[caption id="attachment_4668" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Bucky Hodges after the Belk Bowl. [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]The 2017 NFL Combine has come and gone with some players boosting their NFL Draft stocks in showing off great athleticism while others did some damage to their draft stocks that they will look to repair on more friendly turf at their school's Pro Day.
Bucky Hodges entered the 2017 NFL Combine flying under-the-radar in a loaded tight end class, but left Indianapolis opening a lot of eyes and giving himself a nice boost to his draft stock that should solidify him as a first 2 round pick.
Entering the Combine, much of the talk in regards to impressive tight end athleticism surrounded guys like Miami's David Njoku, Ole Miss's Evan Engram, and South Alabama's Gerald Everett while Alabama's OJ Howard was seen as the top tight end overall, but Hodges proved that he may be the most athletic tight end with a unique blend of size and athleticism that has opened the door for some big comparisons.
Hodges had an impressive NFL Combine performance that started with Hodges running a very good 4.57 40 yard dash time that was faster than a good amount of wide receivers including Isaiah Ford. Then, Hodges continued to impress with a TE-best 39-inch vertical jump followed by a 134-inch broad jump that was a NFL Combine record for tight ends.
Hodges also had a 4.45 20-yard shuttle and a 12.08 60-yard shuttle time that was one of the best times among tight ends at the Combine. Hodges's strong performances raised plenty of eyebrows and made a strong case that he was the most athletic tight end in a draft loaded with plenty of very athletic tight ends.
Hodges's 40-yard dash and vertical jump metrics along with Hodges height and weight allowed for a comparison to one of the NFL's top pass-catching tight ends.
The comparison between Jimmy Graham and Bucky Hodges isn't a stretch whatsoever not only because of their athletic attributes but also because of their playing styles. Of course, there is a notable difference due to how Graham played only one year of football at Miami while Hodges starred for the Hokies for three seasons before leaving early for the NFL.
However, Hodges has been heavily a pass-catching tight end with the 757 native playing wide receiver for the Hokies this past season while Graham was used in the slot and on the outside a lot early in his career with the New Orleans Saints. Graham has also never been known as a great blocker with his blocking skills improving some as his career went along but his blocking has never prevented him from being one of the NFL's best tight ends.
Hodges also had some issues with his blocking technique at workouts at the NFL Combine, but Hodges showed that he has the size and athleticism to be a very dynamic pass-catching tight end at the next level though he still is quite raw, but showed he has a huge ceiling.
Hodges's below-average blocking along with how he played wide receiver last season makes you wonder if a NFL team could look at moving him to wide receiver with Hodges having enough speed especially given his size. There is some precedence for a move like this being made as Devin Funchess was seen early in the NFL Draft process as a tight end but ended up being picked as a 6'5'' WR by the Panthers though his success has been limited.
Mock drafts have seen Hodges now solidify his draft status in the top 2 rounds with a SB Nation post-NFL Combine mock draft having him going 23rd to the New York Giants. Hodges has solidified a high draft pick status with there being a very good chance that Hodges could be taken in the first round now especially if he can back up his strong NFL Combine with a very good Pro Day.
Bucky Hodges is undoubtedly one of the biggest winners from the NFL Combine with the 757 native solidifying his status as a top 2 round pick.