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Path to the Draft: TEs


Tight end is another position the Texans have nailed down with starter Owen Daniels returning, as well as Mark Bruener and Joel Dreessen.

Still, it doesn't hurt to take a peek at who will be available this April. This isn't the deepest draft class for tight ends, but there are several prospects who may catch the eyes of pro scouts.

Top prospects

1. Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue (6-2, 242): Keller set himself apart from the other 17 tight ends who were invited to the combine, finishing first in his position group in four of the seven drills.

He topped the charts in the 40-yard dash (4.55-second average), vertical jump (38 inches), broad jump (10 feet, 11 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.14 seconds). Keller finished second in the bench press (26 reps) and the 3-cone drill (6.88 seconds).

Last season, the tight end notched a career-high 68 receptions for 881 yards and seven touchdowns. He also contributed on special teams.

Keller is arguably the most athletic tight end available, but he may lack the size needed to succeed in the NFL.

2. Fred Davis, TE, USC (6-3, 225): In 2007, Davis finally earned national attention, winning the Mackey Award as college's top tight end. He led USC in receptions, catching a career-high 62 passes for 881 yards. Davis averaged 14.2-yards per reception and recorded eight touchdowns.

Davis entered the scouting combine as the premier tight end, but struggled in many drills. He dropped passes during catching drills and elected not to run the 40-yard dash.

Still, talent evaluators recognize that Davis is a two-way tight end who can stretch the field and come up with big catches. And he has the softest hands of any tight end on the draft board.

3. John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame (6-5, 251): Carlson may not be flashy, but he can make the tough catch and has proven to be highly productive. He started all 12 games for the Fighting Irish, leading the team with 40 receptions for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Carlson also was a finalist for the Draddy Award, which is the academic equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for student athletes.

Many scouts considered him to be a late second-round pick because of his receiving ability and consistency as a blocker. Carlson's stock plummeted after the scouting combine, though, where he posted 40-yard dash times ranging from 4.88 to 5.02.

At his Pro Day, Carlson was much faster, recording times that ranged from 4.68 to 4.75 and he now sits back at the top of the draft board list for tight ends.

4. Brad Cottam, TE, Tennessee (6-8, 270): Cottam missed most of his senior season with a wrist injury, finishing the year with only five receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown.

But he made up for a lot of lost ground at the scouting combine. In Indianapolis, Cottam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds, recorded 24 reps in the bench press and notched a 33-inch vertical. All three measurables placed him in the top-five among tight ends.

His biggest asset could be his height. At 6-8, Cottam possesses the size NFL coaches covet.

{QUOTE}5. Martellus Bennett, TE, Texas A&M (6-6, 259): In the Aggies' run-oriented offense, Bennett led the team with a career-high 49 receptions for 587 yards and four touchdowns. Not only did he play tight end, Bennett also saw action on the defensive line, showing just how versatile of an athlete he is.

The junior will be drafted as a tight end, and he told reporters at the combine that he is trying to prove to teams that he has the maturity to make the jump to the professional arena.

"I think a lot of people have questioned my maturity, because I'm so young, coming out as a junior," Bennett said. "I know a lot of people think I'm goofy, which I am, but I am mature. I think a lot of guys want to see how mature I am. I think they all know I can play, and I can run, so I think it's more a maturity thing."

Honorable Mention: Joe Jon Finley (6-6, 254) of Oklahoma is a solid all-around tight end, but he lacks consistency as a pass-catcher.

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