For 90 minutes Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to sit in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium and observe the tight end on-field positional drills. It's a small sample size, but it provided a different perspective with each tight end prospect performing the same drills, on the same field.
With each prospect lining up in alpha order, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro was the guinea pig of the group, performing first in each drill. Despite 106 catches last season, he isn't the most natural hands catcher and that showed during the receiving drills as the projected first rounded struggled to consistently catch the ball away from his body.
Amaro displayed good length to extend with the reflexes and tracking ability to quickly adjust, but too often he fought the ball at the catch point, especially in the gauntlet drills. Amaro was also coached on several occasions for slowing down in his route breaks and not exploding around the cones.
On the flipside, Colorado State's Crockett Gilmore did a terrific job during the positional drills. He has average-at-best speed, backed up by his 4.89 40-yard dash, but he tracked the ball very well and reeled in tough catches with his long arms and wide catching radius.
Like most tight ends his size, Gilmore isn't overly sudden in his routes, but he's a very natural pass-catcher with consistent play speed. The other aspect about Gilmore that caught my eye was his hustle -- while other players walked back to the huddle after a drill, he was jogging past them and staying focused on the next exercise.
Some other quick notes from the tight end positional drills:
- Two of the top-rated tight ends at the combine, North Carolina's Eric Ebron and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, did not participate due to injuries. Ebron, who ran a 4.60 40-yard dash earlier in the day, was getting his right leg examined on the training table while Seferian-Jenkins stood off to the side due to a foot issue
- Utah's A.D. Denham certainly looks the part with excellent catching radius and long, decisive strides down the field. However he fought the ball quite a bit with several drops and double-catches. Baylor's Jordan Najvar also battled drops in the gauntlet drills, struggling to quickly adjust his eyes and hands when the bullets were flying.
- Fresno State's Marcel Jensen had a rough few reps, not properly performing each drill and attracting extra attention from the coaches for his gaffs. He overlooked the final step of the gauntlet drill, running up the field before the final ball could be delivered his way. And then while performing a comeback route drill, Jensen didn't slow down out of his break to receive the pass, running past the cones while the pass was thrown behind him. Jensen's inability to follow instructions and mirror the drill like the prospects that preceded him was disappointing.
- Despite running the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends (4.50), Tennessee State's A.C. Leonard didn't stand out one way or another.
2014 scouting combine - 40-yard dash results (TE)
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee St. - 4.50
Eric Ebron, North Carolina - 4.60
Colt Lyerla, Oregon - 4.61
Trey Burton, Florida - 4.62
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech - 4.74
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa - 4.76
Anthony Denham, Utah - 4.79
Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western - 4.77
Jake Murphy, Utah - 4.79
Arthur Lynch, Georgia - 4.82
Marcel Jensen, Fresno St. - 4.85
Richard Rodgers, California - 4.89
Crockett Gillmore, Corlorado St. - 4.89
Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin - 4.89
Jordan Najvar, Baylor - 4.93
Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts - Did Not Run
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State - Did Not Run
Xavier Gilmore, USC - Did Not Run
Nic Jacobs, McNeese St. - Did Not Run
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame - Did Not Run
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington - Did Not Run
D.J. Tialavea, Utah St. - Did Not Run