receiving skills and makes the tough catch in a crowd. His speed is only so-so and he must improve his blocking. He's a late-second round prospect.
Tony Scheffler, 6-5, 254, is an outstanding pass-catcher who could become one of the steals of the draft. He's a solid athlete who runs a 4.62 and makes plays downfield. He wasn't used much as an in-line blocker and playing at Western Michigan may have cost him the attention he deserves. Scheffler is likely to be used early in his career as an H-back but offers the potential to grow into the tight end position.
Timothy Day, 6-3, 256, of Oregon is a complete tight end. He's not flashy or explosive but he catches and blocks with equal aplomb. He's a nice fit for a running offense. Day's value may go unappreciated since he was largely hidden in Oregon's offense. He figures to be a late-third round pick. The knock on Day is that he doesn't play to his 4.76 speed.
David Thomas, 6-3, 252, of Texas is a top pass-catcher who was Vince Young's favorite target. Thomas came up big in Texas' national title run. He's smart and efficient and makes big third-down grabs. Thomas is not a deep threat and is a marginal blocker. He figures to be a number two tight end and will probably go in the fourth round.
Jeff King, 6-5, 245, of Virginia Tech is a "real football player," Pauline says. King loves to block and makes the catch when the ball is thrown to him. He has a complete game and if he was bigger and faster he'd be a first-round pick. As it stands, expect him to be a steal in the fifth round.