Gresham, Hernandez could help AFC North

INDIANAPOLIS--As we've pointed out this week, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens need big-play receivers.

But a big-play tight end wouldn't be a bad second option for both teams, either.


HernandezHernandezEnter University of Florida's Aaron Hernandez and Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham. This athletic duo could be the answer to a lot of the offensive problems facing Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Ravens both struggled with "splash" plays last season, which often is defined as passing plays of 20-30 yards or more. Long gains from the tight-end position certainly were few and far between.

Gresham and Hernandez, the top-rated tight ends in this year's draft, have the ability to stretch the field. Both players are projected to run in the range of 4.5 or 4.6 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

"I'd like to be like a Tony Gonzalez, just be great like that, in a sense," Gresham said. "You know, he played in so many Pro Bowls year in and year out. He's a great player, he puts numbers up, he's productive."

As with most pass-catching tight ends, blocking at the next level is the biggest unknown for both players.

Gresham missed all of 2009 with a knee injury and wasn't known for his blocking even before that. Hernandez, who played in Florida's spread offense, was rarely asked to block at the point of attack.

"I don't think I'm a horrible blocker," Hernandez said. "But I feel like I definitely have room to improve a lot of things in my game and that's one of them."

Gresham also admitted that improved blocking is "a personal goal for myself." If either tight end gets drafted in the division, run blocking will be a large part of their responsibilities as Baltimore, Cincinnati and the Pittsburgh Steelers all had 1,000-yard rushers last season.

But the strengths of Gresham and Hernandez -- catching and running with the football -- are certainly needed in the AFC North. That makes them prime candidates for Cincinnati, picking No. 21, and Baltimore, picking No. 25.