2014 Combine: Rich Hill's Tight End Notes

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

This is easily the most interesting debate of the off-season. Which tight end best fits the Patriots?

What if the Patriots were just trolling everyone and didn't take a tight end in the draft? How many riots would start?

Or what if he decided to just go with a late round prospect? How would you feel?

Bill Belichick and the front office have been doing their due diligence and are meeting with essentially every major tight end in the draft. Enjoy the buzz because you'll have no idea what they're going to actually do come draft day.

I watched the drills and we have the clocked times and jumps on file and very few players really deviated from what the film provided. Some are too quick to discount the drills as fake and bottled and unlike any football scenario, and they'd be right. But these exercises are necessary to put all prospects on the same playing field and offering the bare minimum to compare all prospects.

Some play on faster fields. Some face easier opposition. Some are underutilized by their coaches.

This is the best time for all of them to match up against one another and give direct comparisons. So when Eric Ebron pulls a hamstring or Austin Seferian-Jenkins has a stress fracture in their foot and are unable to perform, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that there's less data to evaluate them with and they're certainly not moving up the draft board.

And when you have a player like Troy Niklas is fighting a groin injury and still performing and performing well? That's when you slide them up a notch.

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Breaking down the athleticism and measurements portion, no tight end really surprised. ASJ dropped 20 pounds off of his playing weight to improve his movements, but couldn't participate. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Jake Murphy showed slightly shorter arms than their counterparts. Xavier Grimble wasn't as cut as he could have been. Jace Amaro has tiny hands.

But apart from that, there were not many surprises. Niklas, Amaro, and Eric Ebron weighed in as expected. Crockett Gillmore and Arthur Lynch solidified their NFL size. Marcel Jensen was possibly the most impressive from a size vantage, but he didn't follow through with other measurements (apart from his vertical).

The track was running slow today, with the four "move" tight ends everyone talks about coming in the top four places in the 40 yard dash. A.C. Leonard led the way with a 4.5, followed by Ebron's 4.6, Colt Lyerla's 4.61, and Amaro's 4.74. Given that Leonard and Ebron (250 lbs) weigh more than Lyerla (240 lbs), that should increase their stock, while Amaro (265 lbs) clocks as he should with his size.

Fiedorowicz (4.76) and Murphy (4.79), both Y tight ends, clock in the 4.7s, which is the top point of where you'd want these players to flash. Richard Rodgers (4.87) and Crockett Gillmore (4.89) both put forth disappointing times in a straight line. 40 times aren't the cause of elite players, but elite players tend to have more impressive 40 times.

On the bench, everyone of note put forth a solid effort with 20 or more reps, except for Lyerla (15 reps) and Rodgers (16). Amaro (28) and Lynch (28), as well as Niklas (27) and Fiedorowicz (25) were noteworthy. This is less about functional strength and is more about how a player trains for the combine.

In the vertical jump, Xavier Grimble disappointed (26.5 inches), as did Lynch (29.5), while Lyerla (39) led the way. Gillmore did well at 33.5, while Leonard (34) and Jensen (35) showed well, too. Every other player of note was between 31.5 and 33. Vertical shows a players explosion (red zone!).

Colt and Leonard (both 10'8) performed well in the broad jump, while Ebron and Gillmore impressed with 10' flat. Amaro measured 9'10, while everyone else measured 9'6 to 9'8. Grimble came in with a 9'5. Broad jump is one of the most important drills to show a player's power and explosion.

Fiedorowicz (7.1) and Murphy (7.18) performed well in the three cone drill, which displays a player's ability to change direction and their sudden movements. Rodgers (7.23) did well, too. The groinless-Niklas posted a 7.57, but I don't think many will hold that against him. Ebron, Leonard, and Lyerla didn't participate. Lynch, Jensen, Amaro, Gillmore posted between 7.38 and 7.42.

The 20 yard shuttle saw Fiedorowicz (4.26) and Murphy (4.27) lead the way, again, with Amaro posting a more respectable 4.30. Gillmore's 4.44 and Rodgers' 4.47 were reasonable, while there's no explanation for how the groinless-Niklas (4.55) beat Jensen (4.6).

In all, Fiedorowicz was the big winner and could possibly slip into the back-end of the second round, while Jake Murphy certainly helped his case as a potential early pick on day 3. Amaro generally found himself on the "above" side of average, while Gillmore found himself on the "below". Lynch was nondescript. Jensen was a potential loser on the day with poorly timed events.

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Watching the drills, we want to see how they move in the open field, how they track the ball, and how fluid their movements are against an empty defense. If they can't do it here, they're likely going to struggle on game day. I'll note that the quarterbacks in the gauntlet were less than quality.

Amaro: He did what he always does. He showed strong routes, quality hands (let a few come to his body), and great burst. He tracked the ball well and showed well in space. He did nothing to move him up or down the board.

Niklas: He performed more-than-well, given his groin injury. He tracked the ball well and he showed a great second gear to connect with the deep throws. He's still raw and inconsistent, but he can put everything together.

Fiedorowicz: He dominated the physical side of the combine and put together a strong performance in the exercises. He's a good route runner, he has good concentration. He wasn't elite in his breaks, but he can definitely be coached up. He let some passes get to his body in the gauntlet.

Lynch: While Lynch didn't do anything special when being measured, he flashed in the receiving drills. He attacked his routes, which would put the defender on their heels, before breaking out to the sideline. He was one of the few to flash route-running savvy. Coaches liked him so they made him run a couple extra drills to show them his ability a second time.

Crockett: He may not have timed well, but he was in his element on the open field. He has strong hands to pluck the ball and flashed a lot of upside potential. Unlike Lynch, Crockett kind of jogged into his breaks. He can be coached, but he showed how unpolished he is.

Murphy: He showed good hands, although he let a few come to his body. He showed great flexibility in his routes and sudden movements that could get him a step of separation.

Grimble: Tight hips went with his poor measurements to be a disappointment on the day.

Lyerla: Colt ran extra after every drill and it's clear he was told to approach this day with a purpose. He would run to the end zone every time, even if that wasn't the drill. He didn't take a play off (and you'd be surprised by how many who did). He did drop a few.

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Those who helped a lot: Niklas, Fiedorowicz, Murphy

Those who helped a little: Lynch, Crockett, Lyerla

Stock Stable: Ebron, Amaro, ASJ

Those who hurt: Grimble, Jensen

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