Nov 18, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In the NFL of the last few years, the tight end position has become quite the hot commodity. It all started with the Patriots selecting two tight ends in the first four rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft, in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and since then we’ve seen teams like the Bengals and Raven try to emulate the two tight end system. Tight ends are such great weapons because they can be almost impossible to cover. The best tight ends are too big for corners and too quick for linebackers, making it a matchup nightmare almost every time they’re on the field. So with that, I will give you my top five tight ends currently in the NFL.
Note: I will not be including the likes of Dennis Pitta because of his most recent season ending injury that he suffered on the 27 of July. Otherwise he would’ve been on this list.
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: When Gronk is healthy, I think there’s no doubt who’s the very best tight end in the NFL. Gronk is such a matchup nightmare because of the amazing range that he has, to go along with his leaping ability and great hands as well. PLaying with Tom Brady will make almost anyone look good, which is part of the reason why he’s risen to the top of the NFL tight ends mountain, but everyone already knew that Gronk has some incredible talent. Picked with the 42nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Gronk slipped because of injury concerns with his neck. This brings up the currently most pressing issue, major injury problems. Gronk has had a myriad of surgeries this offseason dealing with his back and forearm numerous times. Right now, it seems Gronk will not be able to return in time for the start of the 2013 NFL regular season, but will return a few weeks in. Despite this, I still believe he is easily the most talented tight end in the NFL, and that’s why he takes the number one slot.
2. Jimmy Graham, Saints: Filling the number two position on this list, is the former basketball player Jimmy Graham. Graham might be the most athletically gifted tight end on this list, due to his basketball background. He can go get jumpballs in the endzone with the best of them. He’s not the best blocker, but that’s not what he’s expected to do, he’s expected to go out and make big plays down field. He’s also become Drew Brees favorite target, even above his wide receivers. While Graham might have had a down season in 2012, this was a result of Brees also having a down season. I expect both of them to come back full of vengeance.
3. Vernon Davis, 49ers: Sliding in at the three spot on this list, is the colorful tight end from San Francisco, Vernon Davis. Davis has always been one the most talented tight ends in the game, ever since he got in the league. The key for Davis was keeping his ever-present emotions under control, and in these last two seasons under Jim Harbaugh, he’s done just that. While his stats might not be as nice as they were in previous years, Davis is still one of the best tight ends in the NFL because he’s become a much more well-rounded player, becoming a better blocker for the 49ers explosive attack lead by Colin Kaepernick. I expect big things from Davis in 2013, as he tries to lead a very talented 49ers team back to the Super Bowl again.
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys: At the number four slot we have the most reliable player on the list in Jason Witten. Witten had another really solid year being Tony Romo’s security blanket as he raked in the catches like he normally does, with 110 catches on the season. I expect Witten to continue to this excellent production as we know the Cowboys will be a passing heavy offense once again with the likes of Bryant and Austin on the outsides. Witten’s greatest strength however is his durability, as he’s only missed an astonishing one game over his 11 year career. This one missed game came in his very first season. Witten may not be as exciting as the three players above him, but he always gets the job done, which is good enough for 4th on this list.
5. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons: The final man on this list is the ageless Tony Gonzalez. The greatest tight end of all time slides in here at five because of the absence of one Dennis Pitta after he suffered his season ending injury. Gonzalez had another very Gonzalez-esque season last year bringing in 93 catches to go along with 930 yards and eight touchdowns. While he may not be the same uber-dynamic playmaker he was earlier in his career, he’s still capable of being a top five tight end thanks to the pass happy offense of the Atlanta Falcons and star quarterback Matt Ryan. Playing alongside Roddy White and Julio Jones has really helped Gonzalez increase his effectiveness as his career winds down to his final season. So expect another typical Tony Gonzalez season from the number two receiver of all-time.
What do you guys think of this list? Is there someone who I snubbed, that should be on this list? Who’s rated too high or low? Should someone be outright taken off of this list? I’d love to hear your reactions in the comment section.
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