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Prospect of the day: TE Julius Thomas

Here’s the name of a tight end to keep an eye on -- Portland State’s Julius Thomas. He’s a former basketball player with a limited football background.

That profile is looking pretty good these days after Jimmy Graham was drafted by New Orleans last year and came on so fast that the Saints released Jeremy Shockey the other day. Carolina has been vocal about a desire to get a pass-catching tight end, so Thomas could be a possibility there.

Thomas came into the combine viewed as a seventh-round pick or possible undrafted free agent. But his athleticism and the similarity to Graham could push him up a round or two. The NFL is a copy-cat league and the basketball background isn’t going to work that much against Thomas.

Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez might be the best tight end ever and he came from a basketball background. Speaking of the Falcons, they could be looking for an heir apparent for Gonzalez, who isn’t going to play forever. They might be keeping an eye on Thomas in the later rounds of the draft.

In a division with strong tight ends, there’s one other possible landing spot for Thomas. That’s Tampa Bay. They’ve got a solid starter in Kellen Winslow. But there is concern about his long-term durability because of knee problems. Getting Thomas in the late rounds would give the Bucs a strong pass-catching backup and a guy who eventually could replace Winslow.