Combine height: 5-11 7/8
Combine weight: 183 pounds
Combine 40 time: Did not run at Combine
Primarily a return man during his first three seasons an North Carolina, Tate’s senior season stats were subdued by a midseason knee injury; in six games he caught 16 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns, with 11 carries for 151 yards (13.7 yards per carry) and one score. For his Tar Heel career, Tate finished with 46 receptions for 927 yards and eight touchdowns along with 26 carries for 316 yards (12.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
Heading into the 2008 season Tate was considered one of the top return men available in the draft, with some scouts giving him a late first/early second round grade. Tate flashed his elusiveness and playmaking skills en route to establishing an NCAA record for combined kick return yardage and was also translating his playmaking ability to the receiver position prior to tearing his ACL and MCL six games into his senior season.
Obviously, scouts—who were concerned about Tate’s top-end speed (or lack thereof) before his injury—will want to see how the injury might affect his quickness and acceleration; Tate did not run at either the Combine or UNC’s pro day March 17, and he’s not expected to be at full speed until after the draft. Those teams willing to take a chance on him will see on film his quickness, hands, and ability to reach top-speed quickly. Tate will need to refine his route-running, which is the case with most rookie receivers, and he may not be healthy enough to contribute in 2009.
Any team looking to draft Tate has to brace for the possibility they won’t get much if anything from him as a rookie. That said, any team looking for a developing receiver with return skills will hope to snag a bargain by grabbing the former potential first-rounder with a second-day selection. Some scouts still list as a Day One option, so let’s split the difference and look at third-round landing spots for Tate. The Bengals (70) just lost Glenn Holt via free agency and could put Tate’s return skills to immediate use, while the Jaguars (72) could relieve Maurice Jones-Drew of some of his return duties while also upgrading a wafer-thin receiving corps. Further down, the Jets (76) could use Tate to replace Laveranues Coles and free Leon Washington up for more work from scrimmage; the Vikings (86) need the special teams assistance Tate could provide and aren’t exactly set at wideout; and the Panthers (93), Titans (94), and Steelers (96) all seem to have multiple areas on their roster Tate could address.
There have been a lot of advances in medicine; for example, Ronnie Brown came back a whole lot faster from his knee surgery than anyone expected. That said, mix Tate’s rehab necessities with a learning curve that’s already steep for college receivers transitioning to the NFL and might be even more so for a guy who spent much of his Tar Heel time on special teams and you’re looking at a modest at best contribution in Year One. Tate is unlikely to hear his name called on draft day in most redraft leagues, but he’s worth paying attention to for a mid-season pickup.
Much like NFL teams waiting until the second day to get a receiver with perceived first-round potential, dynasty leaguers can pick up a sleeper like Tate later in the draft with the tangy zip of upside in the air. It won’t be difficult to scare off other potential suitors by mentioning the ACL/MCL tear and the lack of experience at the receiver position, but if scouts were slapping a Day One grade on him prior to the injury he’s worth stashing on a deep roster in hopes that they’re right.