April 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

NFL draft: Tight ends

Skilled players tempt Lions to select one

Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma could be a first-round pick despite missing the 2009 season because of knee surgery. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

This is one in a series covering the top prospects at each position in the NFL draft.

Allen Park -- The Lions stirred things when they selected tight end Brandon Pettigrew 20th overall in last year's NFL draft. They added another tight end with the next-to-last pick in Dan Gronkowski, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

But here's another surprise: The team hasn't ruled out drafting another tight end this month.

It won't happen in the first round. But with Pettigrew recovering from a torn ACL and veteran Casey FitzSimmons an unrestricted free agent, don't be surprised if general manager Martin Mayhew looks to add another receiver at that position.

And from the looks of it, there are plenty of options.

Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham might be this year's lone first-round selection. Gronkowski's brother, Rob, is the next-best prospect with a high second-round grade, though like Gresham, he's coming off an injury that sidelined him the entire 2009 season.

"What you are seeing are bigger receivers that may have in the past grown into tight ends," said Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Steelers. "Now you're seeing 6-3, 220-pound receivers who would have gone inside are staying outside."

Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson probably fits that description, and the Lions took note at the Senior Bowl in January. As good as the 6-foot-2, 226-pounder looked, though, he looked better at February's scouting combine, running a 4.40-second 40-yard dash and recording a 43 1/2 -inch vertical leap -- highest of any player.

Two other standouts from the Senior Bowl -- Oregon's Ed Dickson and Miami's Jimmy Graham -- made pre-draft visits to Allen Park. And Dickson (6-4, 249), in particular, looks well-suited to fill FitzSimmons' shoes. He averaged 40 catches as a three-year starter.

"He's got some wide receiver-type skills," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of Dickson at the Senior Bowl. "But he's a multidimensional player, which is important when you're a tight end, because that's a position where you have to block defensive linemen but you also have to go beat safeties in coverage. He has some natural instincts for catching the ball."

Graham's instincts are still raw, though. A 6-6, 260-pounder, he made the switch to football after his basketball eligibility ran out last year, but showed plenty of promise, finishing with five touchdowns. He also ran a 4.5 40 at the combine with a 38 1/2 -inch vertical.

"Obviously he's a gifted athlete," Schwartz said.

Top five tight ends

Player School Comment
Jermaine GreshamOklahomaBig target missed 2009 with torn ACL
Rob GronkowskiArizonaComing off back surgery
Ed DicksonOregonImpressive Senior Bowl helped stock
Dorin DickersonPittsburghVersatile athlete off charts at combine
Jimmy GrahamMiamiLate-comer (basketball) has lots of potential

Value picks (Day 2 or 3): Aaron Hernandez, Florida; Tony Moeaki, Iowa; Dennis Pitta, BYU

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