Rob Gronkowski’s record-setting season may have bumped up University of Oregon tight end David Paulson’s draft value.
Gronkowski, who plays for the New England Patriots, set NFL records for receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end last season, finishing with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Gronkowski was the shining star of a banner statistical year for his position.
Among tight ends around the league in 2011, Houston’s Owen Daniels, the Cowboys’ Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham of New Orleans and Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis all led their teams in receiving yards.
Paulson is riding the wave of the proliferation of pass-catching tight ends playing a larger role in the league.
“It helps because teams that have used the tight end are a little more versatile and have had some success with them,” Paulson said. “And now other teams would like to do similar things, so I think I can fit into that role.”
Selected to The News Tribune All-Area team and a member of Northwest Nuggets his senior year at Auburn Riverside High, Paulson went on to star at the University of Oregon, finishing with 31 catches for 438 yards and six touchdowns in 2011.
Paulson was an all-Pacific-12 Conference second team selection in his final season with the Ducks.
At 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, Paulson was used mostly as a movement tight end for the Ducks, and likely will fill a similar role in the NFL.
“His versatility is big strength,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “He can be an H-back, he can run in motion, he can split out as receiver, he can block. He is the whole package.”
Paulson struggled at the NFL scouting combine in February, running a 40-yard time of 4.93 seconds. But he posted better numbers at his pro day, running a 4.66. He also posted a 9-foot, 5-inch broad jump and 33-inch vertical leap.
A Seahawks fan growing up, Paulson also got a chance to work out for Seattle coach Pete Carroll and the rest of the team’s coaches and scouts at the team’s local pro day for area players April 5.
“It was a lot of fun,” Paulson said. “I definitely grew up a Seahawks fan, so just getting the opportunity to work out in front of the coaches and the scouts, and just seeing the nice facility and working out for the coaches, it was a great experience.”
NFLDraftScout.com has Paulson rated as the No. 19 tight end, and projected to be drafted in the seventh round. Paulson said he’s worked out for several teams, but really doesn’t have a good idea of where he’ll land.
“That’s probably the weirdest part of the process, just having no idea where you’re going to be and just kind of waiting for the call,” Paulson said. “It’s definitely weird not knowing where your going to go, but I’m excited and looking forward to it at the same time, getting an opportunity to experience another city.”
Offensive linemen/tight ends to consider
First round, 12th pick: David DeCastro, OG, 6-5, 316, Stanford
Rob’s rationale: Often compared to former All-Pros Steve Hutchinson and Steve Wisniewski, the Bellevue High graduate would be a popular addition to Seattle’s line.
Second round, 43rd pick: Bobby Massie, OT, 6-6, 316, Mississippi
Rob’s rationale: Big, strong, athletic and a three-year starter at right tackle, Massie would provide depth as James Carpenter recovers from a serious knee injury.
THird round, 75th pick: Jeff Allen, OL, 6-4, 307, Illinois
Rob’s rationale: A swing tackle in college who some believe projects best inside at guard, Allen’s versatility would be put to great use by Hawks offensive line coach Tom Cable.
Fourth round, 106th pick: Michael Egnew, TE, 6-5, 252, Missouri
Rob’s rationale: Often split out wide with the Tigers, Egnew has the size, hands and speed scouts look for as a potential mismatch at tight end – but won’t provide much as a blocker.
Sixth pick, 181st pick: Rhett Ellison, TE, 6-5, 251, Southern California
Rob’s rationale: Considered such a leader, he had the leadership award re-named after him at USC. Tight end’s high-effort, versatility could pique interest of his former coach, Pete Carroll.
Seventh round, 225th pick: Jeff Adams, OT, 6-6, 306, Columbia
Rob’s rationale: An athletic small school left tackle scouts are quietly talking about, Adams is the type of late round developmental prospect teams love to take late in draft.