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TE Gresham Set to Prove Health, Worth


While wideout seems to be the position du jour for the Ravens' upcoming draft needs, what about the tight end position?

This year's draft is stocked full of talented tight ends, but oddly enough, one of the highest-rated prospects hasn't played a game in 12 months.

Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham injured his right knee in spring practices last offseason. A torn meniscus kept him out the entire year.

Needless to say, Gresham is going to be highly scrutinized at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he knows it.

"I'm anxious to do the medical and prove that I'm good; that I'm the same guy I was before," he told ****.  I'm looking forward to shedding any of those doubts about me."

Before the knee injury, Gresham, who measured in at 6-foot-5, 261 pounds on Thursday, was a game-changer.

In 2008, he caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in an All-American campaign. Even at his size, multiple reports have clocked him at a sub-4.8 time in the 40-yard dash.

Simply put, Gresham could have challenged Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew last year for the draft's best tight end.  Considering how the Ravens admitted that they valued Pettigrew in that class, Gresham could be a solid option.

"Gresham suffered a knee injury and decided to have a significant surgery to strengthen the structure of the knee long-term to ensure a long playing career," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said.  "He's a fine player, probably not the blocker that Pettigrew is but more dangerous in the pass game."

Operating out of the Sooners' spread offense, Gresham showed the quickness in stretching the field, but the strength to dominate defenders over the middle.  

But while the Ravens always live by the film of a prospect, Gresham's past accolades – he was voted first-team All-American by The Sporting News as a junior – he has much to prove.

Teams won't be completely mollified if he passes Thursday's thorough medical examination. He will also have to show that his speed and agility have returned after extensive training at Athlete's Performance Institute in Arizona.

The 40-yard dash will be critical, but even more so will be the three-cone drill and position drills.

"I'm looking to see him run somewhere in the 4.6s, and I'm looking to see him catch the football and cut on that bad knee," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think he's the first tight end off the board."

And then, there is the blocking. Gresham is poised to join a league where tight ends are becoming glorified wideouts – pass-catchers with a little extra weight on their bones.

To Gresham, well-rounded is the key.

"I pride myself on being able to contribute on every play, whether that means catching the ball or making a block," he said.

Here is a look at some other tight ends that could be of value:

Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, 6-foot-6, 265 pounds
The skinny: *Gronkowski is a powerfully-built, tall tight end that comes with a caveat. He also missed the 2009 season due to a back injury, but still caught 47 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008 despite missing the first three games due to mono. Should he prove healthy, "Gronk" could easily be a first-round draft pick.
*Of note: *Gronkowski's brother, Dan, played college football at Maryland and was a seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions.
*Quotable: "
Growing up, there was always competition. We were always playing sport.  Basketball, backyard baseball. We were always competitive. I believe that's why my family is the way we are now, because us brothers were pushing each other and competitive our whole life."
Quotable II: "It would be great, going to a team with an established tight end you can learn a lot from. If they've been in the league and are a veteran, they know what it takes.  It would be great to go under their wing and learn a lot from them."

Jimmy Graham, Miami, 6-foot-7, 259 pounds
*The skinny: *Graham has a basketball player's body, which is appropriate because he played hoops for the Hurricanes since 2005. A bit raw, Graham has great hands and athleticism befitting a basketball player, and it showed in his 17 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns last year.
*Of note: *Graham gave up NBA tryouts to continue to play football and stay in school at Miami.
*Quotable: *"There are a ton of great tight ends to come out of the University of Miami, and I hope to be the next one. I had a chance to talk to Jeremy Shockey the week that they won the super Bowl. All those guys really look after us younger guys and talk to us. I definitely embrace that."
*Quotable II: *"I think when [teams] look back and see that I turned down my pro basketball tryouts and all my overseas money, they'll see that I am [committed] to football. I turned down a lot to come back to college and play this game."

Anthony McCoy, USC, 6-foot-2, 249 pounds
The skinny: *Originally recruited as a wideout, McCoy couldn't keep weight off and eventually moved to tight end. He said that he stayed on the line approximately 90 percent of the time his junior year, but rebounded as a passing-game threat with 22 catches for 457 yards and one score last season.
*Quotable: "
A lot of guys can catch passes, but there are some guys that have come in that can do it all, like Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez. I watch film of guys like that.  If you can do that, you'll last long in the league."
Quotable II: "I like to mix it up. I'll block defensive ends and linebackers, but also I can split out and go against safeties, or if a linebacker comes out, I can go one-on-one. I consider myself a multi-dimensional tight end. I can split out or go inside."

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