In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?
Now that there’s no dispute (at least in the NFL’s eyes) that Jimmy Graham is a tight end, there’s absolutely no risk in revealing that Ourlads ranks him No. 1 at his position. Even though he played more than half of last season with a partially torn plantar fascia, Graham still put up numbers (86 rec., 1,215 yards, 16 TDs) that wide receivers dream about, forget tight ends.
Right now Graham simply has no peer and that could be the case even if Rob Gronkowski was healthy. Gronk and Graham both ushered in a new era for the tight end with their breakout 2011 campaigns, but Tom Brady’s favorite target has missed (14) nearly as many games as he’s played (18) over the past two seasons. If both are healthy and survive the entire season this could be an entertaining head-to-head battle, if you will, to watch this fall.
Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Tight Ends
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Led the Saints with 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. Excellent eye-hand coordination. Exceptional leaping ability to high-point the ball. Has developed his route-running over the past four years and is a matchup nightmare.
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England
Struggled with health issues in 2013. A big red-zone target with long arms. Physically dominates in the end zone. Can’t be covered one-on-one. Has soft hands with the ability to make the tough catch.
3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco
Has elevated his week-to-week and year-to-year consistency to become one of the NFL’s most complete blocking and receiving tight ends. He scored 13 touchdowns among his 52 receptions in 2013.
4. Jason Witten, Dallas
Performed at a high level again in 2013. The 32-year-old has been a model of pass-catching and blocking consistency over his career.
5. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
He began to assert himself as the season wore on. He became a reliable blocker and receiver, particularly in two-tight end formations.
6. Delanie Walker, Tennessee
Had as big a season as the Titans could hope for after he departed San Francisco. The athletic receiver and willing blocker caught 60 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns.
7. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis
Stepped up last fall to fill a void after budding star Dwayne Allen missed all but one game with an injury.
8. Julius Thomas, Denver
Had a breakout season and hauled in 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. The former basketball star is a matchup problem with his size and speed.
9. Martellus Bennett, Chicago
Responded in his first year with the Bears by snagging 65 passes for 759 yards and stepped up his in-line run-blocking.
10. Ladarius Green, San Diego
Made his move in 2013 to receive the pass-catching torch from dependable veteran Antonio Gates. He is fast, athletic and has reliable hands.