December 4, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) flexes following a first down against the Detroit Lions during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Lions 31-17. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

Despite 2011 stats, players vote Jimmy Graham over Rob Gronkowski

Who’s the better tight end — Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski? Of course fans of the New Orleans Saints will say Graham, and New England Patriots fans Gronkowski, but good luck really trying to get a straight answer from those close to the NFL.

The 2011 season was known as the “year of the tight end”, primarily because of the seasons put together by Graham and Gronkowski.

The field was dominated by big, fast, sticky handed tight ends, and Graham and Gronkowski have the stat lines to prove it.

In his second year with the Saints Graham emerged as a super star, making 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He was Drew Brees favorite target and consistently displayed unreal athleticism for a man of his size.

At 6-6 and 260 pounds Graham “runs like a deer” according to ESPN analyst John Gruden.

Officially he is the owner of a 4.56 forty-yard dash, the second fastest time for a tight end recorded at the 2010 NFL Combine.

But more than speed Graham has quickly become a near perfect rout runner, setting up defenders with jukes while utilizing his basketball background to create separation in the secondary.

Graham is as good as they come, and he is only getting better as he continues to mature entering his third season.

Gronkowski caught 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns — both new NFL records for a tight end.

He is by no means a slouch and is a similar physical specimen as Graham with identical weight and height.

But Graham still gets the nod as the more athletic of the two.

Again just like Graham, Gronkowski has mastered the ability to set up defenders in open space, especially in red zone situations.

He was the Patriots top receiver, and Tom Brady’s go-to-guy on third down. He too still has likely not peaked.

So the question arises again — who is the better tight end?

Well the NFL’s “Top 100″ television show, a list of the best 100 players in the NFL complied by NFL players themselves, debuted Graham at number 14 overall.

Gronkowski wasn’t far off — number 21 — but Graham’s inclusion at 14 by the players is a clear sign they at least feel he is the better player.

Other tight end’s Graham beat out were Vernon Davis (43), Tony Gonzalez (53), and Jason Witten (75) — effectively making him the number one tight end on the entire list.

Graham has earned another notch on his belt for the right to be called the best tight end in the NFL, and for my money, I’m taking Graham over Gronkowski.

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Tags: Drew Brees Jason Witten New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Top 100. NFL. Jimmy Graham Rob Gronkowski The Saints Tony Gonzalez Vernon Davis

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