With the 2013 Season just about 30 or so weeks away, I decided to get everybody pumped up and excited again for the new season that is ages away. What better way to do that than list (in my opinion) the top 5 players (at their respected positions) for this upcoming season. Now, of course in the headline you have seen that I have chosen to start off with tight ends first. We all know that each position in the game is key, but when it comes to tight ends who have multiple jobs on the front line of the offense, they usually don’t get as much love as the rest of the team does. Big guys who can pass block, run block and even catch the ball, have helped this position evolve over the years. Most tight ends who end up in the league now a days could also be lined up at as wide-receiver as they have shown that not only are they powerful when it comes to blocking, but can blow by defenders while running a route. This is going to make this list pretty difficult, there are plenty of talented tight-ends in this league who deserve to make this list. A position that has seen some greats like, Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Shannon Sharpe and John Mackey. These men have proven to be some of the toughest players of their time and the greatest to ever play the position. Now with the 2012 season behind us, let’s look forward and see which tight ends will look to dominate defenders in this upcoming season. Drum roll please.
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots –
Even though he struggled with injuries late in the season and even into the post season. Gronkowski has proved to be one of the most athletic tight-ends this league has seen in years. Great hands, great range, you forget this man is a tight end. A good blocker, not yet a dominant one, he is young enough to still improve in that aspect of the game. With an injured ankle in the 2011 season, he played in the Super Bowl, ultimately losing to the New York Giants. He suffered a broken forearm on November 18th in a 59-24 destruction of the Indianapolis Colts and was thought to be done for the year. He returned in Week 17 where he caught 2 passes for 42 yards against the Miami Dolphins. He later re-broke his forearm again in a playoff game against the Houston Texans. In just 3 years, the 23 year old tight-end has caught over 180 passes for nearly 2,700 yards and 38 touchdowns. As long as this kid has Tom Brady in his corner and remains a Patriot, this kid is destined for great things.
2. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers –
I think this man has finally found a quarterback who can finally make him a 1,000 yard receiving tight end. Davis has to be one of the most well rounded tight ends in the game, finally reached the Super Bowl this season after being beaten by the New York Giants in the 2011 NFC Championship game. Vernon has the ability to pick up blocks cleanly, win them and show case his speed and hands when running routes. In 5 out of his 7 seasons he has started all 16 games, catching over 345 passes for nearly 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns. You almost forget this man is a tight end when he is lined up in the slot and explodes off the line. If Kaepernick can stay consistent and show he isn’t just a 1 season wonder, expect these guys to connect time and time again. This could be a dangerous combo.
3. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints –
A younger version of Tony Gonzalez, Graham is someone who Drew Brees can throw a pass up to and haul it in like a rebound off the glass. This man is ridiculous. Not really much of a blocking tight end but can pick up a block here and there. He shines most when it is a pass play. Another young tight end who needs to work on blocking but should be poised to dominate once he masters the art. Going into the 2013 season, Graham has caught over 215 passes for 2,600 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last year he almost broke the 1,000 yard mark but fell short of the milestone by 18 yards. It doesn’t hurt that he is one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets, let’s just see if Graham stays in New Orleans after this season.
4. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys –
Not only a solid veteran but one who can show he can hang with the best of them. An awesome blocker, probably a better blocker than the rest of the tight ends on this list. Excellent route runner and his ability to find holes in the defense is unparalleled. Great hands and a future Hall of Fame player, maybe even a first ballot entrant. Nobody knows how many years this long time Dallas Cowboy has left to play, but I see him retiring in that uniform and one day being added to the Cowboys’s Ring of Honor. In 10 seasons with the Cowboys, Witten has pulled in over 800 catches, almost 9,000 passing yards and 44 touchdowns. He holds the Cowboys career receptions record and has broken the 1,000 yard receiving mark 4 times in his career. I won’t be surprised if he does it again in 2013.
5. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers –
I think this man gets overlooked a lot. A very underrated player who can pass block just as well as Jason Witten and could have similar stats as Witten if he was in a similar offense. This offense needs to figure out how to get him the ball more, his 6-5 256 pound frame can easily be put to use. In 8 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miller has caught 400 passes, almost 4,700 yards and 39 touchdowns.