This year's class of tight ends contains one blue-chip prospect and few intriguing players who will be drafted on the first day.
1. Heath Miller, Virginia. Clearly the best in this class, Miller has great hands, good strength off the line, and runs well for a big man. He adjusts very well to the ball in the air. He gets off the line of scrimmage well, but doesn't show a lot of ability to make tacklers miss. Also, he is a technically sound blocker who doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but could still use improvement. Overall, however, Miller is the best at his position, and he should come off the board by the latter portion of the first round. Projected: 1st round.
2. Joel Dreessen, Colorado State. Dreessen's work ethic is unmatched. He's always striving to get better, and that will only help him at the next level. Dreessen doesn't have any major deficiencies, but is not a standout in any area, either. He has adequate size and speed, is an okay blocker, and runs clean routes. He doesn't break many tackles and won't outrun safeties, but Dreessen grades out just a bit higher than Alex Smith, and should be the second tight end off the board. If he lasts past the second round, he's probably lasted too long. Projected: 2nd or 3rd round.
3. Alex Smith, Stanford. Size is a concern for Smith, and he doesn't have the strength to push defenders off the line of scrimmage. Until he puts on more bulk, he has to learn to play with more consistent leverage as a blocker. He projects as a good short-yardage target, but Smith lacks the speed and athleticism to make plays downfield. He won't overpower anyone at the point of attack, but there's no reason Smith can't develop into a good blocker and receiving target. He should come off the board late in the first day. Projected: 3rd round.
Garrett Cross, California. Cross lacks the size necessary to be more than an average blocker, but he is a good athlete who is coming into his own as a top-flight tight end. He is smooth in the passing game and shows the speed to make defenders miss in the open field. He also projects as one of the better downfield threats among this year's tight ends. Cross needs a lot of work against tough man coverage, and he needs to improve his strength at the point of attack as a blocker, but he has the skills to contribute right away as an H-back. Projected: 4th round.
Kevin Everett, Miami (FL). Miami's reputation as being a tight end machine might help Everett get selected on the first day. He is an undersized prospect who only caught 32 passes in two years at Miami, and didn't have a touchdown as a senior. He is not as athletic as Jeremy Shockey or Kellen Winslow, and his hands aren't as good as Bubba Franks'. Everett also had surgery on a bad shoulder in January, which limited his ability to work out. He is projected by some as a first-day pick, but shouldn't come off the board until the fifth round or later. Projected: 3rd or 4th round.
Alex Holmes, Southern California - 4th round
Adam Bergen, Lehigh - 4th round
Tony Jackson, Iowa - 4th or 5th round
Kelly Griffeth, Fort Hays State - 5th or 6th round
Jonas Crafts, UTEP - 7th round