Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 2/23/12
I'll never forget Vernon Davis' performance at the 2006 NFL Combine. Considered a late first-round, early second-round prospect when he arrived in Indianapolis that week, Davis took to the RCA Dome carpet like some modern-day Hercules. The chiseled Davis dominated the tight end drills like no player ever had before. The 40? He ran it in 4.38 seconds, the fastest time by a tight end in the combine's 20-year history. On the bench press, Davis pumped out 225 pounds 33 times. Unheard of for a tight end. He jumped 42 inches in the air. He also checked in at just over 6-foot-3. Despite catching just 51 passes in his one season starting at Maryland, Davis went sixth overall to the San Francisco 49ers; the highest a tight end had ever been drafted in NFL history. No one blinked an eye. We'd seen what he did in Indy two months earlier and knew the unlimited possibilities. Davis wasn't the first of the freakishly athletic tight ends to enter the league this century (see: Antonio Gates), but he was the first to leverage an outstanding combine performance into a top-10 draft selection. A few years later, Texas tight end Jermichael Finley left school after just his sophomore year, impressed at the combine and was scooped up in the third round by the Packers. Two years later, Jimmy Graham -- after just 18 receptions in one year of college football at Miami -- put on such an impressive combine performance that Sean Payton and the Saints drafted him in the third round, too. Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green's the guy to watch this year. Never heard of him? You will after this week in Indy. At 6-6, 235 pounds and blessed with good hands, solid speed and above-average blocking ability, Green's going to have NFL scouts salivating over him at Lucas Oil in the coming days. Face it -- the NFL's a copycat league, and with the big, breakout years had by Finley, Graham, New England's dynamic duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and San Francisco's Davis -- dynamic tight ends that can stretch the field are like slap bracelets or the iPad. Everyone's gotta have one. In his four seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns, Green's numbers improved year after year. A two-time Mackey Award finalist and two-time All-Sun Belt first-team selection, it's not like he didn't deliver on the field. But the over-arching thought is that Green's just started to scratch the surface. The best is yet to come. His best game was a November effort against rival Louisiana-Monroe, in which he caught 13 balls for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a dramatic 36-35 win. Watching the game tape on that one, you'll see Green not only catch balls on crisp routes, but haul in multiple 20-plus yard passes from quarterback Blaine Gautier, as well. That tape, paired with a strong week of interviews and workouts, could catapult Green to the top of teams' tight end draft boards. Add in a surefire strong combine performance (he's expected to wow) and the fact that the tight end draft class is surprisingly light on big-time talent this year, and there's reason to believe Ladarius Green -- a guy you've likely never heard of -- could find his way into the first round come April 26. It's not that crazy. Whether it's a fad or here to stay, game-changing athletic tight ends are what's in style in today's NFL. If you don't have two, you at least need one. And if you don't have one, well, you best start looking. Right place, right time? Hey, blame the game, not the player. LaDarius Green certainly won't be complaining come April.
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