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Miller unable to work out this offseason

4/12/2005

Here is how ESPN.com rates the top seven tight end prospects in the draft:

Heath Miller (Virginia)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, 4.70 (est.) in the 40.
Numbers game: Redshirted in 2001 freshman season and then started in every game, 39 in all, over the next three seasons. Finished his career with 144 catches for 1,703 yards and 20 touchdowns. That included a 2003 campaign in which he posted 70 receptions for 835 yards and six scores. His career receptions represent the second-most in Cavaliers history. A consensus All-American in 2004 and winner of the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. All-ACC in 2003 and 2004. Threw a 20-yard touchdown pass in 2002. Had one rush for six yards. Former high school quarterback and safety, nicknamed "Big Money" for ability to deliver in clutch. Has not been able to work out in the offseason, and probably won't until May 1, because of January surgery to repair a "sports hernia."
Upside: Productive receiver with natural, soft hands and terrific instincts. Has a great feel for where the holes are in the secondary and is particularly effective at creating some separation in red zone situations. Knows how to keep safeties away from his body and protects the ball well. Works nicely back to the ball and keeps his feet moving. Good balance and some run-after-catch skills.
Downside: Not a deep threat and, as a blocker, relies more on finesse than muscle. Does not play with a strong power base and not adept at knocking defenders off the line or on sealing the corner. As good as his hands are, will sometimes allow the ball to get into his body. Health and durability are key questions.
The dish: Just on talent, a first-round pick, and most projections have him going off the board in the third quadrant of the round. But because of his hernia surgery, no one has seen him work in the offseason and it appears he won't be able to get onto a field until after the draft. Let's face it, teams don't like unknown commodities, and there remain a lot of questions about Miller's rehabilitation and his overall toughness. Those questions could drop him into the second round.

Alex Smith (Stanford)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4 1/8, 258 pounds, 4.73 in the 40.
Numbers game: Three-year starter, played in 42 games and started 32, finishing his career with 107 receptions for 1,291 yards and eight touchdowns. His best season was in 2004, when he registered 52 catches for 706 yards and three scores. He became, in '04, the first tight end to lead Stanford in receptions since 1969. All-Pac-10 selection in both 2003 and 2004.
Upside: Lean muscle kind of guy with long limbs and lithe moves, looks like a pumped-up wideout at times. Smooth and fluid, a terrific natural athlete who seems to glide through his routes. A sudden, flexible athlete with good recovery and change of direction abilities. Knows how to use his hands to get away from initial contact. Plays with balance and a natural base and stays on his feet. Good jumper. Can definitely get deep.
Downside: Ironically, might run the deep routes better than the short and intermediate ones. A bit of a long-strider who has to gather himself on some patterns and hesitates in coming back to the ball. Not a great run-after-catch guy. Will sustain a blocker but lacks push and drive. Can use more upper-body strength.
The dish: Hard to ignore his speed and ability to stretch the zone. Has an outside shot to sneak into the first round but certainly no worse than a high second-round selection.

Kevin Everett (Miami)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4¾, 251 pounds, 4.65 (est.) in the 40.
Numbers game: Attended Kilgore (Tex.) Junior College for two seasons, and earned all-conference honors each year, before transferring to Miami in 2003. In two seasons with the Hurricanes, the first of which was spent as a backup to Kellen Winslow II, played in 24 games and started 15. Caught 23 passes for 310 yards in 2004, his lone season as the starter, and finished career with 32 receptions for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Had surgery on his left shoulder on Jan. 5 and has missed much of the offseason workouts.
Upside: Impressive athlete who easily passes the eyeball test and who has the measurables you want at the position. Excellent body control, changes direction well and is very sudden coming out of the break. Great jumper and has registered a 39-inch vertical jump. Goes aggressively after the ball and can make the acrobatic catch. Seems willing to give himself up to makes plays. Quick off the line and can get separation with his inside moves. Moves his feet well.
Downside: Biggest problem is that he just hasn't "done it" very long and possesses limited exposure to a high level of the game. For as smooth as he moves, he isn't polished as a route runner, and seems to have to think before he reacts at times. Will drop some catchable balls and gets down on himself. Plays with a narrow base.
The dish: On production, he's probably a third-round pick. Such an intriguing athlete, though, that he'll probably go off the board in the second round.

Joel Dreessen (Colorado State)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4¼, 260 pounds, 4.72 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started in all 45 games in which he appeared for the Rams. Did miss four games in 2004 because of an abdominal strain. Had at least 22 receptions every season and, in 2004, had 43 catches for 427 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, posted 123 receptions for 1,295 yards and 10 touchdowns. Twice named to the All-Mountain West team and also earned all-academic honors two times. At various time, lined up at tight end, H-back and fullback and can also deep snap.
Upside: Thick but well-proportioned physique, has done his work in the weight room. Strong blocker, especially on the move, will get into a defender's body, lock on and sustain movement. Can make the difficult reach blocks and seal off the corner. Good hands, can snatch the ball out in front, and will fight for every inch of real estate. Doesn't mind going into traffic. Super worker and plays the game with a passion.
Downside: A little stiff and still needs to get more efficient in his route running. Uses a lot of wasted motion and throttles down too much in making cuts. Can get hung up at the line of scrimmage if safeties come up on him. Only an average athlete. A better blocker coming out of motion than just driving off the line.
The dish: His style of blocking skill might best project to H-back. Tough kid who will work hard and make himself an even better player than the guy you drafted. The fact he can deep snap certainly won't hurt him.

Adam Bergen (Lehigh)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4 3/8, 259 pounds, 4.78 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played in every game as a freshman and finished his career with 28 starts in 35 appearances. Had 149 catches for 1,736 yards and 17 touchdowns. Enjoyed a huge year in 2003, with 70 receptions for 840 yards and six touchdowns. Was twice named a Division I-AA All-American.
Upside: Rare athletic ability, as evidenced by a 38-inch vertical jump, and nice overall size. Broad shoulders and the kind of frame that allows him to fight through the garbage in the middle of the field and battle back to the ball. Plays with a lot of emotion. Extends for the ball and will fight for every inch after the catch.
Downside: Because he doesn't use his hands well to shed defenders, will get jammed up at the line of scrimmage, doesn't get a lot of clean releases off the line of scrimmage. Won't create much separation and doesn't provide quarterbacks a facile target. Tardy out of his breaks and not a threat up the seam.
The dish: An effective and productive player at a lower level of competition. Very hard worker, has improved every season, but will have to squeeze everything out of himself to develop into more than an NFL backup. An intriguing, middle-round guy.

Garrett Cross (California)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, 4.83 in the 40.
Numbers game: Began his career at Butte (Calif.) College before he transferred to Berkeley in 2003. Started in seven of 22 appearances and rung up 44 receptions for 512 yards and two scores. Missed final four games in 2003 after fracturing his left leg. Was a starter in seven of 11 outings in 2004.
Upside: Plays a lot faster than his stopwatch time and has enough sneaky speed to split the safeties deep. Natural pass catcher who makes nice adjustments to the ball in the air. Plays under control. Runs solid, precise routes and has good spatial awareness that allows him to "sit down" in the open spots in a zone.
Downside: Lacks bulk, played much of the 2004 season in the area of 235 and then added some weight in the offseason to impress scouts. Gets knocked off the ball, and redirected from his route, too easily. More a position blocker than a guy capable of driving ends and linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Definitely needs to get into the weight room and add not only pounds but functional strength.
The dish: His athletic and receiving skills have his stock on the rise. But he might have to be an H-back at the next level.

Dave Kashetta (Boston College)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-3 3/8, 247 pounds, 4.87 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started only as a senior, 10 games, in 2004 but appeared in 39 games for his career. Had 22 catches for 218 yards and four touchdowns in '04. Finished his career with 47 receptions for 543 yards and eight touchdowns. Was named a second-team pick on the All-Big East team in 2004. Can deep snap.
Upside: Decent quickness coming off the line, both as a receiver and blocker, and will surprise unsuspecting defenders with his speed at times. Works the zones well. Has a feel for the openings and, after the catch, will break some tackles. Decent route runner.
Downside: Will stop his feet when blocking, lose momentum, and doesn't drive people away from the line. Lacks deep speed and elusiveness. A body-catcher who occasionally fights the ball into his hands.
The dish: Solid, blue-collar player who isn't outstanding in any one area but does a lot of things well. Good character and skills as a deep snapper will add about one round to his overall value.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.