MOBILE, Ala. – The consensus among most draft evaluators is this year's class of tight ends is chock full of talent. It could be one of the deeper classes of tight ends in a long time.
It's also pretty unanimous among those evaluators that underclassmen make up the top of the class. Those names include: T.J. Hockenson (Iowa), Noah Fant (Iowa), Irv Smith Jr. (Alabama), Kaden Smith (Stanford) and Caleb Wilson (UCLA). The first senior that shows up on a lot of those lists is Boston College's Tommy Sweeney, who is down here competing in this week's Senior Bowl.
Sweeney thinks that being able to showcase his skills in front of NFL talent evaluators in a competitive football setting this week gives him an edge on his younger peers at the position.
"It's an extra week in front of NFL scouts playing against senior competition," Sweeney said. "This is another week you get right in front of the scout's eyes. You're playing for NFL coaches, you're running NFL blocking schemes and pass games."
Sweeney was good in the North Team practice Tuesday, showing off an ability to both block on the edge and make plays in the passing game. He had a particularly nice catch deep down the sideline in 7-on-7 drills from quarterback Daniel Jones of Duke.
Being good as both a pass catcher and run blocker is a big part of Sweeney's game, and it's what he hopes sets him apart from the rest of the tight ends.
It could be something that interests the Lions if they are on the lookout for help at the tight end position this offseason. New Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is very multiple in his schemes, something that attracted the Lions to him, according to general manager Bob Quinn.
"He's been in a couple different offenses," Quinn told SiriusXM NFL radio in an interview with Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez Monday. "Really threw the ball around a lot in Green Bay early in his career, had kind of a run-based attack in Minnesota and Seattle, but he can do some West Coast stuff, he can do a ground-and-pound. It's going to be a little bit of a mix of everything and that's something that really kind of led us to Darrell in the end."
It seems like Sweeney's versatile skillset could be a good fit for an offense like that.
"People run the ball all the time in the NFL," he said. "You can't really just be a one-faceted player. I think as far as being able to do both, being versatile, you're on the field all the time in pass situation and run situation and the defense can't key into a tendency whether you're out there or not. I think that's really what sets me apart, being a combo tight end."
Sweeney caught 32 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns this past season. He caught 36 balls for 512 yards and four scores as a junior. Boston College also rushed for 2,610 yards as a team this past season with a 4.1 average and 23 touchdowns. They were balanced in an era of pass-dominated offenses in the college game, which should make Sweeney an interesting option at the position for teams looking for a tight end that can do it all.
Sweeney (6-4, 253) was asked if there's an NFL tight end he admires or likes to tailor his game after.
"Right down the road, Rob Gronkowski," he said. "People just think of him as this receiving guy, but (New England) runs stretch and they run stretch insert and he's as good as anyone in the history of the National Football League blocking those plays.
"If you watch him, he's just unbelievable as a blocker, as well as a pass receiver."
Sweeney is one of those rare tight ends that takes just as much pleasure springing a back for a big gain as he does catching a touchdown. He hopes a team falls in love with his ability to catch the ball and be a plus blocker this week at the Senior Bowl and throughout the pre-draft process.