So far this week, I’ve provided faux draft grades to Barry Church, DeMarco Murray, and Dwayne Harris. The thinking is that these young players have had such limited NFL careers that their on-field play is unlikely to be a reflection of their true skill set. With a limited sample of plays, chances are the future for all three players won’t closely resemble the past in the same way that it might for a veteran whose play has been verified to a greater degree.
Today, I want to take a look at tight end James Hanna. Hanna is such an interesting player because, despite possessing an elite set of physical tools, he’s effectively been replaced by second-round rookie Gavin Escobar. That move was so astonishing because, although he didn’t get much action in 2012, Hanna showed he’s a big-time athlete.
At the 2012 Scouting Combine, Hanna checked in at 6-4, 252 pounds. That height isn’t ideal, and size is very important for tight ends. It’s the primary advantage that 6-6 Escobar has over Hanna, although it’s worth noting that Hanna’s arms aren’t even a half-inch shorter than Escobar’s.
At 252 pounds, Hanna ran a 4.49 40-yard dash—a remarkably fast time for a tight end. Compare that to Escobar’s 4.84 40-yard dash. I’ve found that the 40-yard dash isn’t incredibly important for tight ends, but we’d never want someone who is slower if we can have a faster player. Plus, Hanna is so fast for his size that there aren’t a ton of comps out there for him. Good luck finding more than a handful of 250-pound players who run sub-4.5.
In addition, Hanna ran a 4.11 short shuttle—faster than most running backs. He also had a 36-inch vertical, 10-2 broad jump, and 6.76 three-cone drill. In comparison, Escobar had a 4.31 short shuttle, 32-inch vertical, 9-6 broad jump, and 7.07 three-cone drill. Simply put, Hanna is a better athlete in every sense of the word.
Re-Grade: Second Round
Based solely on his measurables, Hanna is a borderline first-round talent. Now most will argue that he doesn’t have the same sort of ball skills as Escobar. That might be true, but it’s tough to justify a second-round pick on a slow, relatively unathletic tight end when you have a more athletic version already on the roster. Had the Cowboys given Hanna more of an opportunity, they’d probably be pleasantly surprised.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.