NFL Scouting Combine

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2019 Combine Preview: Tight end

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn has made it very clear that upgrading the tight end position is important to him this offseason.

"Yeah, the tight ends are definitely a priority for us," he told season ticket members last week.

The Lions are looking this offseason to add playmakers at the position, and could look to both free agency and a good draft class in their attempts to upgrade. Former fourth-round pick Michael Roberts and veteran Jerome Cunningham are the only tight ends currently under contract for next season.

This is nice draft class of tight ends, and those prospects will try to impress later this month at the NFL Scouting Combine:

T.J. HOCKENSON

School: Iowa

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 250

Best trait: Overall game. He's fluid in the passing game and might be the best blocking tight end to come into the league in a long time. He's a plug and play tight end in all phases of the game and in all schemes.

Concern: He'll continue to fill out in an NFL weight program, but there are few holes in his game.

Skinny: Hockenson won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end with 49 catches for 760 yards (15.5 average) and six touchdowns this past season. He's good.

View photos of tight ends that will participate at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

IRV SMITH JR.

School: Alabama

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 241

Best trait: Athleticism. He can stretch the field and be a big-time receiving threat after catching 44 passes for 710 yards (16.1 average) and seven touchdowns for the Tide last season.

Concern: He's still a bit raw as a full-time starter for just one year.

Skinny: He's not the all-around player Hockenson is, but can step in right away and be a nice weapon in the pass game and a plus blocker in the run game.

NOAH FANT

School: Iowa

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 241

Best trait: Versatility. Iowa lined him up inline, out wide and in the wing. He has terrific acceleration and speed to create separation. He's a big-play threat at the position.

Concern: Fant needs to get stronger and work on his technique as a run blocker.

Skinny: He's going to contribute more in the passing game than he will as a blocker early on. He tracks the ball well down the field and can wear a lot of hats in the passing game.

DAWSON KNOX

School: Ole Miss

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 257

Best trait: Size. He has an NFL frame, though he's a bit of a raw prospect. He can stretch the field, averaging 18.9 yards per reception this past season.

Concern: There isn't a ton of production with Knox. He caught 24 passes in 2017, but had just 15 this past season with no touchdowns.

Skinny: He could test very well at the Combine, which will make teams go back to the tape and wonder why he wasn't more productive in college. Part of it could have been the system at Ole Miss. Teams will do their homework on Knox. He could have a high ceiling.

JACE STERNBERGER

School: Texas A&M

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 250

Best trait: Production. Sternberger is a consensus All-American and First-Team All-SEC selection with 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games.

Concern: He'll have some work to do in the run-blocking department. He'll have to add strength to his frame to compete better. He was also a one-year wonder. Why?

Skinny: He was a threat all year for the Aggies down the seam. He has good speed and made a ton of plays down the field. He's also very good as a runner after the catch. He can step in and make plays in the passing game.

TOMMY SWEENEY

School: Boston College

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 259

Best trait: Consistency. Sweeney had three straight years of steady production, catching at least 28 passes for 350 yards and three scores in each of the last three seasons.

Concern: The testing will be important for Sweeney. Does he have the speed and ability to separate from defenders at the NFL level?

Skinny: Sweeney had a pretty good week at the Senior Bowl, showing an ability to make plays down the field. It was good for him to showcase that. He caught 36 passes for 512 yards and four scores as a junior. He's a plus run blocker and should find a role on a team.

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