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Gronkowski climbs up draft ladder

INDIANAPOLIS -- Williamsville North graduate Dan Gronkowski helped himself during tight end drills Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gronkowski, who caught 29 passes and had three touchdowns for the University of Maryland this season, is a 6-foot-6, 255-pounder. The early line according to draft gurus is he could be drafted in the fifth through seventh rounds or be a free-agent signing. has him rated 16th among tight ends. Sporting News had him 24th.

However, Gronkowski had a sensational day of testing. He ran a time of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which was 11th best among tight ends and just barely outside the top six. Considering Gronkowski's best strength is his blocking, it was a good showing. Derek Fine, a fourth-round pick of the Bills last year, ran a 4.83 in the 40 at the combine. (Fine caught more passes in college than Gronkowski.)

Gronkowski did even better in the other drills. He was tied for second best among tight ends in the broad jump, at 10 feet, 2 inches. He was second best in three other drills -- running among three cones (6.92 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.26) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.72). He was third best in the bench press, lifting 225 pounds 26 times.

"I've been told a wide range, so I have no idea," Gronkowski said about his draft expectations. "I've heard stuff from the third round all the way to free agency. So I have pretty good film, especially blocking. I've shown I'm a really good blocker. What really matters is the next couple days. I've got to show them that I'm fast and I can get downfield, make plays downfield and that I have good hands."

Gronkowski is one of five brothers in a fabulously talented athletic family. His father played offensive line for Syracuse. His older brother, Gordie Jr., is a minor-league baseball player. He has two younger brothers who play tight end for the University of Arizona. Chris is a 6-2, 245 pound junior reserve. Rob is a 6-6, 260-pound sophomore who made third-team All-America this year after catching 43 passes for 645 yards. Rob Gronkowski could be an early-round draft pick when he enters the NFL.

"I kind of have been paving the way for my younger brothers for a while now," Dan Gronkowski said. "My older brother went the baseball route. Through recruiting and going to school, they always ask me for advice. I always give them good advice. I think they're always amazed that I'm doing it, but then the next year they're doing it."

Dan Gronkowski would love to wind up with the Bills.

"I'm definitely a Bills fan, and it would be amazing to go back there," he said.

Meanwhile, the top-rated tight end, Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew, did not outrun Gronkowski. Pettigrew was timed in a slow 4.87 seconds. Pettigrew did 9 feet, 10 inches in the broad jump and lifted 225 pounds 22 times.

That time probably puts a big crimp in Pettigrew's chances of being picked in the first half of the first round. The fastest tight end, Jared Cook, ran 4.50. Some early draft projections had Pettigrew going to Buffalo at No. 11.


Reports suggest veteran running back Fred Taylor, cut by Jacksonville on Monday, is on the Bills' radar screen.

The Providence Journal reported the Saturday Taylor is expected to visit both the Bills and the New England Patriots this coming week.

Jason Rosenhaus, one of Taylor's representatives, declined to comment on Taylor's plans.

Taylor, 33, ranks 16th on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 11,271 yards and 62 touchdowns. His release saved the Jaguars money and also allows them to hand the full-time rushing role to the younger Maurice Jones-Drew. Taylor was scheduled to make $6 million in base salary this year and also was owed a $1 million roster bonus next month.

Exactly what a visit by Taylor would say about the Bills' commitment to Marshawn Lynch is unclear. It is likely the Bills will seek some kind of insurance at running back, given the fact Lynch faces the possibility of a suspension from the NFL because he is facing misdemeanor gun possession charges in Los Angeles.


Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree was a strong candidate for the No. 1 overall draft pick entering the combine. But his standing has taken a hit.

NFL doctors diagnosed Crabtree with a stress fracture in his left foot. He reportedly will need surgery to insert a screw and might face a recovery of 10 or more weeks.

"It's not a career-ending injury or anything like that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's a good football player, and he's got plenty of time to get well."

Crabtree was not scheduled to run until today. He was considering holding off surgery and running for NFL scouts during his on-campus workout next month, according to the NFL Network.

Crabtree also came up a tad short in his first measurement of the week. He was listed at 6-3 in college, the same height as Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald, with whom he has been compared. He's actually 6-1 1/3 , which caused some raised eyebrows.


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