Former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta boosted his draft status after an impressive performance at the NFL combine, says former Cougar All-American Chad Lewis.

At the combine in Indianapolis, Pitta ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash, a time that put him No. 3 among the 20 tight ends in attendance.

"I see him as a late first-round, early second-round draft pick," said Lewis, who was a three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. "The NFL puts an inordinate amount of weight on that 40 time and that's a great time. It's very crucial. If you look through the years of BYU tight ends who have been drafted and have not been drafted, that 40 is critical. That makes a huge difference."

Lewis pointed out that another former BYU tight end, Doug Jolley, ran a low 4.6 at the combine 2002 years ago and was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders.

"What Dennis brings is an absolute wealth of experience running routes, catching balls and blocking in BYU's offense, which is what he's going to be required to do in the pros," said Lewis. "If I was a head coach or general manager, I would want guys who know how to win, who know how to play their position and doing exactly what Dennis does. What he's done in his career, with his fluidity in running routes, his ability to catch the ball, his smart and his toughness as a blocker, that will all help him in the draft."

During the combine, Pitta also finished No. 1 among tight ends in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. He was No. 2 in bench press (27 reps) and No. 8 in vertical jump (34.0 inches). That bodes well for his draft stock, Lewis said.

"You could be the greatest tight end in the world but not get drafted if you don't run well. It also says a lot that he has the top 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle. That's really impressive because as a tight end your whole job as an inside receiver is changing direction constantly."

Pitta's former BYU teammates, quarterback Max Hall and fullback Manase Tonga, also had some bright moments during the combine.

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Hall was among the top quarterback performers in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. He ran a 4.87 in the 40, which was No. 8 among the 19 quarterbacks at the combine. The No. 1 quarterback in that skill test, West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, ran a 4.54.

Tonga was No. 9 among running backs in the bench press with 19 reps.

Former Utah wide receiver David Reed was among the best at his position in the vertical jump. Other former Utes who participated in the combine include linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, offensive lineman Zane Beadles and defensive lineman Koa Misi.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com