Kraft impresses at SDSU Pro Day

Former Jackrabbit tight end improves on his NFL Combine results, could see a rise in his draft stock.


Joclyn Haven

South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft catches a pass during a receiving drill at SDSU Pro Day March 31 at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.

Skyler Jackson, Co-Sports Editor (He/Him)

With the NFL Draft approaching, South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft got another chance to showcase his skills in front of NFL scouts.

Kraft was back in Brookings for the SDSU Pro Day March 31 at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. 23 scouts from 20 NFL clubs were in attendance and watched as Kraft impressed and likely improved his draft stock.

At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in the beginning of March, the projected NFL pick ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds. He got another crack at it Friday and saw significant improvement. His first run was unofficially clocked at around 4.6 seconds and his second at roughly 4.5.

“I wanted to run a faster 40 because that is where the money is made,” the 6-foot-5 Timber Lake native said. “I think I made myself a little bit of money today.”

Kraft also improved his vertical jump by over two inches. He jumped 36.5 inches Friday compared to 34 inches at the combine and he weighed in at 269 pounds, five more than his weight at the combine.

“I wanted to jump higher because I know I can,” Kraft said. “At the combine, you don’t really get a warm-up. I was the first to go (Friday) alphabetically and I was the third to go at the combine, so there wasn’t a lot of warm-up time there. So that’s something I emphasized here was just getting my body prepared. It was a good process.”

Up next for Kraft were the receiving drills, where he again impressed. With passes coming from Jackrabbit quarterback Mark Gronowski and assistant coach Kyle Saddler, Kraft didn’t drop a single pass and made a handful of impressive catches.

“It’s hard to get Mark to not throw a perfect ball,” Kraft said. “We get down to the red zone, and I wanted him to put one high, back shoulder or away from the defender and Mark hit me right in the chest. I can’t ask him to fail, go and do it.”

Kraft declared for the draft in the middle of last season. That year, he caught 27 balls for 348 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, having to miss part of the season due to injury.

In 2021, Kraft caught 65 passes for 773 yards and six touchdowns and was named an All-American.

Kraft was projected as a second or third-round pick. He was also ranked as the fifth-best tight-end prospect on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s position rankings.

Some of Kraft’s positive attributes as a prospect, according to Bleacher Report, include good acceleration and top speed, being a great blocker and has the speed, flexibility and strength to break tackles. His main drawback is his route-running and his ability to track down passes.

After his performance Friday, Kraft could see his draft stock rise ahead of the draft, which is April 27-29 in Kansas City.

While Kraft was the main focus on Pro Day, three other Jackrabbits, along with athletes from other local colleges, also participated.

Caleb Sanders was another Jackrabbit who had a solid Pro Day. The defensive tackle finished with 31 reps on the bench press (225 pounds) and ran an unofficial 40 time of around five seconds.

Coming off an All-American season where he had 40 tackles and 6.5 sacks, it’s not likely that Sanders will get drafted, but his performance may have gotten the attention of NFL scouts enough to invite him to training camp for a team.

“You’re fighting for a job against whoever else in the country and a lot of guys are scratching at the bit too,” the 6-foot-1 270-pounder said. “So definitely gonna come out here with the mindset that you never know when your last drill is gonna be, so you might as well go all out.”

Wide receiver Landon Wolff and defensive back Malik Lofton also competed at Pro Day. Wolff ran about a 4.5 40-yard dash and jumped 31.5 inches in the vertical jump. Lofton also ran a 4.5 40 and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical jump.