Pro Football Weekly Draft Propsects TE
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There were times in the ’70s and early ’80s when USC alone had three NFL TE prospects. The NFL also was filled with tight ends who could both block and catch, such as Dave Casper, Russ Francis, Riley Odoms, David Hill, Bennie Cunningham, Mickey Shuler, etc. However, now it seems as though most teams use a third offensive tackle when they need a blocker and an extra wide receiver or a pumped up wide receiver at tight end depending on the situation in the game. At one point, Auburn produced a lot of tight ends for the NFL. But Charles Barkley concentrated on basketball, and Frank Thomas turned his attention to baseball. More and more prototype tight ends wound up on the basketball court, a few on the baseball diamond and a number more (such as Cornelius Bennett) on the defensive side of the ball.

This year’s top TE prospect is probably North Carolina’s Alge Crumpler, whose older brother Carlester played tight end in the NFL for the Seahawks and Vikings, and whose father (also Carlester) was a running back in the league. Crumpler has most of the tools NFL teams are looking for in a tight end. He is a widebody who can be an explosive blocker and a dangerous receiver. Crumpler played as a freshman in 1996 and was a star on special teams. He won All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in ’97, redshirted after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in the spring of ’98 and won All-ACC honors in ’99, though he caught only 20 passes for 191 yards and no touchdowns. This year Crumpler has been playing well, but he has very few catches because North Carolina rarely seems to throw to its tight ends. What scouts like about Crumpler is his explosive blocking strength. A championship weight man in high school, Crumpler finished second in the ACC shot-put competition in ’99. He also runs well, can get down the field and has soft hands. On the down side, he is under 6-foot-3, is not an intense blocker all the time and is rarely thrown to. However, if he goes to the Senior Bowl and shows what he can do, he will be drafted in the first two rounds, unless questions crop up about his surgically repaired knee.

Notre Dame has a long history of producing tight ends for the NFL. But aside from Casper and Mark Bavaro, very few have lived up to expectations. Jabari Holloway is a former high school All-American from Georgia who stepped right in and started five games in ’97, 10 in ’98 and all 12 last year. Like Crumpler, Holloway is a tad under 6-3. He is not as fast or explosive as Crumpler but catches the ball well and is a pretty good blocker. While not overly quick, Holloway is athletic and can adjust to the ball thrown outside the frame of his body.

Penn State’s Tony Stewart is a tall, athletic player who generally catches the ball well. He is pretty quick and agile but is a high-cut athlete who lacks good lower-body strength for blocking.

Oklahoma State has three tight ends who could have a shot at the NFL next year, but each has holes in his game. Khary Jackson is more of a receiver than a blocker and has good timed speed, but he does not play that quick and is basically a finesse blocker. Marcellus Rivers is the team’s best receiver and athlete, but he spent much of the year at wide receiver because the Cowboys have so many tight ends. However, Rivers is not much of a blocker and is not fast enough to be a wide receiver on the next level. Bryan Blackwood is the closest thing to a complete TE, but he will drop some passes and is not a great finisher as a blocker.

Teams that want blocking tight ends will probably look at Arizona’s Brandon Manumaleuna, who looks more like a guard than a tight end at 6-1¼, 280 pounds but also has soft receiver’s hands.

South Carolina State’s Arther Love really is not featured much, but a strong showing in a bowl game could push him up on draft boards. He moves around pretty well and tries to block but lacks the lower-body mass needed to be a good base blocker.

Georgia’s Jevaris Johnson looks the part but is just an average player. In fact, he is not the best tight end the Bulldogs have. USC’s Antoine Harris is a blue-collar tight end who is not thrown to very often but has started for the Trojans since his freshman year. On the other hand, UTEP’s Brian Natkin and East Carolina’s Rashon Burns are more catchers than blockers and lack a little in the way of size.

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