NFL draft preview: Tight ends

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    NFL draft preview: Tight ends

    10:41 AM CDT on Thursday, April 16, 2009
    By RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News


    NFL teams will be able to find receiving tight ends deep into the second day. But those looking for blocking tight ends better scoop them up in a hurry – Pettigrew, Richard Quinn and Anthony Hill.

    TOP 15
    Player School Ht. Wt. Noteworthy
    Brandon Pettigrew Okla St 6-5 263 4-year starter
    Jared Cook S. Carolina 6-4 ½ 246 4.49 speed in the 40
    Chase Coffman Missouri 6-5 ½ 244 Mackey Award winner
    Shawn Nelson So. Miss 6-5 240 4.52 speed in the 40
    James Casey Rice 6-3 246 Former baseball player
    Travis Beckum Wisconsin 6-3 243 7 career 100-yard games
    Cornelius Ingram Florida 6-3 ½ 245 Missed 2008 with torn ACL
    Richard Quinn NoCar 6-3 ½ 264 Heaviest TE in draft
    McKenna Pascoe Fresno St 6-5 251 Nickname is "Bear"
    Anthony Hill NC St 6-5 262 Missed 2007 with torn ACL
    Davon Drew East Car 6-3 ½ 256 16.2-yard average in 2008
    Zach Miller Neb-Omaha 6-4 233 Former quarterback
    Rob Myers Utah St. 6-3 243 Missed 2008 with toe injury
    Cameron Morrah Cal 6-3 244 8 TD catches in 2008
    Dan Gronkowski Maryland 6-5 ½ 255 3-time academic All-ACC
    Potential first-round picks in bold

    Spotlight on: James Casey, Rice
    James Casey was a seventh-round draft choice by the Chicago White Sox as a pitcher in 2003. He signed out of high school and spent three years pitching in the farm system before washing out in 2006 and pursuing a football career.

    "There are a lot of things you can't control compared to football," Casey said. "I had a really good arm, as strong an arm as anyone. I could throw in the 90s, topping off at 95. But I had control issues. That's the main reason it didn't work out. I walked too many guys and wound up giving up too many runs. So my ERA was inflated, and I was released.

    "At the time I thought it was one of the worst things that could happen, but it turned out being one of the best. There's no way I'd be in this situation right now if it wasn't for that."

    Rice offered Casey a scholarship to play linebacker, and he jumped at it. He enrolled in January 2007 but the coaches moved him to defensive end in his first spring, then on to quarterback, running back and wide receiver before Casey settled in at tight end that fall.

    Casey wound up starting two seasons there and finished as the NCAA runner-up with 111 catches last fall. At 24 and the clock ticking on a second pro career, Casey is skipping his final two seasons to turn pro. He projects as a premium draft pick (first three rounds).The Best

    The best: Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
    Pettigrew is the most scrutinized tight end in this draft for two reasons. First, he's the best tight end on the board. Second, there's more tape on Pettigrew than on any other tight end. He started 46 of his 48 career games to mold himself into a first-round draft pick. There are blockers on this draft board, and there are receivers. Few do both, but Pettigrew is one of the few. He has the size to block and is the first tight end in school history with 100 career catches.

    Sleeper: John Nalbone, Monmouth
    Nalbone started 44 games on his way to All-America honors at the FCS level in 2008. He made first- or second- All-Northeast Conference in all four of his seasons at Monmouth. He caught 101 career passes for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns, collecting 42 receptions and five touchdowns in 2008. At 6-4, 257, he has the size to block NFL linebackers.

    Best of Texas: Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State

    Getty Images
    Brandon Pettigrew started 46 of his 48 career games at Oklahoma State.
    View largerMore photos Photo store The Tyler Lee product was primarily a blocker in high school who honed his receiving skills in college. His catch count increased every season, from 11 as a freshman to 24 as a sophomore to 35 as a junior and finally 42 last fall as a senior. He left the Oklahoma State campus as the school's eighth all-time receiver and 11th in yardage. Draft projection: 1st round

    All in the family: Chase Coffman's father Paul was a Pro Bowl tight end for the Green Bay Packers, and Jared Cook's brother Jason also is in this draft as a fullback at Mississippi.

    Legends: Chase Coffman left Missouri as the school's all-time leading receiver and the NCAA's all-time leader at the tight end position with 246 career catches. John Nalbone left Monmouth as his school's all-time leading receiver at the tight end position with 101 catches.

    Well-armed: Zach Miller started three seasons at quarterback for Nebraska-Omaha, passing for 4,096 yards and 26 touchdowns. James Casey also got the chance to exercise his arm in college, throwing 12 option passes and completing four of them, including two for touchdowns. Chase Coffman also threw a touchdown pass in the 2006 Sun Bowl.

    More arms: Casey, Davon Drew, Dan Gronkowski, Cornelius Ingram, McKenna Pascoe and Kory Sperry were all high school quarterbacks who moved to tight end in college. Gronkowski finished second in the national Punt, Pass and Kick competition as a ninth-grader.

    Hoop it up: Carson Butler (Michigan), Cornelius Ingram, Brandon Myers (Iowa) and Kory Sperry (Colorado State) were all-state basketball players. Myers is one of only 26 players in Iowa high school history to score 2,000 career points.

    Long ball: David Johnson of Arkansas State caught TD passes of 84, 62, 53 and 48 yards in his career.

    Club 100: Chase Coffman caught 90 passes last season to push his career count to 246. He's tops on this draft board. Here are the tight ends who have caught at least 100 passes:

    Player School Rec.
    Chase Coffman Missouri 246
    Travis Beckum Wisconsin 159
    James Casey Rice 157
    Shawn Nelson So. Miss 157
    Mark Hafner Houston 145
    Kory Sperry Colo St. 141
    Branden Ledbetter W. Mich. 131
    Ryan Purvis Boston Col. 113
    McKenna Pascoe Fresno St. 112
    Brandon Pettigrew Okla St. 112
    John Nalbone Monmouth 101
    Eddie Williams Idaho 100

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