2003 Tight End Prospects


The Steelers have several questions to ask themselves this off-season, in regard to the tight end position. Starter Mark Bruener has been injured in each of the past two years. He carries a very high cap figure for a blocking tight end."/>

2003 Tight End Prospects

TE-Jason Witten<br><br>Photo:Getty Images

<p align="center"><b>2003 Tight End Prospects</b> <p align="left"><br>The Steelers have several questions to ask themselves this off-season, in regard to the tight end position. Starter Mark Bruener has been injured in each of the past two years. He carries a very high cap figure for a blocking tight end.

  The team needs to decide if he can come back at 100% next season.  His backup, Jerame Tuman, has shown the ability to possibly start, having improved as a blocking tight end while remaining an option in the passing game.  Tuman is a free agent and should be resigned.  The third and fourth stringers, Matt Cushing and John Allred, are a blocking tight end and a receiving tight end respectively, and both are free agents.  Both could be upgraded and likely will be.  The Steelers need to decide whom they want to bring back next season, as Bruener is the only tight end under contract.  They also must take a good long look at the tight ends coming out in this years' draft and decide who and when to draft.

#1
Jason Witten
6' 5"
265 lbs
Tennessee – Junior

A former lineman for the Vols, Witten is an excellent blocker who is still refining the receiving part of his game.  He has really taken to the position and continues to get better with time.  Has been dominant at times this past year.

Likely to be drafted: Late part of Round 1

#2
Aaron Walker
6' 6"
260 lbs
Florida – Senior

A bit of a raw talent, Walker has gotten more and more playing time in the Gators offense the last couple of years.  Walker has a nice combination of size and speed to beat most linebackers in coverage, shows good hands in the passing game, and uses his body well to shield off defenders.  With the Gators' wide-open air attack, he seldom has been asked to block, and it shows.  Will come in as a receiving threat to begin with and will need to work on his blocking.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round.

#3
Robert Johnson
6' 6"
270 lbs
Auburn – Junior

Johnson has all the skills to be a first round selection except for foot speed.  His forty time will either move him into the first frame or knock him back into the second.  A solid prospect no matter how you look at it, both in the receiving game and as a blocker.  Might work best with a team that already has speed to burn at receiver.

Likely to be drafted: Second Round

#4
Bennie Joppru
6' 3"
246 lbs
Michigan - Senior

Joppru has exceptional speed, running in the 4.5 range.  Primarily a receiving tight end, Joppru shows good route running skills and decent hands.  His size will limit his ability to be used in blocking situations and as such will most likely make him an H-Back in the pros.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#5
Trent Smith
6' 5"
232 lbs
Oklahoma – Senior

Smith has been one of the best receiving tight ends in the country the last three seasons.  He fits the mold of a Shannon Sharpe and, like Sharpe, is much more at home receiving than blocking.  Has adequate speed.  Also has the frame to add some bulk, which should help him to at least become an average blocker at some point.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#6
Teyo Johnson (WR/TE)
6' 7"
240 lbs
Standford – Sophomore

Johnson declaring for the draft was a big shock to say the least, being that he still has two years of eligibility left and wasn't one of the premier players in the country.  Johnson had put together two solid back- to-back seasons and has proven himself as a match-up problem for defenses, due to his excellent combination of speed, size, and overall athleticism.  He could find himself as either a receiver or H-Back type tight end.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#7
George Wrighster
6' 4"
250 lbs
Oregon – Junior

Wrighster was the second biggest receiving threat on the team after wideout Samie Parker.  Solid receiving skills highlight this prospect, who has enough speed to stretch the defense.  A solid blocker who has improved every season, Wrighster has a lot of upside.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#8
Donald Lee
6' 3"
238 lbs
Mississippi State – Senior

Although undersized, Lee does show good blocking techniques and is perhaps at his best when blocking downfield.  His size limits his effectiveness blocking on the line.  Possessing good speed and route running ability, Lee will most likely find himself used as an H-Back or in passing situations.   A very solid East-West Shrine Game performance should help move him up a few spots come draft day.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#9
Ben Watson
6' 3"
253 lbs
Georgia – Junior

The strongest player on the Bulldogs rosters, Watson has the potential to become one of the elite blocking tight ends in the NFL.  Has also showed some promise in the passing game, displaying good hands and route running skills.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#10
Spencer Nead
6' 4"
270 lbs
BYU – Senior

As with most BYU players, Nead will be 25 as a rookie in the NFL due to having gone on a religious mission while in school.  Nead is very raw but has shown many of the skills one looks for in an all-around tight end.  Over the last year, he's really come on in the passing game, showing good hands.  Both his route running and blocking techniques need work.

Likely to be drafted: Third Round

#11
L.J. Smith
6' 4"
253 lbs
Rutgers - Senior

By far the best weapon for Rutgers this past year, Smith has shown good ability to find the soft spot in zone coverages.  And while Smith is a very solid athlete, he may be a bit undersized to play tight end and a bit slow to be an H-Back, Smith will have to find a role on whatever team drafts him.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round

#12
Mike Pinkard
6' 5"
251 lbs
Arizona State – Senior

Possessing an ideal height to weight ratio, Pinkard could find himself selected on the first day of the draft, but he needs to show more consistency than he has up till now.  A very raw player who has all the tools but hasn't put them together yet.  May take a year or two to see results.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round

#13
Dallas Clark
6' 4"
244 lbs
Iowa – Junior

An offensive weapon for the Hawkeyes, Clark was responsible for over 700 yards and four touchdowns.  Perhaps anticipating a dropoff in production next year with the departure of Brad Banks, Clark makes the jump to the NFL.  Showing good hands, route running skills, and speed, Clark should make an impact in the passing game.  Is not the best blocker, but has skills to work with.  Might sneak into the first day of the draft with good pre-draft workouts.

Likely to be drafted: Fourth Round

#14
Zach Hilton
6' 7"
255 lbs
North Carolina – Senior

A massive prospect, Hilton has proved himself to be very reliable in the passing game.  A late bloomer and lacking a lot of playing experience, Hilton is still feeling his way a bit.  Hilton has the frame to add some bulk, but may be best used as a true receiving tight end. 

Likely to be drafted: Late Fourth Round

#15
Chad Bartoszek
6' 8"
255 lbs
Buffalo - Senior

A true sleeper in this draft, Bartoszek is a huge target.  He has shown good speed, reliable hands, and a good understanding of the passing game.  Will go up and win the jump ball.  Was primarily a wall-off type blocker in college, but has the frame to add bulk in order to become a better straight-line blocker.  His level of competition will be of some concern, but he could be a steal on the middle of day two.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#16
Kevin Ware
6' 2"
253 lbs
Washington – Senior

Ware is one of the better blocking tight ends coming out this season, but off-field problems and a real lack of receiving ability will knock him down a frame or two from where he could have gone.  Would be solid as a number two tight end.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#17
Mike Seidman
6' 4"
255 lbs
UCLA – Senior

Seidman is a solid blocker, but isn't going to destroy anyone with his blocks.  He's a much better blocker than receiver and doesn't show a lot of speed in the open field.  Has trouble separating from coverage.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#18
Doug Zeigler
6' 3"
252 lbs
Mississippi – Senior

A very solid receiving prospect who reads coverages very well and shows a good feel for the game.  Injuries have been a big issue, as Zeigler has had  hamstring, ankle, forearm, and leg injuries at some point the last three seasons.  Also is not much of a blocker.

Likely to be drafted: Fifth Round

#19
Mobolaji Afariagan
6' 4"
240 lbs
Western Michigan – Senior

A solid receiving prospect, Afariagan lacks a solid base when blocking.  Takes good angles with blocking but isn't consistent getting a good jump on his blocks.  Will get blown up with the speed of the NFL in blocking situations, but might fit into an H-Back type role.

Likely to be drafted: Late Sixth Round

#20
Lorenzo Diamond
6' 3"
250 lbs
Auburn – Senior

An over-achiever on and off the field, Diamond is a tenacious blocker who shows good technique and a physical playing style.  Not much of a threat in the passing game, Diamond is not the most athletic player on the field but will give 100% on every play.

Likely to be drafted: Seventh Round

Undrafted Free Agents

Sean Berton
6' 2"
255 lbs
North Carolina State – Senior

Berton is a solid blocker who has some potential in the receiving game.  Only played half the season due to injuries.

Phil Condon
6' 4"
244 lbs
Grand Valley State

One of the benefactors of Curt Anes' solid 2002 season, Condon proved to be a solid athlete, with good hand-eye coordination and excellent hands.  Condon is a decent open-field blocker, but is not overpowering.  He does not have the speed to spread defenses.

Dan Curley
6' 4"
245 lbs
Eastern Washington – Senior

Curley had a much more productive season after dealing with injury issues much of last season.  A decent receiver and blocker, Curley may not have the size or speed to become an every-down tight end in the pros.

Steve Farmer
6' 6"
262 lbs
Tennessee State

Farmer is a raw prospect that has shown flashes of talent.  After transferring from Joliet Junior College, where he played wide receiver, Farmer landed at tight end.  He is not a great blocker at this point but continues to improve as he adds bulk.  Not overly fast, but once he gets moving he's hard to bring down.  Shows good athletic ability in the open field.

Aaron Golliday
6' 4"
287 lbs
Nebraska

Golliday falls in that group of blocking tight ends, and that is about it.  As a marginal receiver but a massive blocker who does well at both run blocking and pass protection, Golliday might have a better chance at making a squad by moving to tackle. 

Ronnie Ghent
6' 3"
253 lbs
Louisville – Senior

A solid receiving threat, Ghent took a step backwards this year.  Some of his backward slide can be related to Dave Ragone's struggles this season.  A marginal blocker who would be better suited to H-Back in the pros.

Chase Harp
6' 3"
247 lbs
Kentucky

Harp has had problems staying healthy in recent years, with two different leg injuries.  A good receiver with good hands and route-running ability.  He's more quick than fast and does not have the size to be an effective in-line blocker, but does a decent job blocking downfield.

James Hugo
6' 5"
270 lbs
Arizona – Senior

Hugo is a massive blocker that engulfs both linebackers and defensive ends.  Durability has been an issue his entire career and he's a non-factor in the passing game.

Gabe Reid
6' 4"
256 lbs
BYU – Senior

A decent receiver, Reed has shown soft hands and a good feel for route running.  Splits time with Spencer Nead.  Needs work on blocking techniques.

Vishante Shiancoe
6' 5"
250 lbs
Morgan State - Senior

Shiancoe has good hands and exceptional speed.  More of a receiver than blocker, but does have the frame to add some bulk.  Competition level will hurt him come draft day.

Erick Steelman
6' 5"
250 lbs
Nevada - Senior

A heady player, Steelman earned academic honors in 2001.  A decent overall tight end who is equally at home blocking or receiving.

Ray Thomas
6' 4"
245 lbs
Wake Forest – Senior

A second team ACC tight end who is solid if not spectacular receiving and blocking.  Might see playing time as a third tight end.

Ben Unutoa
6' 5"
281 lbs
Kentucky State

Unutoa has bounced around from school to school for several years.  A solid blocking tight end, Unutoa has very little value as a receiving tight end.  Blocking tight end or a move back to tackle, where he played while at Foothill College, seem to be his best options.


More Player Links:
Jason Witten
Aaron Walker
Mike Pinkard
Robert Johnson

Bennie Joppru
Trent Smith
Teyo Johnson
George Wrighster
Donald Lee
Ben Watson
Spencer Nead 
L.J. Smith
Dallas Clark
Zach Hilton
Chad Bartoszek
Kevin Ware
Mike Seidman
Doug Zeigler
Mobolaji Afariagan
Lorenzo Diamond
Sean Berton
Phil Condon
Dan Curley
Steve Farmer
Ronnie Ghent
Aaron Golliday
Chase Harp
James Hugo
Gabe Reid
Vichante Shiancoe
Erick Steelman
Ray Thomas
Ben Unutoa

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