O.J. Howard, Senior Bowl TEs shine with Browns watching

If the Senior Bowl is any indication, this year's group of draftable tight ends might be as good as advertised.

Alabama's O.J. Howard, Toledo's Mike Roberts, Ole Miss' Evan Engram and South Alabama's Gerald Everett — all thought to be some of the best prospects in this year's NFL Draft — proved as much down in Mobile, Alabama, this past week.

And the Browns, who spent the past week coaching the Senior Bowl's South team, had the chance to watch every move from Howard, Engram and Everett. They did not disappoint.

"The tight end group that we were able to coach on the South squad was about as good of a group as I've seen down there," vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry said, "and I think all three of those guys have a chance to be excellent NFL players."

Indeed, the trio shined and few players in the entire game were more impressive than Howard, who was named the Senior Bowl's Player of the Week. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound standout is considered a first-round pick with an unusual blend of size and athletic ability.

Tight ends, after all, are often asked to be a jack-of-all-trades and play critical roles in both the pass and run game. Versatility is key.

"Tight end probably doesn't have the sex appeal of maybe some of your traditional positions," Berry said, "although guys like (Seattle's) Jimmy Graham, (Patriots') Rob Gronkowski, (Redskins') Jordan Reed, they're certainly trying to fight against that notion.

"But certainly top players at that position, where you're kind of half-tackle, half-wide out, they can make a huge impact — huge impact — in the game."

Browns tight end Gary Barnidge, for example, led the team in receiving two seasons ago while rookie Seth DeValve scored two touchdowns on 10 catches this past year.

Cleveland, which owns the first, 12th and five of the top 65 picks, is poised to add talent across the roster. As such, Berry, head coach Hue Jackson, the coaching staff and personnel department took careful inventory of every position. 

The tight ends happened to stand out.

"It's something we certainly don't take for granted," Berry said, "and I think a number of players that are in this game that are participating down here in the activities this week have a chance to have really long and successful careers."

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