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August 25, 2000
The Next Great Catch
by Paul Hammons
Tights ends, in my mind, are a very valuable commodity at any level, but particularly in the NFL. Whereas in college you often can hide a smaller tight end by using him in passing situations and bringing in a bigger player for running situations, an NFL tight end has to be able to control the big defensive linemen in front of him on any given down, and he still has to be able to make the crucial third-down catch and maybe even stretch the field a little, depending on the offense in which he’s operating. It’s possibly the position that differentiates between an average offense and a stellar one.
Because of the difficulty in finding a truly dominant player at this position, I’m not going to name more than two here and I stopped it at two because I think there are two that stand out from the field and look like possible top-round picks. The first is junior Tracy Wistrom (yes, Grant’s brother), who has shown time and again at Nebraska that he can stretch the field, averaging 26 yards per catch last year. He’s a solid blocker too, and at 6’5″, 220, he’s certainly big enough to grow into more of a blocking role that the NFL will require.
The second is Todd Heap, a junior from Arizona State who put up decidedly un-tight-end-like numbers last year, setting a school record with 55 catches for 842 yards.
Wide receivers, on the other hand, will get a much closer look in the top two rounds, and by 2002, there should be some impact players here. Since the trend recently has favored big receivers that can still stretch the field (which, of course, is the ideal for that position), you’d have to put Michigan junior David Terrell at or near the top. At 6’3″, 208 pounds, he’s big enough to fight off bump-and-run coverage, and his 1,038 receiving yards last year speak to his productivity and big play capability. Oh yeah, he also plays defensive back some.
Most of the other top guys may tend toward the smaller side, particularly the one that’s possibly the most dangerous, Kansas State junior Aaron Lockett (5’7″, 165). Lockett’s numbers as a receiver aren’t that incredible (531 yards, three TDs), but with an increased workload, that should change. His main strength is he’s the most explosive return man I’ve seen since Rocket Ismael. Three more to watch are Alabama junior Freddie Milons (5’1″1, 183) and a couple of sophomores: Terrence Edwards (6’2″, 175 pounds, Georgia) and Kareem Kelly (6’1″ 185 pounds, USC).
There’s plenty more talented players who could be among this group, especially two years down the road, so watch for guys that will go over the middle, show the ability to get separation from DB’s and run crisp routes. Blazing speed isn’t always the main concern, although it never hurts. Hands, overall athletic ability and awareness are probably the biggest factors in my opinion.
Paul Hammons served as a sportswriter for various and sundry publications (only one of which is now defunct) before leaving the lucrative world of journalism for his MBA and a shot at a big-screen TV and more time in front of Saturday afternoon college football. He currently resides in Plano and spends his days wondering why he couldn’t have been born six inches taller and a few steps faster in the 40.