Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates by dunking the football over the crossbar
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said recently the he was looking to add a tight end to the mix in Oakland. And thus far we are getting a good idea of just what kind of tight end prospect the Raiders are targeting-- basketball stars.
The basketball-player-turned-NFL-tight-end craze is in full effect and the Raiders are not getting left behind. They recently were in attendance at the Pro Day for Cal State Fullerton basketball player, Andre Hardy-a player with no college football experience.
Hardy, like most basketball players, has the physical part. He is 6-foot-5, 244 with a 79-inch wingspan. He also ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash. He did, of course, play football in high school. He is also the son of a former NFL player as his father, Andre Sr, played running back at Weber State and Saint Mary's and was drafted in the fifth round by the Eagles in 1984. He played three seasons in the NFL for the Eagles, Seahawks, and 49ers.
This visit comes on the heels of the Raiders showing particular interest in Les Brown, another basketball player/tight end prospect with no college football experience.
This appears to be the newest trend for the NFL. A quality in a tight end which was once seen insignificant, or at very least coincidental, now has NFL teams paying particular attention. Tony Gonzalez was the first tight end with basketball skills to break out as a star in the NFL. Then Antonio Gates hit the scene as an undrafted player and blew up the NFL.
The success of Gonzalez and Gates had the Saints taking Jimmy Graham in the fifth round of the draft and Graham was one of the most dominant tight ends in the game last season. And with that, the craze was officially on.
No doubt it will cause a few basketball players with raw football skills to get drafted who wouldn't otherwise have ever seen an NFL contract. For the team that gets it right, the reward can be great. But with every craze such as this, there are more duds than studs.
As of now, we know two things: The Raiders want to add a tight end and they are among those firm believers in the successful transition from the round ball to the oblong one.