The 2022 NFL Combine opened their on-field drills on Thursday night, starting with the tight ends group. As is tradition, they began by running the 40-yard-dash, and then shifted into position drills, which included both blocking and catching elements.
The theme of this position group is a familiar one for many of the groups in this draft: there are a lot of diverse skillsets for teams to choose from in this class. While there isn’t a stud option bound for the first round, they have plenty of flavors.
Let’s take a look at those who did earn positive marks today.
Jelani Woods, Virginia, 6-foot-7, 259
4.61 (2nd fastest 40 y/d), 24 bench reps (best in group)
Not only did Woods show terrific timed speed, but it carried over to the on-field drills as well. He looked fluid in routes, displayed reliable hands, and made a really nice over-the-shoulder bucket catch that was one of the best on the day. In blocking drills, he looked sharp, showing what he was known for when he played at Oklahoma State.
While Woods looks like a matchup nightmare for defenses, he was more of a blocker for the Cowboys. And after graduating and transferring to Virginia, he expanded his game.
“I did a lot of fullback (at Virginia), a lot of in-line blocking,” Woods said at the Combine. “I did a lot of F position (pass-catcher). I’d probably say the majority of the time I was at Y (inline blocker).”
At the next level, Woods thinks he has the potential to be a complete tight end.
“I’d say I’m a balanced tight end. I’m able to dominate in-line blocking and able to attack vertically down the field, be that guy who can stretch the field,” Woods stated.
His stock is on the rise.
Trey McBride, Colorado State, 6-foot-4, 246
Speaking of complete tight ends, everything looked easy for McBride in Indianapolis. He was solid as a blocker, displayed strong hands, and ran effortless routes, looking completely at home and natural.
Finding a tight end comfortable with blocking can be a challenge at times, but Colorado State’s offense is run-first, and McBride has proved himself capable. But make no mistake, he’s not just blocker, he also has a 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt, as the ball found him early and often.
“Our team was a run-first team,” McBride said at the Combine. “So, to get those catches and things like that I had to put my head down and block. You know, I think I’m a tougher, physical guy. I think I’m a tremendous run-blocking guy who can do it all. But that’s what we did first. That’s how I got on the field early on in my career. So that’s the only real thing I know. I think, you know, being tough, physical, and gritty in the run game is important and something that I love to do.”
McBride could be the first tight end off the board, and if the Lions were interested in adding him, it could cost them pick No. 34 at the top of the second round.
Greg Dulcich (UCLA, 6-foot-4, 243) ran a hand-timed 4.61 in his first attempt at the 40, but his official score came in at 4.7 seconds. In drills, he was very smooth and looked outstanding at times. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said Dulcich was his TE1.
Connor Heyward (Michigan State, 5-foot-11, 239) had a very nice all-around day. He was very solid blocking, adjusted well to poorly-thrown balls, and made things look easy.
Daniel Bellinger (San Diego State, 6-foot-4 1⁄2, 252) ran a 4.63 (third fastest in the group), which was much faster than expected. He also looked strong in the blocking drills and improved in his route running throughout the day.
Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina, 6-foot-4, 241) did everything that was expected of him catching the ball, but what was most impressive is he ran all the drills at full speed—most players throttle down for accuracy, but Likely didn't need to.
Peyton Hendershot (Indiana, 6-foot-4, 243) has generally been thought of as a pass catcher, but he looked really sharp as a blocker.
Chigoziem Okonkwo (Maryland, 6-foot-1 1⁄2, 250) ran the fastest 40-yard dash of the day (4.52) but that speed didn't translate to the drills and he looked like he was coasting, trying to make sure he made the catch, rather than playing full out.