Jimmy Graham, the ex-college basketball player turned All-Pro NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints, is considered one of the best at his position in the league. Well, considered one of the best by most members of the media and most fans, but apparently not by his peers.
When Rob Gronkowski was revealed as the 25th overall player in the league on NFL Network’s annual Top 100 list, it was relevant not only because Gronkowski was listed that high despite his 2012 injury issues, but because he was the last tight end that would make the list.
Also appearing on the list are tight ends Dennis Pitta (100), Heath Miller (97), Aaron Hernandez (77), Antonio Gates (73), Tony Gonzalez (47), Jason Witten (41) and Vernon Davis (38). While that long list is a stark reminder of just how important the position has become in the NFL, it’s even more amazing considering who isn’t there.
Graham, despite starting only nine games last year due to injuries, still hauled in 85 receptions and nine touchdowns, ranking third and tied for second, respectively, among tight ends. The Saints as a whole struggled in 2012 after the loss of head coach Sean Peyton to the bountygate scandal, but the play of Graham was one of the brighter spots for the team.
Perhaps this is a case of the pendulum effect. Sometimes, when public sentiment swings too radically in one direction, we tend not to want to seem like a bandwagon jumper, and in our attempts to seem impartial, we actually swing too far in the other direction, especially when the sample size is small it’s often hard to find a comfortable middle.
Graham had a breakout season in 2011, earning him a ranking of 14th overall on the 2012 installment of the Top 100 list. This ranking may have been a reach after only one season of top-end production, but to go so far in the other direction and say that he isn’t even among the top 100 in the league after just one season of only really good production doesn’t make any sense.
The only explanation is that the players, who are the only ones who have a say in the rankings on the list, sometimes don’t have the right perspective to include who should be on the list and who shouldn’t.
After all, they ranked San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates at no. 73 despite putting up only 49 catches last year. Gates is a name player and a possible future Hall of Famer who was the standard bearer at the position for years. In a lot of ways, Gates was the one who kicked the door down for players like Graham. He was also a basketball player in college before finding stardom in the NFL.
Despite Gates’ better career resume, Graham was clearly the better player in 2012.
In the end, the list is just for fun and TV ratings for the NFL network, but if one of the best players at the new glamour position doesn’t get included, it losses whatever credibility it may have had.