Will workouts help Pitt's Dickerson at draft time?
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pitt tight end Dorin Dickerson runs the 40-yard dash Saturday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Of the nearly 330 players who spent the past six days getting poked, prodded and tested at the NFL Scouting Combine, only four ran faster than Pitt's Dorin Dickerson. Only one jumped higher. And, among tight ends, none consistently tested better.

To be sure, there were some workout wonders during the many drills and skull sessions that ended Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium, among them Southern California safety Taylor Mays, who, at 230 pounds, dazzled NFL personnel on the final day with his speed and leaping ability; and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who likely solidified his position as the No. 1 player in the draft with his strength, agility and indomitable presence.

But, there weren't too many players, if any, who performed better or opened more eyes than Dickerson, Pitt's athletically gifted tight end.

Not only was he the fastest tight end at the combine, being timed officially at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, only four players ran faster times -- wide receiver Jacoby Ford of Clemson (4.28), return specialist Trindon Holliday of LSU (4.34) and running backs Jahvid Best of California (4.37) and C.J. Spiller of Clemson (4.38).

Dickerson's vertical jump of 43 1/2 inches was the second best at the combine, exceeded only by cornerback A.J. Jefferson of Fresno State (44 inches). And his broad jump of 10 feet, 5 inches tied Mays and Florida cornerback Joe Haden -- two of the top secondary prospects -- for 10th among all players.

Still, it remains to be seen if he improved his draft stock because, at 6 feet 2, 226 pounds, Dickerson will have to add at least 15 pounds to be a flex tight end or H-back in the National Football League. If so, he thinks he can be a tight end on the order of Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts or Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers.

"They're smaller type tight ends," Dickerson said. "That's what I classify myself as, a smaller receiving-type tight end.

"I think they're going to look at me as a flex tight end. I'm probably going to put on some weight. I'll be used in the slot and as a wing, all the H-back stuff. I think that's how I'll be used. But some teams might want me as a bigger receiver, I don't know yet."

Because of his athleticism and unique skills, Dickerson lined up at a number of different positions at Pitt, including wide receiver, H-back and running back. Nate Byham, who also attended the combine, was more of the natural tight end, primarily because he is a better blocker than Dickerson.

That allowed Dickerson to catch 49 passes for 529 yards and 10 touchdowns, a school record for a tight end, last season. It also earned him a first-team All-Big East selection, a finalist for the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end and an invitation to the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.

Nonetheless, Dickerson is an example of what is happening in college football, where spread offenses are making it difficult to find more natural tight ends.

"There are less and less tight end and fullback types because of the emphasis in college, and even high school, on the spread offense," said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations. "We don't really see that anymore. What you are seeing are bigger receivers that may have, in the past, grown into tight ends. Now you're seeing 6-3, 220-pound receivers, who would have gone inside, staying outside in the spread."

Indeed, Dickerson's lack of weight could cause him to be tried at wide receiver, a position at which he practiced and played in the Senior Bowl. To be sure, only one receiver had a better 40 time at the combine.

"I definitely have a lot of room to grow and a lot of learning to do," Dickerson said. "It's only a matter of time before I catch on for real and be a good tight end."

He's off to an impressive start.