INDIANAPOLIS -- Maryland's Vernon Davis(notes) and Miami's Jimmy Graham(notes) are two of many tight ends to see their prospects go through the rook as the result of specifically athletic exploits at the scouting combine.
When Davis ran a 4.38 40-yard dash in 2006 at 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds in 2006, he impressed the San Francisco 49ers enough to have them select him with the sixth overall pick. And when Graham, a former basketball player, ran 4.53 and posted a 38 ½-inch vertical leap at the 2010 combine at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, he intrigued the New Orleans Saints enough for them to take him in the third round, despite the fact that he had just one year of college football.
This year, the big name among tight ends at the combine seems to be USC's Jordan Cameron, who finished second in the 40-yard dash at his position behind Rob Housler of Florida Atlantic At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Cameron posted a 4.59-40 to Housler's 4.55. He then put up a 37.5-inch vertical leap, and this combination should especially intrigue personnel people, because it displays Cameron's ability to speed downfield and to get up in the air -- especially in the red zone -- which is what teams need more and more from tight ends that look more like big receivers.
Cameron switched from receiver before the 2010 season. Like Graham, he's making an impact on tape and in pre-draft workouts on sheer athleticism, and it seems that with players like this, NFL teams believe that they can use their talents situationally and as they develop over time.
Cameron is rated ninth in NFLDraftScout.com's list of tight end prospects, but he is rising quickly, and this 40 time -- coming as it has with his history of previous 40-yard dashed in the 4.6 to 4.8 range -- could have him on the radars of more and more NFL teams.
Two more athletic tight ends to watch for as the pre-draft process rolls along - the aforementioned Housler, and Nevada's Virgil Green, who put up a third-best 4.64-40 and a ridiculous 42.5-inch vertical leap.