Matt Williamson is a former college and NFL scout and is current co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio.
Here is a mistake that far too many draft fans make. They go position by position and look to see who ran the fastest 40-yard dashes. That is great and all and obviously it is fantastic for a prospect to be able to run fast, but by taking this approach, fans overlook a massive ingredient in this recipe: weight.
This is especially true with skill position players and certainly applies to running backs and wide receivers, but let's focus on the tight end position here. 17 tight ends ran the 40 at the Combine. Yes, that is a small sample size, but it is also a very manageable one.
Also, this group of tight end prospects has been really scrutinized as a weak class overall with just moderate depth and very little star power. Does that scrutiny jive with what we saw in Indianapolis from a testing perspective?
Without question, the star of the show was Missouri's Albert Okwuegbunam. Okwuegbunam's 4.49/40 destroyed the competition with the next best score at 4.66 tied from Brycen Hopkins of Purdue and Stephen Sullivan of LSU. But Okwuegbunam 10 pounds heavier than Sullivan and 13 pounds greater than Hopkins. Not to mention, Okwuegbunam had the second longest arms (to Sullivan) and fourth largest hand size of all the tight ends at the Combine.
As mentioned, Hopkins ran the second fastest time. But he is only 245 pounds and measured in under 6' 4". There is nothing wrong with that but is has to be processed in proper context which is what we are here to do.
Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara ran a 4.72/40 and that looks great to the naked eye. But at just 242 pounds, this isn't a number we should get overly excited about. But on the flip side, UCLA's Devin Asiasi was just one hundredth of a second slower than Deguara. But Asiasi is 15 pounds heavier. Don't overlook Asiasi.
Taking this one step further with tight ends, there is a combination that has great indicators of future success. It is rare to find a tight end prospect that runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds or faster and is able to combine this with a broad jump of at least 10 feet. And over 10' 2" in the broad with a 4.7 or better 40 should ignite a spark that this is a player to really pay attention to.
Again, many looked at this tight end class as a weak one overall and devoid of elite prospects at the position. However, the Combine numbers might indicate that there is more value to mine from this group than some expect.
Dalton Keene from Virginia Tech just missed. His 4.71/40 at 253 pounds is pretty impressive nonetheless, but Keene's 10' 5" broad jump is just outstanding and was the best of all the tight ends that participated. Keene helped this stock without question.
Cole Kmet from Notre Dame nailed it almost to the exact rare combination we are looking for here. Kmet's 10' 3" broad jump and 4.70/40 are really great numbers. And Kmet weighed in at 262 pounds. It should also be noted that Kmet's 37" vertical jump was the best in class at an advanced weight. This is without question, one of the more impressive combinations in recent years amongst tight ends.
Many don't know about Sullivan, since he basically backed up Thaddeus Moss at LSU during their National Championship run. But remember this guy's name. Sullivan leapt 10' 3" in the broad jump and tied that together with his 4.66/40-yard dash. Sullivan is just a smidge under 6' 5" and weighs 248 pounds. He also showed off a truly freaky 85" wingspan as well as the second best vertical behind Kmet. This is a very rare measurable combination amongst tight ends.
Okwuegbunam unfortunately didn't participate in the broad jump, but hopefully we get those numbers at Missouri's pro day. His 4.49/40 stole the show from the tight end group and is especially impressive when you consider that Okwuegbunam is 258 pounds. Now hopefully for his sake, he follows it up down the road.
Combine numbers aren't everything and tight end isn't a position that is usually spotlighted with this testing. But ignoring this data is a mistake and just reading down the list of the top scores without taking it into proper context can be a fatal mistake.
Too many will just look at Okwuegbunam as the only "Winner" amongst tight ends at the Combine. That too would be a big mistake, because several others, Sullivan and Kmet at the forefront, really helped their cause with their test results.