AUBURN, Ala. — In Auburn' run-heavy offense the past two seasons, tight end C.J. Uzomah was never a featured option. In those two years, he combined to catch just 22 passes for 299 yards and six touchdowns. But the Cincinnati Bengals saw something in him that they liked, taking Uzomah in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Uzomah was the No. 157 overall pick and became the first former Tiger tight end to be drafted since Fred Baxter in 1993.
"I'm looking forward to it a lot. I know I’ll get great coaching there," Uzomah said in a conference call. "I wasn't a conventional tight end in college, so I didn't get the fine-tuning of the mechanics with a traditional, pro-style tight ends coach. I’m looking forward to getting after it.”
Hailing from Suwanee, Ga., Uzomah wasn't invited to the NFL combine. But he took part in both the Senior Bowl and the Medal of Honor Bowl. And Uzomah off his speed at Auburn's Pro Day, clocking in at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which would have ranked second tight ends at the combine.
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Cincinnati tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes praised Uzomah for his athleticism and football smarts.
"He’s a young man who’s going to be on the rise. He’s got size, and range you need in the AFC North," Hayes said in an interview with reporters Saturday. "The people that we’re going to be blocking, you've got to have considerably long arms and be able to stay on your feet and be able to get into people and finish. We’re trying to get more and more guys that are willing to do that. ... He’ll come in and be able to compete and have an opportunity to get better. He just needs to be a little stronger in some areas, but we liked what he showed on tape.”
In Cincinnati's playoff loss to Indianapolis last season, it played without injured tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Greshman. Knowing that, Uzomah wasn't surprised the Bengals drafted him.
Now, he can't wait to start learning the intricacies of the team's offensive system.
"Jimmy Graham is utilized similar to how I was in college. I was trying to adapt that to the college game," Uzomah said. "But I’ll have to get in the film room today, tomorrow and the coming few days to jumpstart that transition. I've already been doing that — knowing how that’s how I’ll be utilized at the next level — but it’s something I’ll dive into more now. "