JUDGE: Todd is almost at top of the TE Heap

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Clark Judge

I never thought I¿d see another tight end making the catches that Kansas City¿s turns into weekly video highlights. Then I saw . Other than All-Pro linebacker flying to the next pile, the lasting memory from Baltimore¿s Monday night upset of Denver was Heap producing three of the most difficult catches of the season. One was a leaping two-handed grab over two defenders that went for a 23-yard touchdown. Another was a leaping one-handed stab, good for 33 yards. This one was between two defenders, and it set up a 3-yard touchdown by¿who else?¿Todd Heap. All of that happened in a second quarter dominated by the , and it made you wonder: If the guy plays like , is the next waiting to happen? In a word, no. That¿s not a bad thing. Gonzalez is extreme in his abilities, with the emphasis on catching the ball. He has the size, speed and hands scout covet in a wide receiver, and he is the ¿ most feared receiver. Heap is a better blocker, and while he might not move as well or as gracefully as Gonzalez he can make the tough catch, he can make it in a crowd and he can make it downfield. ¿He¿s a weapon,¿ said Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore¿s senior vice president of football operations. ¿Other than , he¿s the only player Brian (Billick, Baltimore¿s head coach) goes into a game with having five or six ways of getting him the ball.¿ Some of them were on view Monday in Heap¿s finest game as a pro. When it was over he had five catches for 84 yards, two touchdowns and a few million additions to his fan club. ¿Were we surprised? No,¿ said Newsome. ¿When we looked at him we saw someone who was very athletic; someone who could make plays downfield. He demonstrated he could go down the middle with speed. Remember, this is a guy who played basketball at Arizona State, which is something like .¿ There¿s that name again. But scouts and personnel directors contacted about Heap didn¿t compare him to Gonzalez. In fact, one offered Miami rookie ahead of Heap, largely because of McMichael¿s pass-catching abilities. The consensus was that Heap is not as athletic as Gonzalez. Based on what I saw Monday, I don¿t get it, either. ¿He¿s a better ,¿ an AFC pro personnel director said of Heap. ¿He¿s a good blocker and he runs pretty well. Plus, he has good hands and good concentration. He can go up in a crowd and make a catch. He¿s also a tough kid who can help you downfield; a guy who can beat two-deep coverage.¿ I don¿t know about you, but I didn¿t hear anything negative in there, so let¿s just stop and let Monday night¿s footage serve as your scouting report on . ¿He¿s got athleticism,¿ said Newsome. ¿Anytime you play major-college basketball you have to be athletic, and he has that, speed and toughness for a tight end. I think I ought to know a little about the subject.¿ I think he ought to know a lot. Newsome is a Hall of Fame tight end, and he¿s as good at finding talent as he was finding the football. Look at his record of first-round draft picks: and (1996); (1997); (1998); (1999); and (2000); Heap (2001) and Ed Reed (2002). All except Starks are still with the , and he¿s gone only because Arizona offered him a $23-million deal. The others not only start, but Ogden, Lewis and Boulware are Pro-Bowl choices, and Lewis is the team¿s single-season record-holder for rushing. Bottom line: Ozzie Newsome and the know what they¿re doing. Yet they had to have a little luck to acquire Heap. When you rewind the tape to the 2001 draft, you¿ll find the sitting at the 31st spot , considering Heap, safety , tight end and wide receiver as choices. ¿Then there was a run on defensive linemen,¿ said Newsome. There were nine of them taken ahead of Heap, including two by St. Louis. The get the assist here, not only because they didn¿t take Heap as Baltimore feared, but because they chose Archuleta with the 20th selection. Baltimore thought Tampa Bay might be interested, too, but the Bucs traded up to choose tackle . New Orleans was another consideration, but the went for running back when he fell to the 23rd spot. That left the Baltimore where they couldn¿t imagine they¿d be; it left them with Heap. ¿We knew he could be a playmaker, and we knew where Shannon (Sharpe) was in his career, too,¿ said Newsome. ¿I remember when we took him we said our 2001 draft was for the 2002 season. We knew what was going to happen.¿ He was talking about the salary cap that fractured the roster. He might as well have been talking about Heap. So he¿s not . I don¿t many guys who are. But it¿s not all that bad to be , and Monday¿s results are the proof. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Falcons, Chiefs, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Buccaneers, Ravens, Cardinals, Alge Crumpler, Tony Gonzalez, Deuce McAllister, Freddie Mitchell, Travis Taylor, Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap, Chris McAlister, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Randy McMichael

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