Although they don't run the fastest or lift the most, tight ends often turn in some of the most impressive performances at the NFL Scouting Combine. Their combination of size, strength and athleticism produce some jaw-dropping numbers. Vernon Davis set the mark for tight ends at the combine, but 21 players will take their shot this year.
Tight ends will have their turn at the combine on Saturday. The group will go through the typical drills, including the 40-yard dash, shuttle runs, bench press, vertical jump and broad jump. Each drill is important for tight ends, a position that requires a broad array of skill. Explosion, speed and strength will all be on display. In addition to the common drills, tight ends will also run through the receiving drill known as the gauntlet.
The gauntlet is a pass-catching drill designed to test a player's hands, vision and hand-eye coordination. Players start the drill on the edge of one sideline. They stand in place to catch the first pass then pivot 180 degrees to catch the second pass. From there, the players take off on a sprint across the length of the field. Five quarterbacks are waiting, three on one side of the field and two on the other. As the tight end starts running, he must locate the first quarterback to catch the first pass. As soon as that is complete, he shifts his vision to the opposite side of the field to locate the second pass. This process continues the 53 2/3 yards across the field until he catches the final pass. The final pass also serves as a test to see if the player can haul in the catch and get two feet inbounds along the boundary.
Quickly locating the next quarterback is one of the biggest challenges, but the drill is an excellent display of hand-catching ability. With very little time between the passes, players need to catch the ball clean with their hands. A bobble or allowing the ball to come into their body can throw off the timing and prevent them from catching the next pass.
Players to watch
Jace Amaro - The 6'5, 260-pound prospect is fresh off a huge junior season at Texas Tech. Playing a role similar to how the Saints use Jimmy Graham, Amaro finished the season with 106 catches for 1,352 yards. He lined up split out wide the majority of the time and is expected to produce impressive numbers in the speed and agility drills. Some project Amaro as a potential first-round pick and a strong combine performance could help cement that. He's the No. 1 tight end on Mocking the Draft's rankings.
Eric Ebron - Mike Mayock of NFL.com ranked Ebron as the No. 1 tight end in the class. Although he's a couple of inches shorter than some of the other top prospects, he may be the best athlete of the tight end crop. Ebron has drawn comparisons to Vernon Davis and a similar combine performance would certainly boost his stock.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins - There is very little question Seferian-Jenkins has the size of a NFL tight end. His production fell off during his junior season, but his athletic ability remains evident. At 6'6 and 275 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins could post some very impressive numbers for his size and seal a place in the top end of the draft.