In 2005, the Southern California Trojans rode to a National Championship appearance on over 7,000 yards of offense. The team's quarterbacks combined for over 4,000 yards passing with more than 3,800 of those yards from 2004 Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Matt Leinart. The team's two star running backs - Reggie Bush and LenDale White - rushed for over 3,000 yards combined. As for starting tight end Dominique Byrd, his 306 receiving yards were not quite as eye-popping.
Byrd's production equates to roughly 4 percent of the team's offensive yardage. To put it in perspective: Bush gained more yards (364) in the game against Fresno State than Byrd did all year. This is not to say that Byrd is not a talented player. Despite his unimpressive numbers and scarce utilization in the Trojans offense, Byrd, 22, will likely be selected on the first day of the 2006 NFL Draft this April.
Byrd was a star football player at Breck School in Minneapolis, where he also played basketball and track. He started all four years on the football team, catching 147 passes for 3,008 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career. Byrd earned numerous honors as a senior in 2001 after catching 62 passes for 1,236 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also excelled on defense that year, compiling 108 tackles (21 for loss), four sacks and four interceptions (three returned for scores).
Byrd saw very little action with the Trojans as a freshman in 2002, primarily playing backup tight end and special teams. He caught just one pass for 10 yards and made two tackles (both in one game).
In 2003, starting tight end Alex Holmes (Miami Dolphins) suffered a season-ending injury, and Byrd started the first six games before tearing ligaments in his left knee and missing the rest of the season. Before the injury against Stanford, Byrd caught 14 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown.
Byrd had his best receiving year in 2004, despite missing the first four games of the season. In nine games, Byrd caught 38 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns - all career highs - and helped the Trojans win their second consecutive national title.
Byrd's decreased numbers in 2005 may have been the result of several injuries in the spring, as well as excellent performances by other skill players on the offense. Though he had only 29 receptions and 306 yards and failed to reach the endzone, he did help running backs Bush and White cross the goal line 40 times on the ground.
Though Trojans head coach Pete Carroll rarely allowed him to display it, Byrd has good hands and the ability to help a team's passing game at the next level.
Despite his sub-par 40-yard dash times (4.8s), Byrd has pretty good quickness and can make plays downfield.
Byrd was impressive at the 2006 Senior Bowl practices but lost some ground by running a 4.85 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
His size is decent, but Byrd still needs to bulk up some in order to battle NFL linebackers and become a more complete player.
Durability may be the biggest concern surrounding Byrd. He suffered torn ligaments in his left knee in 2003 and a broken kneecap from a pickup basketball game in 2004. Before spring practice, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in a toe and missed spring drills with a broken jaw. Due to this, he must show he can stay healthy at the next level.
When discussing where Byrd is most likely to go come April, it seems best to start with teams in the NFL with the greatest need for help at the tight end position.
Some of the teams with the worst tight end receiving statistics in 2005 were the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams. Among this baker's dozen of organizations, only the Broncos, Jets, Raiders and Saints had more than 500 receiving yards from tight ends, and even those teams could certainly use upgrades.
San Francisco probably has the best overall tight end of any of the teams in Eric Johnson, but he missed all of 2003 and 2005 with injuries, and the 49ers actually had the worst production in the league in 2005 from the position - 21 receptions, 137 yards and no touchdowns. There is no question any of these teams could benefit from having Byrd at tight end. Basically all of them will be in position to select him.
Byrd is likely to go in somewhere in second or third round of the draft. Each of the aforementioned 13 teams has one choice in the second round. In the third, Buffalo, Houston and San Francisco have two picks each. The third-round picks of Denver and New Orleans have been traded away, and the other eight teams have one pick each in the third round. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Byrd said he received interest from the Broncos and Minnesota Vikings.