Some NFL people used to wonder why they bothered with a tight end. After all, when he was on the field, he was usually the worst eligible receiver, and he was almost always the worst blocker on the line.
So why not just play a third receiver on passing downs and an extra tackle on run downs?
That thinking is gone.
|Vernon Davis exemplifies the new breed of TEs. Half WR, half freak of nature. (Getty Images)|
This new breed is athletic, long, fast and can catch. They're guys like San Diego's Antonio Gates and Baltimore's Todd Heap.
Coaches love them, quarterbacks rely on them, and defensive coordinators despise them.
That's why this year's draft class of tight ends is so exciting for coaches and front-office personnel. It's loaded, featuring a lot of this new-breed player who is far more receiver than blocker.
"There are a lot of teams going to get starting tight ends from this draft," said an AFC offensive coordinator. "And the thing is, they catch passes like receivers. It's not a good class of wide receivers, but it is for tight ends."
|2006 Draft Features|
|Mocks:||Prisco | Judge | Dodd|
|Rankings:||Prisco | Judge | GM Junior|
|Previews:||WR | TE | ST | QB | CB|
Maryland's Vernon Davis is the headliner. At 6-feet-3, 250 pounds, he wowed the scouts at league combine when he ran the 40 in 4.38, which is wide receiver speed. He also bench-pressed 225 a whopping 33 times.
Run like a receiver, strong like a lineman.
Welcome to the modern tight end.
"That guy is a freak," said one NFC scout.
He's not alone. As many as six or seven tight ends could be off the board in the first two rounds. Last year, there was one taken in the first two rounds: Heath Miller by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 30th overall pick.