ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos' development of tight ends has been proficient enough to remove the position from the list of pressing needs as the draft nears. But it would nevertheless come as no surprise if the Broncos pick a tight end toward the end of the draft. Some of the names expected to be called late on the third day include:
Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts: Although injuries -- including a sports hernia -- limited him to just six games last year, his overall athleticism could place him in the later rounds, even though he's raw and hasn't enjoyed a productive full season. He shows good concentration and awareness of the football -- evidenced on a 47-yard touchdown catch against Miami (Ohio) when he plucked a tipped pass out of midair and avoided an incoming safety to make the grab for the score. His blocking and route-running need refinement.
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State: With a 40-yard dash timed at 4.6 seconds, Duncan was the second-fastest tight end at the Combine, and provided another reminder that his leg problems appear to be an issue of the past. Duncan amassed 1,045 yards and 13 touchdowns on 71 receptions last year, working mainly as a slot target, which created mismatches for the 6-foot-3, 268-pounder. He adjusts well to the ball in flight when it's a lollipop, but the jury remains out on his ability to adjust to a throw with the velocity of what he'll see in the NFL. Because he worked out of the slot for most of his college career, Duncan's work as a blocker was infrequent, and he also faces a steep learning curve in this area.
Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State: A 4.89-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine was a disappointment for the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder. He trimmed .09 off that time at his subsequent Pro Day on March 13, but suffered a pulled hamstring during the workout. Gilmore's film is much better; he's a decent receiving threat, can make catches in traffic and is a capable blocker, and showed this at the Senior Bowl after receiving a late invitation.
Marcel Jensen, Fresno State: He has the longest arms (34 7/8 inches) of any tight end who worked out at the Combine and the second-best vertical (35 inches), and should at minimum contribute as a special-teamer and a potential threat to block placekicks. His hands are of only average size for a tight end (9 7/8 inches), although they are reliable. But he needs to be more authoritative in his blocking, he doesn't get as much separation as would be optimal and his 40 time at the Combine (4.85 seconds) didn't impress. Nevertheless, the special-teams potential likely puts him into the late rounds; there's a place for him on a roster.
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State: A 4.50 40 time with a 252-pound frame will draw notice, and his speed shows on the film, where he was one of the elite receiving tight ends at the FCS level (although he ended up there after transferring from Florida following some off-field issues). He effectively catches with his hands and not his body, and looks the part of an effective downfield target who will make people miss. His hands are small for a tight end (9 1/4 inches, second-smallest among all Combine tight ends), his blocking needs some technical polish, and the leap from FCS to the NFL will require some adjustment, but Leonard is an intriguing, high-ceiling third-day prospect.
Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin: Pedersen sometimes looks a bit stiff and doesn't have ideal fluidity, but is a capable blocker and a patient and precise route-runner who maximizes his capabilities. The big knock on him is that at 238 pounds, he needs to either be bulkier by 20 pounds or faster than the 4.89-second 40 time he clocked at the Combine.
D.J. Tialavea, Utah State: Tialavea has lined up as a tackle and as a fullback, allowing him to refine his blocking skills; at this, he's a couple of steps ahead of most tight ends in this draft class, but has a long way to go as a receiver.
Others of note in the late-round to undrafted range: Blake Annen, Cincinnati; Alex Bayer, Bowling Green; Ted Bolser, Indiana; Kaneakua Friel, BYU; Michael Flacco, New Haven; Xavier Grimble, USC; Colt Lyerla, Oregon; Arthur Lynch, Georgia; Jake Murphy, Utah; Jordan Najvar, Baylor; Richard Rodgers, California; Asa Watson, N.C. State.