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Polished TE high on draft boards

4/9/2004

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

  • Kellen Winslow (Miami)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3 7/8, 251 pounds, 4.62 in the 40, and 24 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Former backup to current New York Giants star Jeremy Shockey, won the John Mackey Award as nation's top tight end in 2003. Played in 38 games and had 119 catches for 1,365 yards and nine touchdowns. Ranks fifth all-time among Hurricanes receivers and had most catches ever by a tight end in school history.
    Upside: Polished receiver who runs sharp routes, knows how to find the void in the zone, and has enough speed to get deep up the seam. Reads secondary rotations very well and is decisive in adjusting to coverages. The kind of receiver who gets natural separation from linebackers and safeties and who has enough size and quickness to create mismatches in coverage. Terrific all-around athlete, will snatch the ball out in front of him and can add yards after the catch. Can be "flexed" or used in the slot. Very competitive, likes to think of himself as a warrior.
    Downside: As demonstrated in 2003, will allow his emotions to get the better of him, and his nasty streak sometimes turns ugly. A little bit too much of a "me-first" player. Not a very good blocker, especially in-line, takes the lazy way out and tries to cut defenders. More accomplished blocker at the second level than at point of attack. Frame is relatively thin and could use more bulk.
    The Dish: Despite flashes of ego, his father's heavy-handed manner in interviewing possible representatives, and his choice of Carl and Kevin Poston as his agents, still a sure top 10 choice and could go in the top five. Will be a special player if he gets into camp on time and gets his emotions under control. Blocking deficiencies could mean he has to play H-back in some offenses.

  • Ben Watson (Georgia)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3½, 258 pounds, 4.53 in the 40, and 34 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Began career at Duke, then transferred to Georgia following '99 season. For the Bulldogs, played in 37 games, starting 26 of them. Counting his one season at Duke, totaled 73 catches for 945 yards and seven touchdowns.
    Upside: Nice frame and flashes good combination of size and speed. Impressive frame and might be able to get a little bigger. Rare quickness, gets in and out of routes crisply and understands where the holes are in a secondary. Explosive coming off the ball, is starting to use his hands well to elude the initial jam, knows how to push off to create separation. Fluid runner. Will go into traffic, attacks the ball aggressively, likes contact after catch. Super character player, very smart, and scored a 41 on the Wonderlic test. Devoted to doing community work.
    Downside: Just doesn't play with much passion and, when you see him on tape, looks like he is just coasting through some plays. Still has some growing up to do and needs to develop a mean streak. A spotty blocker, one who moves his feet well, but slides off blocks and doesn't knock defenders away from the point of attack. Tends to get high when blocking and is more a "seal" blocker than a physical one.
    The Dish: Has made strides and his best football is still ahead of him. Competitive and will work hard. No worse than a high second-round pick.

  • Ben Troupe (Florida)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4 3/8, 265 pounds, 4.68 in the 40, and 23 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Started 20 of 39 appearances, played virtually every snap (2,048 of them) over final two seasons of his college career. Had 64 receptions for 958 yards and seven touchdowns. Was a finalist for the Mackey Award.
    Upside: Wide frame, well developed musculature, thick chest and shoulders. Pretty nice athletic skills for a guy this big. Surprising speed, usually defeats the jam, can get up the field better than people think. Versatile enough to move out into the slot at times, and will overpower smaller defenders, will break tackles and add yards after the catch. Nifty feet, very good hip swivel, and able to elude people. A good knee-bender with flexibility.
    Downside: Like most of the tight ends in this year's pool, just a marginal in-line blocker, and doesn't bury defenders at the point of attack. Doesn't get off the ball with the kind of twitch you like to see and won't always sustain blocks. Far better receiver than blocker at this juncture of his career.
    The Dish: Possesses the blend of size and athleticism teams want at the position. Could see him going in the bottom quadrant of the first round, based on some teams' needs.

  • Kris Wilson (Pittsburgh)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1 7/8, 248 pounds, 4.61 in the 40, and 24 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Four-year starter who opened in 42 games. One of the most prolific tight ends in this draft, with 88 career receptions for 1,431 yards and 15 touchdowns. Also had more than 30 tackles as a regular member of the Panthers' special teams coverage units.
    Upside: Played in a sophisticated passing attack, so knows the aerial game, understands how to read defenses and make route adjustments. Effective in the hook areas but clearly has enough speed to get deep as well. Good body control, will make some acrobatic grabs and gets his hands on a lot of balls you don't think he can get to. Another tight end who can move out and "flex" or play in the slot. Goes hard for the ball. Agile and can make some quick cuts.
    Downside: Because of his size, could be relegated to playing H-back, certainly lacks in-line blocking skills. Tenacious enough, but not enough natural power to sustain a block, or to drive ends or linebackers off the line of scrimmage. Could improve his routes some and, for as good a receiver as he can be, is sometimes a "body catcher" who allows the ball to get too close to him.
    The Dish: One of the faster moving prospects in the entire draft over the last few months. Teams that incorporate the tight end more in the passing game really like him. Probably a third-round choice but might go in the latter part of the second stanza.

  • Ben Hartsock (Ohio State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4, 263 pounds, 4.82 in the 40, and 23 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Started in 31 of 51 appearances. Had 58 catches for 519 yards and five scores. Thirty-one of his career receptions resulted in first downs or touchdowns.
    Upside: Arguably the best in-line blocker of any of the top tight end prospects. Hard worker who gets the most out of his modest athletic tools. Plays on his feet in the run game and will stay locked onto defenders. Won't exactly jolt people with his first blow but will get into their bodies and keep moving. Good receiver in the short areas, sure-handed and secures the ball well, tries to add yards.
    Downside: Buckeyes offense limited the style of routes that Hartsock ran, so he needs to expand his repertoire beyond the short "hooks" and "flats" and "slips" that he has perfected. Doesn't have the speed to split the safeties or work up the seam. Looks sluggish at times and doesn't explode off the ball. Isn't very elusive.
    The Dish: Tough kid and hard worker who knows the game. A first-day choice.

  • Jason Peters (Arkansas)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4½, 336 pounds, 4.94 in the 40, and 29 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Started in 36 games and career numbers include 28 receptions for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
    Upside: Incredible movement skills for a man so large and, as noted in the offensive line preview, some teams might consider moving him to left tackle. Tall and massively built, thick all over, pretty good knee-bender. Nifty feet and, when he gets rolling, he is tough to stop. Solid pass protector, can slide laterally, will give some team a player who can "chip" at pass rushers. Adequate receiver with good flexibility and body control.
    Downside: Since he played in such a run-oriented offense, didn't get much chance to hone his route-running skills, and hands are still inconsistent. Even with his stunning athleticism, will have to shed some weight if he is going to play tight end at the next level. For all his size and speed, isn't all that explosive coming off the ball, and is actually a half-step tardy on a lot of plays. Will overextend himself on some blocks.
    The Dish: An intriguing guy but someone will have to decide early on whether he is a tight end or a tackle. Probable first-day pick, likely in the third round.

  • Ben Utecht (Minnesota)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-5 1/8, 249 pounds, 4.84 in the 40, and 18 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Four-year starter who began career as a wide receiver and whose resume includes 44 appearances. Notched 82 receptions for 1,201 yards and 15 touchdowns. Can also punt, in a pinch, and averaged 34.4 yards in that role.
    Upside: Tall and angular and certainly presents a big target. Natural receiver with strong hands, catches the ball out in front, can add some run-after-catch yards. Could play out in space, either flexed or in the slot, and has potential to create mismatches. Nice feel for the passing game in general, knows how to find a void in the secondary and uncover himself. Will adjust to the poorly thrown ball.
    Downside: Pretty one-dimensional, given his subpar blocking skills, lack of power. For all his fluidity as a receiver, looks awkward when asked to block, can't handle in-line assignments very well. Can get stoned coming off the line, sometimes gets stymied and can't get into secondary. Injury concerns from the past, with foot and pelvis problems, and desperately needs more muscle.
    The Dish: If you're looking for a receiving tight end, he could be the guy, but probably won't be chosen until the fourth round.

  • Chris Cooley (Utah State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3½, 265 pounds, 4.89 in the 40, and 22 "reps" on the bench press.
    Numbers game: Began career as a defensive lineman and had 27 tackles and two sacks as a true freshman, before moving to offensive side of the ball. In 2003, was first non-wide receiver to lead Utah State in catches since 1983. Appeared in 31 games and started 15. Had 95 catches for 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also carried three times for 21 yards and one touchdown.
    Upside: Nice build and has the kind of frame that will allow him to add some more weight. Good athlete with innate awareness of what's going on around him, can sink his pads and settle into open zones, natural receiver. Has some suddenness to him, in change of direction, and pretty flexible athlete. Uses his hands well to shake off jams at the line of scrimmage. More fluid than people expect. Has potential as a deep-snapper and has lined up at fullback on occasion.
    Downside: Pretty much a "move"-type tight end, might not be strong enough to play at the line of scrimmage. A willing, but not particularly strong blocker, lacks a mean streak. A bit stiff in the hips and doesn't always get turned around to see the passer.
    The Dish: Versatile and can do a lot of things, should be off the board in the fourth round.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.