Jimmy Graham fails to make ESPN’s top tight ends list


Steve Palazzolo, who covers the NFL for ESPN, released a list of the league’s most complete tight ends Tuesday afternoon, and former New Orleans Saints All-Pro Jimmy Graham didn’t even make the list.  I repeat, Jimmy is not on there.  Saints fans should get a kick out of this.

Palazzolo then categorized several tight ends into best receivers and best blockers.  Jimmy Graham?  Still not on there.  In fact, the man who has racked up 386 catches for 4, 752 yards and 51 touchdowns in his first five seasons with quarterback Drew Brees under center fell into the “on the decline” category alongside San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham, whose production dipped a bit in 2014, to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for center Max Unger, the No. 31 overall draft pick in 2015 (linebacker Stephone Anthony), and some much needed cap relief.

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While many were quick to jump the gun by saying the Saints’ offense was doomed after the deal.  It may actually be quite the opposite.  Now, the offense should be bringing back a little sense of unpredictability.

Defenses really began to figure out New Orleans’ scheme a season ago, which was usually get the ball to Jimmy Graham.  He was targeted more than anybody.  When the Saints’ opponents did lock down on Jimmy, he wasn’t very productive as a receiver, and his blocking was never a strong suit.

Now, with the Seahawks, a completely different system with a run-first approach, Jimmy Graham better learn to block.  He also better learn to overcome those double teams, because defenses now know to keep an on eye on the tight end who initially flew under the radar as a third-round pick and former basketball player out of the University of Miami.

So really, Palazzolo isn’t all that off with leaving him off the list.  Jimmy Graham has to prove himself with his new team.  He owns the domination factor, but he’ll still have to learn how to produce under a new system.

Here is Palazzalo’s list (must be an ESPN insider to view entire article):

Most complete tight ends (based off receiving and blocking skills, not production ):

"1. Rob GronkowskiWitten is one of the best, most complete tight ends in the league. The problem, however, is that a bigger, better version of Witten entered the league in 2010. Upon his arrival, Gronk immediately established himself as one of the most difficult covers in the league while dominating as an in-line and move blocker. So while it’s no knock on Witten’s game, Gronkowski just does everything a little bit better. As a receiver, he’s posted the top grade in each of his past two healthy seasons (2014, 2011), and the Patriots’ offense has taken a clear step back when he’s been off the field with injuries.There’s one caveat to this and that’s Gronkowski’s apparent regression as a run-blocker. Since injuring his arm in 2012, he just hasn’t been the same at the point of attack, often looking a little tentative in engaging defensive ends and linebackers. If this trend continues, it could diminish Gronkowski’s “complete” label just a bit, but his contributions as a multifaceted receiver more than make up for a small decline as a blocker."

2. Jason Witten
3. Martellus Bennett
4. Travis Kelce

Best receiving TEs:

Rob Gronkowski
Greg Olsen
Zach Ertz
Julius Thomas

Best blocking TEs:

Lee Smith
Delanie Walker
Vance McDonald

Palazzalo’s thoughts on Jimmy Graham:

"On the decline?Jimmy Graham: It’s hard to rank Graham among the best receiving tight ends in the game after his subpar 2014, but he’s certainly shown more than capable over the years. He’s only a year removed from a 1,215-yard, 16-touchdown season, so he’s dropped off a tad but is still a big name who will help the passing game in Seattle and can bounce back given he’s still just 28.Antonio Gates: Time and injuries have started to catch up to Gates, entering his 13th NFL season."

I guess we’ll see what happens, but regardless of where people want to rank tight ends, at most times, Jimmy Graham was an absolute animal for the New Orleans Saints.  However, he was expendable, and while the offense may be affected by the trade, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints can once again be unpredictable.

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