Senior TE class lacks true impact player
By Todd McShay
Tight ends have been a hot commodity in the NFL draft recently. In fact, the 2006 class saw eight tight ends come off the board on the first day, making it the highest such total in more than two decades.
Due to the position's increasing popularity, teams have also become less gun-shy about using high picks on a tight end. When the 49ers selected Vernon Davis with the sixth overall pick in this year's draft, he joined Kellen Winslow Jr. (2004) as the highest two tight ends taken since Riley Odoms, who was drafted fifth by the Broncos in 1972.
Unfortunately for teams that missed out on this year's tight end bonanza, supply will not meet demand in the 2007 draft. The harsh reality is that no senior tight end is worthy of a first-round selection.
Minnesota TE Matt Spaeth, who is arguably the top senior tight end prospect in the nation, missed Saturday's game against Ohio State with an undisclosed injury. He has been durable throughout his career, but even if the injury turns out to be minor, Spaeth still lacks the speed of a first-rounder.
Georgia TE Martrez Milner was rising up draft boards thanks to a fast start to his senior season, which is his first as a full-time starter after backing up Leonard Pope (Cardinals) the past couple years. The 6-foot-4, 252-pound Milner notched seven catches in his first three games, but he has cooled off since. In fact, Milner was demoted to second string after he dropped three passes in Saturday's 21-14 loss to Florida. He is far too inconsistent as a route runner and blocker, and he lets too many balls get into his pads as a receiver. At this rate, it would not be surprising to see Milner free-fall to the fourth- or fifth-round range of the 2007 draft.
Joe Newton (Oregon State) and Matt Herrian (Nebraska) have made healthy returns to the field in 2006, and Scott Chandler (Iowa), Clark Harris (Rutgers), Ben Patrick (Delaware) and Jonny Harline (BYU) have played to expectations as seniors. But none of them is skilled enough to warrant first-round consideration.
In fact, the only potential first-round tight end prospects are juniors Zach Miller (Arizona State) and Greg Olsen (Miami). Miller has notched a team-high 27 receptions through eight games and displays the playmaking ability of a mid-to-late first-round pick. However, Olsen has seen his stock drop due to inconsistent production.
The following is a breakdown of the top-10 tight end prospects in the 2007 class, including eligible underclassmen that may leave early:
Top Tight End Prospects
Player School Height Weight Projection
Zach Miller Arizona State 6-5 256 First round
Greg Olsen Miami-FL 6-4 253 Second round
Matt Spaeth Minnesota 6-6 257 Third round
Scott Chandler Iowa 6-6 258 Third round
Clark Harris Rutgers 6-5 254 Third round
Joe Newton Oregon State 6-6 251 Third round
Matt Herian Nebraska 6-4 240 Fourth round
Ben Patrick Delaware 6-4 270 Fourth round
Martrez Milner Georgia 6-3 252 Fourth round
Jonny Harline BYU 6-3 241 Fourth round
2007 NFL draft news and notes
â€¢ As expected, USC QB John David Booty made it very clear to the media that he has no intention of pursuing the NFL following the 2006 season. Booty projects as a potential first-day prospect in a quarterback class that could include other top prospects such as Brian Brohm (Louisville), Chad Henne (Michigan), and JaMarcus Russell (LSU).
â€¢ Miami WR Ryan Moore had his suspension lifted last week but did not play in the loss to Georgia Tech. He is expected to see his first playing time of the 2006 season when No. 23 Virginia Tech comes to town this Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior is gifted with fine speed and athleticism for his size but he has been a career underachiever for the Hurricanes. Even if Moore makes a huge impact in Miami's final few games, it would still be surprising to see selected before the fifth round. His off-the-field issues are simply too hard to ignore.
â€¢ Baylor QB Shawn Bell suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee during Saturday's loss to Texas A&M. Bell made strides as a senior but he was a fringe prospect coming into the season and the injury all but guarantees he will need to go the free-agent route in order to catch on in the NFL.
Scouts Inc.'s Top 32
RANK NAME POS CLASS SCHOOL PREV
1. Joe Thomas OT SR Wisconsin 1
2. Brady Quinn QB SR Notre Dame 2
3. Calvin Johnson WR JR Georgia Tech 4
4. Leon Hall CB SR Michigan 5
5. Gaines Adams DE SR Clemson 3
6. Ted Ginn Jr. WR JR Ohio State 10
7. Quinn Pitcock DT SR Ohio State 6
8. Dwayne Jarrett WR JR USC 11
9. Adrian Peterson RB JR Oklahoma 7
10. LaRon Landry S SR LSU 23
11. Sam Baker OT JR USC 13
12. Brian Brohm QB JR Louisville 12
13. Levi Brown OT SR Penn State 9
14. Quentin Moses DE SR Georgia 8
15. Jake Long OT JR Michigan 19
16. Kenny Irons RB SR Auburn 14
17. Marcus Thomas DT SR Florida 20
18. Jeff Samardzija WR SR Notre Dame 15
19. Marcus McCauley CB SR Fresno State 21
20. Alan Branch DT JR Michigan 27
21. Drew Stanton QB SR Michigan State 21
22. Justin Blalock OT SR Texas 28
23. Glenn Dorsey DT JR LSU 16
24. Daymeion Hughes CB SR Cal 26
25. Paul Posluszny OLB SR Penn State 18
26. Zach Miller TE JR Arizona State 25
27. Patrick Willis ILB SR Mississippi 29
28. Marshawn Lynch RB JR Cal 30
29. LaMarr Woodley DE SR Michigan 31
30. Victor Abiamiri DE SR Notre Dame 22
31. Joe Staley OT SR Central Michigan NR
32. DeMarcus Tyler DT SR N.C. State 24
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN Insider.