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Power Rankings: NFC Tight Ends

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Power Rankings: NFC Tight Ends

Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

In today’s NFL it’s almost necessary to have a play-making tight end, but that wasn’t always the case.

Like the game of football, the tight end position has also evolved since its early days. At one point in time the tight end was nothing more than just another “big guy” used to block in the run-game. But, thanks legendary coach Paul Brown’s innovation the tight end began to be utilized in both the blocking and passing game.

Mike Ditka in the 1960s, Kellen Winslow in the ‘80s and Shannon Sharpe in the ‘90s were all revolutionary evolution of the tight end. In the 60’s few if any tight ends were used as pass catchers, yet Ditka finished his 12-year career with 427 receptions along with 43 touchdowns.

Winslow took the position even further when the tight end began running receiver-type routes. Winslow provided game-changing ability from the tight end position, something that hadn’t been used before. As former San Diego Chargers coach Al Saunders puts it, Winslow was “a wide receiver in an offensive lineman’s body.”

Sharpe helped get the position to where it was an integral part of the offense. Although Winslow played a huge part in the evolution of the tight end, I think no-one was a bigger part than Sharpe, evident by his over 10,000 career receiving yards.

In 2011, New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski set single season tight end records by hauling in 17 receiving touchdowns and 1,327 receiving yards. New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham finished the season with 1,310 receiving yards. It’s also worth noting that one-third of the NFL’s top receptions leaders in 2011 were tight ends, the most in NFL history.

Through 5 weeks in the 2012 season here’s my NFC Tight End Power Rankings.

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Jeff King

Arizona
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

16. Jeff King, Arizona Cardinals

Exactly, Jeff who? Labeled the “starting tight end” in Arizona’s depth chart is King, who has an eye-popping six receptions for 49 yards through five games. That rightfully lands him at the bottom of my power ranking.

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Dallas Clark

Tampa Bay
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15. Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At this stage in his career Clark seems to be nothing more than an old shell of the player he once was with the Indianapolis Colts. The ten-year vet has nine receptions for 81 yards and no touchdowns this season.

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Kellen Davis

Chicago
Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

14. Kellen Davis, Chicago Bears

Davis has eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown this season, but whether it is by lack of skill or design of the offense, the tight end simply isn’t used much in Chicago’s offense. I think that Davis has some playmaking ability; he simply has to get the ball thrown his way.

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Zach Miller

Seattle
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13. Zack Miller, Seattle Seahawks

Every time I read about Miller, he’s hurt. He showed promise as a member of the Oakland Raiders, but since coming over to the Seahawks he’s been a disappointment. He has 12 receptions for 150 yards this year, but I think Anthony McCoy needs to be seeing more playing time.

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Lance Kendricks

St Louis
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12. Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

The loss of Danny Amendola has to be one of the toughest blows the Rams’ offense will have to swallow; the other is the lack of production from the tight end spot. Kendricks was regarded one of the better pass-catching tight ends coming out of college and in an offense that lacked pass-catching threats, he was expected to flourish. It hasn’t been the case for Kendricks, who has ten receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown this season.

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Greg Olsen

Carolina
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11.Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

Olsen came over from the Chicago Bears and was expected to make a huge splash. He was known as a pass-catching tight end in college, but hasn’t made the impact in the passing game that anyone expected as a pro. I still think he has the ability, which is why he’s outside my top ten. He simply hasn’t delivered the goods. Trust me I know. I had him on my fantasy team the first four weeks. #RML

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Jermichael Finley

Green Bay
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10. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

Finley makes my top ten based solely on potential. I have been thoroughly unimpressed with him every time I’ve seen him play. Although he boasts 22 receptions for 198 yards and a touchdown, someone with his ability should be dominating like the Rob Gronkowskis of the world.

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Martellus Bennett

New York
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9. Martellus Bennett, New York Giants

Here’s the biggest surprise in my top ten. Bennett was widely regarded as a “bust” after four disappointing seasons as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. But, he pulled his head out of his rear end and is playing good for the Giants. He currently has 19 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns.

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Brandon Pettigrew

Detroit
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8. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

I expected Pettigrew to have a huge year this season because of the monster seasons that Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford had last year. So far Pettigrew has some decent numbers, which I expect to balloon once and if Johnson and Stafford can return to last year's form.

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Jason Witten

Dallas
Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

7. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

Finally starting to come around after suffering a ruptured spleen this off-season, Witten registered 13 catches in the game against the Chicago Bears. That means two things; one he’s healthy again and two he’s still very much a threat in the passing game.

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Fred Davis

Washington
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6. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

Davis, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated pass-catching tight ends in the league. As he continues to build rapport with his quarterback his numbers will continue to rise. Currently he is sporting 20 catches for 266 yards in 2012.

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Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota
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5. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Rudolph is on a roll with four touchdowns in his last four games. He has soft hands and the speed to challenge defenses vertically. The fact that quarterback Christian Ponder trusts him only adds to his upside. Honestly, Rudolph reminds me a lot of the Dallas Cowboys' tight end Jason Witten.

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Brent Celek

Philadelphia
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4. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

Celek is Mike Vick’s second most targeted receiver and a huge part of the Eagles’ passing attack. He accounts for 21 catches for 324 yards and one touchdown. As long as Jeremy Maclin is a no-show, Celek will continue to be a threat in the passing game.

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Vernon Davis

San Francisco
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3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

No surprise here as Davis makes my top three. He has 20 receptions for 303 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. As long as San Francisco sticks to what they do best, which is run the ball and hit the tight end on play action, Davis’ numbers will continue to be outstanding.

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Jimmy Graham

New Orleans
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2. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Not much can be said about Graham that hasn’t already been said. The man is a monster and can seemingly take games over. Now that New Orleans has tasted victory, I imagine Drew Brees will continue to feed the ball to his young tight end.

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Tony Gonzalez

Atlanta
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1. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

In an offense that features two stud receivers – Roddy White and Julio Jones – Gonzalez proves week in and week out why he is a surefire first-ballot hall-of-fame tight end. He currently leads the league in receptions (39), yards (388), yards-per-game (77.6) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (4) among all tight ends. I don’t know how Gonzalez is doing it, but the fountain of youth he’s found alongside his awesome season so far, makes him my number one tight end in the NFC.