INDIANAPOLIS — **This year's group of tight ends could be specia
That dynamic is becoming clearer here at the NFL's annual scouting combine as teams further dissect some of the nation's best players, including potential first-round picks in Alabama's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoku.
But for as impressive as Howard and Njoku might be, the intrigue of this particular class lies in its depth.
"(This) may be the best tight end class I've seen since I've been doing this," NFL Network Mike Mayock said in January.
And this week in Indianapolis could reaffirm that notion, as lesser known names such as Ole Miss' Evan Engram, South Alabama's Gerald Everett, Michigan's Jake Butt, Ashland's Adam Shaheen, Clemson's Jordan Leggett and Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges are projected to go anywhere from the second to fifth round.
"This class is so deep," Engram said. "All these guys bring a lot to the table."
It's why he and his counterparts are looking to separate themselves from the competition. They made their cases in front of the news media Friday and will continue to do so with teams in the coming days.
That includes Howard, who brushed off the notion of him being the top tight end.
"I have a lot of respect for the guys in the tight end class. We have a deep class, a lot of great talent," he said. "To be the first guy off the board would be a tremendous accomplishment. But I'm far from that. I have a lot of work to do."
The Browns, owners of the first and 12th picks in the draft, worked with Howard, Engram and Everett at the Senior Bowl earlier this year. "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."
And with 11 picks, Cleveland will have plenty of opportunities to add a tight end if they so choose. It just might need to use one of its earlier ones if it wants one of the top players at the position because their names will be called early and often.
"It's pretty cool to be part of this class that's getting a lot of love and respect," Engram said. "To be mentioned as the best tight end class in a while, one of the best, it's pretty cool to be a part of."