Payne Durham’s role as a potential NFL tight end was already pretty clear based upon his college career, and he did everything right in the combine to show he’d be a valuable asset in early down blocking and possession receiving when targeted. Personally I think he has the potential to be a great deal more.
Arm Length: 33 ⅜”
Hand Size: 9 ¾”
Wherever he lands, Payne Durham will likely begin his pro career serving primarily as a blocking tight end that can haul in difficult close-range catches near the sideline or across the middle. He’s slightly above average in arm length of draft-eligible tight ends, but he’s overall large enough and skillful enough with leverage and footwork to where he can act as that sort of extra half of an offensive tackle on either side of the hashes.
At his height and with his limbs’ length, Durham has a frame that could potentially carry a few more pounds. Under an NFL weight training program, that’s feasible. He could become an elite run and pass blocker rather quickly.
He did not post an official bench press, but trust me, he’s strong. Adding a few pounds of muscle without sacrificing too much of his off-the-line speed should not be difficult.
40 Yard Dash
10 Yard Split: 1.61
He doesn’t have the top-end speed to be a deep threat but (combined with his size), his break is quick enough to make the Purdue graduate out of Suwanee, GA a major player in short-yardage situations when he isn’t blocking on the edge. I like his tendency to leverage defenders by dipping a shoulder for those short-yardage catches on the sidelines or across the middle.
Eventually, I can see him being somebody’s third-and-medium guy in addition to being a pivotal player in run and pass blocking on early downs. Being projected as a late round pick or undrafted free agent, he’s a good fit for any team with just one stud running back or a stable of solid ones. As a rookie, I see him primarily being utilized as a run blocker first before he’s targeted in such scenarios. Durham is an average run-after-catch tight end, so wherever his professional career begins, he’ll almost assuredly have to cut his teeth in the blocking realm.
At his size, he operates more as muscle than finesse, but is very nimble in tight space with his burst off the line.
The dude has good reach due to his size, but as it currently looks, not the guy you’d go to in a situation requiring a fade route to one of the back corners of the end zone (in the NFL…he’s done it a time or two for the Boilers). When he’s targeted, he creates separation through physicality, not necessarily through acrobatic catches but rather those accomplished via length and strength. That said, he has shown the jumping and footwork to make those types of catches in sparsely throughout his college days.
In the NFL, when targeted, Durham will likely exist as a short-yardage possession tight end while being a threat in the shallow red zone.
Durham had a very solid combine, and really solidified what he can bring to a team with a solid running game and space to fill at tight end. He was never going to be the blistering speed hybrid TE-WR type, but he does his job: quick off the line of scrimmage, leverage helps him in both run-blocking and short route scenarios, outmuscles defenders so he can be thrown to in tight windows. Again, he’s gonna have to start his career being a reliable edge blocker, but the possibility of being that go-to tight end on third and short, even third and medium, is definitely there.
His speed in the immediate moments following the snap is impressive for a tight end his size, but his top speed levels out quickly. He works well on the inside running routes toward the sideline and well on crossing routes over the middle due to that burst and how naturally he uses his shoulders, but his hips don’t turn quite quickly enough to make him a killer short yardage threat...yet.
The footwork is there. The physicality is there. He just needs to get more command of his torso in route running.
Keep in mind that Durham did not start playing football until his latter half of high school and has already come this far, so if you get him some NFL coaching in how he pivots his joints and there’s no reason he can’t end his professional career as a seasoned veteran.