NFL Scouting Combine: Detroit Lions have options at tight end

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Tight end T.J. Hockenson of Iowa works out during day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Tight end T.J. Hockenson of Iowa works out during day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Proving much deeper than anticipated, the 2019 NFL Draft class of tight ends are loaded. A lot of prospects showed up and performed well.

It’s no secret the Detroit Lions need help at tight end. Lucky for them, there was oodles of talent at the Combine. A dozen players at the position ran a sub 4.8 second 40-yard dash. That’s impressive. The showstoppers were none other than the boys from Iowa. Both are projected first-round picks.

Starting with Noah Fant, who finished first in the 40-yard dash (4.5 seconds), vertical jump (39.5 inches), broad jump (10-feet-7 inches), three-cone drill (6.81 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.49 seconds). He’s seen as the top dog among scouts and analysts.

Not far behind is T.J. Hockenson. In the vertical jump, broad jump, three drill, and sixty-yard shuttle, he fell second to his Hawkeye teammate. The only drill he bested him in was the 20-yard shuttle.

Beyond those two, Irv Smith Jr., the pride of the Crimson Tide, is hot on their trail and firmly in the discussion as a first or second-round pick out of Alabama. Others with mid-round potential have risen their draft stock while some have fallen into the later rounds.

No tight end rose up the ranks like Foster Moreau. His athleticism was put on full notice, forcing talent evaluators, myself included, to hit the film on this Tiger from Louisiana State.

There was some buzz at the Senior Bowl but nothing like it is now. The offense didn’t feature him much as a receiver. His blocking is very polished.

Another former Southeastern Conference pass catcher, this one from Georgia, didn’t have the day he would’ve liked. That Bulldog is Isaac Nauta, the biggest loser at tight end the Combine had to offer.

His poor 40 time (4.91 seconds) and other average testing scores is a shock. The tape doesn’t show him as this athletically challenged tight end. He’s now thrown teams for a loop, and where he gets drafted weighs heavily on the success of his pro day.

My biggest sleeper and favorite target for the Lions is San José State product Josh Oliver. After stirring up fits in the Senior Bowl, the ex-Spartan turned in a good Combine performance. He’s an exciting mismatch with solid blocking ability. Well worth a third round selection.

Outmatched in almost every drill, minus the three-cone, Kaden Smith looked average and underwhelming. Coming from Stanford, sometimes the expectations are too high. Realistically, I see him lasting well into day three (round 5-6) before getting selected. Not every former Cardinal makes out great in the NFL.

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Moral of the story, the Detroit Lions don’t need to reach for a quality tight end. Free agency hasn’t begun so things could change that. There’s great value beyond the first round.