It is widely considered that the quality and depth of the TE position in this year's NFL draft is the weakest and thinnest of all positions. The drop-off is considered significant once you move past Hunter Henry (Arkansas), Austin Hooper (Stanford), Nick Vannett (Ohio State), Jerell Adams (South Carolina), and in some circles, Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky). Henry is considered the only one of the bunch that could be drafted in the first round, Hooper grades out as a second-round pick, and Vannett, Adams, and Higbee are expected to be third or fourth round selections.
Thus, the Combine provided known and lesser known names alike the opportunity to improve their draft stock. We looked at the 15 tight ends that participated at the Combine and selected several that helped or hindered their draft stock.
Interestingly, only four took part in every drill. And of the five listed above, Henry did none of the drills except the bench press, Higbee sat out all drills still nursing an injury, and Vannett chose not to run the 40. In fact, only eight players at the position ran the 40 at all. Adams' time of 4.64 was easily the best time of those that did run, but his 4.64 clocking is put in perspective when you consider that the top few times in each of the past 10 combines were 4.55 or better. Vernon Davis' time of 4.38 (2006) remains the top mark. It will be interesting to see what Henry, Higbee, and Vannett each clock on their Pro Days.
The bottom line is with so many not fully participating, it is hard to draw conclusions when comparing each with the other. One conclusion was confirmed, though: the TE position is not deep. For teams that want or need a TE, the pickings are slim and many evaluations will have to wait until Pro Days. That said, here's our take from the results from Indy.
Ben Braunecker, Harvard
6'3", 250 lbs
Braunecker does not have the height of many of his counterparts, but he has a sturdy NFL build and a reputation for mixing it up in the trenches. His physicality coupled with his top-3 or better showing in every drill except the 40 shows the upside he could bring as an NFL draftee. His times/scores were as follows: Vert Jump 35.5", broad jump 10'1", 3-cone 6.90, short shuttle 4.20, and the long shuttle 11.32. His 4.73 40 time is a little above average, but his long shuttle time led all at his position. His results in the explosion drills and times in the shuttles show he has the ability to create space. Braunecker's stock is up as he showed his measurable are comparable to the higher-rated TE that participated. He makes a solid speculative pick on the third day of the draft.
Tyler Higbee, Western Kentucky
6'6", 249 lbs
Okay, so how does Higbee make the "stock up" list without taking part in the Combine? Simple: Higbee's frame, recent conversion from wide receiver to TE, the less than stellar performances at the Combine of those rated above or around him, and his expected performance at his Pro Day. Higbee is on the "stock up" list by subtraction.
Bryce Williams, East Carolina
6'6", 257 lbs
Overall, the TE group at the Combine was below par athletically. And Williams tested at or near the bottom across the board compared to the group (4.94-second 40, 29.5" vertical, 12.03-second long shuttle). For a player rated as the fifth best TE prospect by some, he did not meet those expectations physically.
David Grinnage, North Carolina State
6'5", 248 lbs
As poorly as Williams tested, Grinnage was just as bad. The only difference is that Grinnage was not thought of as highly as Williams prior to the Combine. A 4.90 forty and the shortest broad jump at 8'10" will not turn any heads.