B/R NFL 1,000: Top 50 Tight Ends

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 11, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 50 Tight Ends

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    The evolution of the tight end position accelerated over the last season. Long gone are the days of a tight end being used as only a run-blocker, or only as a threat on short routes over the middle. Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark helped revolutionize the position. Now a new crop of players is ready to take tight ends to a new level.

    Which players stood out most during the 2011 season, and who is the best of this new breed of tight end?

    To find out, we've determined what makes up a great tight end and how well each 2011 starter represents those traits. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The new series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year or even who has the most potential. Rather, players—in this case, tight ends—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only.

    After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 50 tight ends have been scored in 10 criteria (more on the criteria here). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

50. Michael Hoomanawanui, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    6

    Limited change-of-direction skills but has good initial burst and natural strength.

    Pass Blocking

    7.5

    He’s balanced, strong at the point of attack and agile enough to mirror and slide. Can be matched up with defensive ends in one-on-one situations. Does very well against outside linebackers.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Is best when blocking on the move. Plays often from motion and is good at cracking or drive blocking in space. Not as effective when asked to block from a stationary position.

    Route Running

    4

    Does a good job boxing out defenders but lacks the footwork or agility to separate and change direction.

    Hands

    2

    Doesn’t show the hands of a starting or even a backup tight end. Hoomanawanui is a blocker, not a receiver.

    Speed

    4.5

    Lacks the speed to be a factor as a receiver but is quick enough in short areas.

    Size

    10

    Great size for the position at 6'4", 263 lbs. Has the bulk to be a blocker.

    Release

    6.5

    Gets off the ball quickly and has the strength to drive through a jam.

    Run After Catch

    4.5

    Lacks the speed to separate after the catch. Did show strength to break tackles and slip free.

    Health

    4

    Injured for much of the season, Hoomanawanui ended the season on November 15, when he was placed on IR.

    Overall

    55.5

    Mostly used as a blocker in St. Louis, he has the size and strength to be a factor in jumbo sets. He had just seven catches in 2011 but could see a bigger role moving forward.

49. Daniel Fells, Denver Broncos

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    Agility

    4

    He moves faster than he appears but still lacks the overall athletic ability to be a difference-maker with the football.

    Pass Blocking

    5.5

    Fared well in pass-blocking sets, showing quick feet to mirror defenders. Doesn’t like to match up and bang helmets.

    Run Blocking

    1

    Terrible at the point of attack, Fells was bulled over consistently. Failed to initiate contact at the first level and lacks the agility to effectively get to the second level.

    Route Running

    4.5 

    Limited as a route-runner. Better in red-zone sets, but looked lost at times when asked to do more than run up the seam or dig over the middle.

    Hands

    7

    Targeted 30 times without a drop but doesn’t extend well to get to balls thrown outside his frame.

    Speed

    4.5

    Lacks the speed to be a difference-maker in space. Merely average.

    Size

    10

    Good size (6’4”, 250 lbs). Has the look of an in-line tight end. 

    Release

    5

    If hit in his stance, he’ll rock back and lose momentum. Struggled against 3-4 defenses that hit him at the line.

    Run After Catch

    4.5

    Isn’t quick enough to run away from defenders. Picks up yards by continuing to move forward.

    Health

    10

    Healthy for all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    56

    A limited athlete who does well as a pass-blocker but is a massive liability in run-blocking situations. Denver should look to upgrade at tight end.

48. Ben Watson, Cleveland Browns

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    Agility

    4

    Agile enough to get in and out of his stance with quickness. Doesn’t show elite flexibility or balance

    Pass Blocking

    7

    Asked to stay in and block often on the right side of the line. Can be taken off the edge, but impressed in this area with good strength and vision.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Does a good job getting low off the line and into tacklers. Is best when blocking on the move. Teams won’t run behind his side often.

    Route Running

    5

    Used primarily in zone routes, especially around the red zone. Will rub defenders and can box out to find space. Average overall route skills.

    Hands

    5

    A devastating six drops on 71 targets. Lets the ball get into his frame too often.

    Speed

    3.5

    Lacks the speed to separate from linebackers. Cannot run away from the defense. Heavy-footed.

    Size

    10

    Very good size, coming in at 6’3” and 253 lbs.

    Release

    8.5

    Strong and smart, Watson can overpower defenders at the line. Does a nice job swimming defensive ends.

    Run After Catch

    3.5

    Lacks the speed to be a factor after the catch.

    Health

    7.5

    Missed the final three weeks of the season with injury.

    Overall

    57

    A onetime starter for the New England Patriots, Watson’s game has regressed significantly. His only true value is as a pass-blocker.

47. Tom Crabtree, Green Bay Packers

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    Agility

    6

    Has very good balance and body control, with fine quickness for his position.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    He’s balanced, strong at the point of attack and agile enough to mirror and slide.

    Run Blocking

    1

    Could stand to come out lower and with more aggression. Will get in the way, but doesn’t redirect the defender well.

    Route Running

    5

    Quick off the ball and into his cuts, but is rounding off his cuts. Needs work to improve timing to better his placement.

    Hands

    6

    Dropped two of the nine passes thrown his way in 2011.

    Speed

    5

    While his straight-line speed is lacking, his short-area quickness makes up for it.

    Size

    10

    Very good size at 6’5” and 244 lbs. Solid muscle tone and definition.

    Release

    6

    Has the experience to beat defenders off the line, but defenders can stick him and rock him back.

    Run After Catch

    Is a catch-and-hit type player who doesn’t pick up much after the catch.

    Health

    10

    No injury concerns in 2011.

    Overall

    59

    A second option at tight end, and sometimes third, Crabtree has the overall game of a backup player who can contribute as a blocker and in a pinch can work as a pass-catcher.

46. Jeff King, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    6

    Solid all-around agility, has nice short-area quickness and only needs to add strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Blocking

    1.5

    Played poorly over the course of the season, failing to engage defenders and too often giving up the edge to pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    King was dominated by teams with big defensive ends. Seattle, Baltimore and Pittsburgh all ran over him consistently in blocking situations.

    Route Running

    5

    An average route-runner who lacks the agility to separate when covered by defensive backs instead of linebackers.

    Hands

    7

    Did not drop a pass in 2011, King has to do a better job going to get the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him.

    Speed

    5.5

    King’s speed is above-average compared with other tight ends. Has decent quickness but no straight-line ability.

    Size

    9.5

    Looks the part at 6’3” and 257 lbs.

    Release

    5.5

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times and can be knocked off his route initially.

    Run After Catch

    5.5

    Lacks the speed to be a major player post-catch but has the presence of mind to turn up field and pick up available yards.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    59

    King is a solid player who can be counted on as a spot-starter and wave player. He’s not starting-quality.

45. John Gilmore, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    5

    Has lost a step as he's aged. He still shows good short-area quickness, but his burst is all but gone.

    Pass Blocking

    9

    Dominant in pass sets, Gilmore can line up on the left or right side and handle his own against pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Gilmore is at his best when given a running start or asked to angle out to pick up a linebacker. Struggles to “down-block.”

    Route Running

    5

    Has the ability to sink his hips and get in and out of routes but is limited in where he can get open.

    Hands

    5

    Not asked to do much as a receiver. The Saints threw his way in just three games all season.

    Speed

    5

    Average straight-line speed. Gilmore won’t run away from anyone.

    Size

    10

    A solid, thick build at 6’5” and 257 lbs.

    Release

    5

    Strong enough to push off defenders, Gilmore is at his best taking a step back to pass block instead of firing off going forward.

    Run After Catch

    4.5

    Lacks the speed to be a factor after the catch.

    Health

    6

    Was probable or out seven times during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    59.5

    A very good No. 2 tight end who is valuable as a blocker, Gilmore was used sparingly during the 2011 season but made an impact as a pass-protector and in run-blocking situations down the stretch.

44. Craig Stevens, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    6

    Above-average lateral agility but lacks burst coming off the line.

    Pass Blocking

    6.5

    Shines as a pass-blocker. Is patient and doesn’t overextend to reach his man. Slides well laterally and has the strength to hold his ground.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    Has a reputation as a blocker but doesn’t lock on and drive.

    Route Running

    4.5

    Targeted just 14 times all season, Stevens is rarely used as a receiver and doesn’t do much more than turn for dump passes.

    Hands

    5

    Doesn’t show much ability to catch outside his frame. Is a body-catcher who is best served staying in to help block on passing downs.

    Speed

    5

    Very average speed. Does not show the ability to run away from defenders.

    Size

    10

    Built well for the nature of the job, he’s 6’3” and 268 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Has good strength but gets caught up due to a lack of speed and balance.

    Run After Catch

    5

    Not a threat, but he does a good job fighting off tacklers.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game due to injury in 2011.

    Overall

    60.5

    A blocker first and receiver second, Stevens was a vital part of the Tennessee offense as a pass-protector.

43. Anthony Becht, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Agility

    5

    Is not a great athlete, but has the quickness to get in and out of his routes quickly. Has very good natural strength.

    Pass Blocking

    7

    Can hold his own when asked to stay in and protect. Tough to move at the point of impact. Has a good punch to stun defenders.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Doesn’t have the lateral agility to help much at the second level but does have the strength to lock on and move defenders off the ball.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Will rub defenders and can box out to find space. Average overall route skills.

    Hands

    6

    Rarely targeted.

    Speed

    5

    Lacks the speed to be a difference-maker in space. Merely average.

    Size

    10 

    He’s 6’6” and 270 lbs—perfect for a blocking tight end.

    Release

    6.5

    Has the size and experience to get free at the line but lacks the speed or burst to be a factor if hooked early.

    Run After Catch

    5

    Not a run-after-catch player, Becht does well to make contact and then fall forward.

    Health

    8

    Missed time with leg cramping early in the season.

    Overall

    62.5

    A classic blocking tight end, Becht became a utility player for the Chiefs, often lining up at right tight end and helping as a pass-blocker instead of as a receiver.

42. Clay Harbor, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    6

    Fits the mold of tight end/fullback well with good short-area quickness and burst. A solid athlete.

    Pass Blocking

    4.5

    Can be a helpful blocker picking up the blitz either in-line or out of the backfield. Will be overpowered at times and must learn to take better angles to the defender.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Can get low and push the pile but isn’t strong enough to win one-on-one battles against defenders coming in for the tackle.

    Route Running

    5

    Very good on short routes and when asked to fade to the flats. Harbor needs more experience and exposure to more routes going forward.

    Hands

    6

    Soft hands, especially when moving. Will struggle in traffic to extend and get the football. Shows little to no ability to high-point the ball—scout-speak for reaching high to catch the ball at the height of its trajectory.

    Speed

    6

    Has very respectable speed, clocked at 4.58 and 4.69 before the 2010 NFL draft.

    Size

    10 

    Has good size for the hybrid role at 6’3” and 250 lbs.

    Release

    5

    Much better when releasing off of motion or when off the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t have the strength to get a clean release when in-line.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Good skills to catch and turn upfield. Has limited moves in the open field.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a game in 2011.

    Overall

    62.5

    Harbor was a college wide receiver, so the transition to tight end has been new. There is talent here, especially as a fit in the West Coast offense the Eagles run. He has the traits to develop at either fullback or tight end.

41. Randy McMichael, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    5.5 

    Average athlete with heavy feet. Won’t separate much in space and can struggle to maintain balance and feet.

    Pass Blocking

    10

    One of the best in the game, McMichael is strong at the point of attack and quick enough in-line to slide out on edge-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    2

    The Denver Broncos defense destroyed McMichael in Week 12, as they him blew up play after play.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Has the quick feet and change-of-direction skills to get in and out of breaks. Has the mix of speed and stride to eat up yards.

    Hands

    7

    Let three passes hit the ground this year on just 44 targets. Must secure the ball better in traffic.

    Speed

    4.5

    While his straight-line speed is lacking, his short-area quickness is still intact.

    Size

    10

    Fits the mold of a starter at 6’3” and 255 lbs.

    Release

    4

    Struggles off the line, much like when run blocking. Doesn’t fire off with enough force and can be rocked back off the ball.

    Run After Catch

    4.5

    Made a few nice runs this year after the catch, but can be caught from behind and doesn’t offer consistent yards post-catch.

    Health

    10

    Played in all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    63

    A solid No. 2 option at tight end, McMichael is valuable as an extra blocker on passing downs but is a liability in run packages.

40. Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks

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    Agility

    6

    Is not always very light on his feet but moves around quickly. Not as quick off the ball as other tight ends.

    Pass Blocking

    Asked to stay in and block often on the right side of the line, Miller did a very nice job getting his hands on defenders. Can be taken off the edge, but he impressed in this area.

    Run Blocking

    2

    Limited aggression as a run-blocker. Needs to play with more force and less finesse.

    Route Running

    6

    Runs a nice seam route. Shows quick feet when working back to the ball. Underrated by most in this regard.

    Hands

    8

    Dropped three passes this season but had trouble locating the ball on other plays. Saw a drop-off from his 2010 season.

    Speed

    6.5

    Doesn’t have the speed to run away from defenders. Works better in short spaces and tight windows where his size and quickness can be assets.

    Size

    10

    Great size for the dual-threat that he is.

    Release

    4

    If hit in his stance, he’ll rock back and lose momentum. Has trouble with 3-4 defenses that stop him at the line.

    Run After Catch

    6.5

    Isn’t quick enough to run away from defenders but has some quickness after the catch. Picks up yards by continuing to move forward.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011 and was bothered during others with a neck injury.

    Overall

    64

    Miller’s production and impact dropped off in Seattle, but the talent is there for a rebound. He could stand to increase the crispness of his routes and lock up his run-blocking responsibilities.

39. Bear Pascoe, New York Giants

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    Agility

    6.5

    Is not a great athlete but has the quickness to get in and out of his routes quickly. Has very good balance.

    Pass Blocking

    5.5

    Can hold his own when asked to stay in and protect. Tough at the point of impact.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Struggles against 3-4 defenses but possesses the strength to lock on and move defenders off the ball. A lack of agility hurts his second-level blocking.

    Route Running

    Used primarily in zone routes, especially around the red zone. Will rub defenders and can box out to find space. Average overall route skills.

    Hands

    5

    Rarely targeted due to his lack of ability as a blocker. Pascoe is a body-catcher who is best schemed as a blocker.

    Speed

    5.5

    Lacks the speed to be a difference-maker in space. Merely average.

    Size

    10

    Great size (6’5”, 283 lbs). Has the look of an in-line tight end.

    Release

    6

    Strong enough to fight off the jam but will get caught up when coming from off the line of scrimmage. Plays better in-line, where he can use his strength and quickness to jump off the ball.

    Run After Catch

    5.5

    Lacks the speed to be a major player post-catch but has the presence of mind to turn upfield and pick up available yards.

    Health

    10

    Healthy for all of the 2011 season.

    Overall

    64

    A blocker for the Giants in 2011, Pascoe was a valuable player for the team during its playoff run. He is not a great athlete but plays his role very well.

38. Evan Moore, Cleveland Browns

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    Agility

    6

    Moore has a naturally big frame but is a surprising athlete. He moves faster than he appears to and is able to use his strength and size to rip the ball away from defenders.

    Pass Blocking

    4.5

    Used very little early in the season, Moore looked good locking up with teams late in the year. He needs more experience in setting up his blocks and must become more aggressive.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    Didn’t push the pile particularly well, but there is room to grow. With his size and strength, Moore could be very good here.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Limited as a route runner, Moore excelled in red-zone sets but looked lost at times when asked to do more than run up the seam or dig over the middle.

    Hands

    6.5

    Charted with just one drop all season, Moore could do better to extend when the ball is away from his frame.

    Speed

    6

    Lacks elite speed but can outrun linebackers. Moore will be outpaced by defensive backs.

    Size

    10

    Ideal frame for in-line tight end at 6’6” and 250 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Has good burst off the line but can come out too high, which allows defenders to get into his frame and knock him off the route.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Not a threat to make plays after the catch, Moore is average in this category despite good agility and speed.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a game in 2011.

    Overall

    64

    Moore came on late in the season and flashed the potential to be more of a threat in the Cleveland offense in the future as a receiver and red-zone target.

37. Matt Spaeth, Chicago Bears

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    Agility

    5

    Agile enough to get in and out of his stance with quickness. Has quick feet and slides well in space. Doesn’t show elite flexibility or balance.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Has the length to pick up edge-rushers. Isn’t always balanced when kicking out to the edge.

    Run Blocking

    5.5

    When he fires off low there’s enough strength to push the pile. Trouble is, too often he’s high and can be bent over by defenders at the point of attack.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Rarely used here. Based on 2011 film, Spaeth is best used as a zone-route guy who can sit in spaces.

    Hands

    8

    Did not drop a pass, but he was only targeted 11 times. A blocking tight end through and through.

    Speed

    5

    Has average speed to extend upfield and get in and out of breaks in his routes. Serviceable but not exceptional.

    Size

    10

    Massive frame at 6’7” and 270 lbs.

    Release

    5.5

    Comes out too high and heavy-footed. Easy to knock off his route.

    Run After Catch

    5.5

    Lack of speed hurts his ability to accelerate away from defenders. Does well to catch, tuck and lower his shoulder.

    Health

    9

    Missed just one start in 2011.

    Overall

    64

    A pure blocker in the Chicago offense, Spaeth played more like a right tackle than a tight end. He’s limited athletically and has become a one-trick pony.

36. Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    8

    He’s a very good athlete with the quickness, balance and lateral agility the position demands.

    Pass Blocking

    1

    A liability in run blocking, as he is not a great in-line player on running downs. He fails to initiate contact and can be pushed off the ball.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Though a decent hook-blocker, Dickson is more of a wide receiver in terms of blocking ability.

    Route Running

    6.5

    He’s not used in a variety of routes, but those he’s asked to run are done well.

    Hands

    6

    Will put passes on the ground in surprising fashion. Had five dropped passes in just 85 targets in 2011.

    Speed

    8

    Quick release off the snap. Has enough speed to pressure cover men into their backpedal. Is often covered by cornerbacks.

    Size

    10

    Ideal size and frame at 6’4” and 250 lbs.

    Release

    5

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times and can be knocked off his route initially.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Can run away from defenders and extend the play after the catch with his burst.

    Health

    10

    Played in every game during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    64.5

    A very good athlete, Dickson is almost exclusively used as a slot tight end. He has to become a better all-around blocker and work on his release before he can move up.

35. Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills

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    Agility

    Average all-around agility, Chandler has nice short-area quickness and strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Can be overpowered in one-on-one situations. Does a good job getting low to cut pass-rushers. Is best when blocking on the move.

    Run Blocking

    2

    Fails to initiate and maintain contact. Chandler can’t be asked to drive block.

    Route Running

    6

    Has the quick feet and change-of-direction skills to get in and out of breaks. Has the mix of speed and stride to eat up yards.

    Hands

    8

    Didn’t drop one pass in 46 targets during 2011 season. Catches too many passes with his body instead of extending. Will get alligator arms at times.

    Speed

    6

    Lacks elite speed. More of a strider than sprinter. Won’t run away from many defenders.

    Size

    10

    Chandler’s size (6’7”, 265 lbs) is a major advantage in the red zone.

    Release

    6.5

    Will come out of his stance high and can be pushed back and rocked off balance. Strong at the point of attack but loses ground too easily.

    Run After Catch

    Does a good job breaking tackles in the open field. Won’t run away from defenders or make elusive moves, but he tucks the ball and runs hard to openings.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games during 2011 season.

    Overall

    64.5

    Chandler has exceptional potential, but to grade out higher he needs to see more opportunities and become a better all-around blocker. He has impressive upside if healthy.

34. Kellen Davis, Chacago Bears

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    Agility

    Has quick feet and good moves in space. Can be heavy-footed at times.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Can hold his own when asked to stay in and protect. Average at the point of impact.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Can crack off the edge, but shouldn’t be asked to simply line up and move the pile.

    Route Running

    6

    Was asked to be more of a blocker than receiver under Mike Martz. Shows a good understanding of space and option routes.

    Hands

    6.5

    Dropped two balls on just 34 targets. Not a bad statistic, but more consistency is needed in his extension and concentration. A body-catcher.

    Speed

    6

    Davis doesn’t possess breakaway speed, but he has very good burst. While his straight-line speed is lacking, his short-area quickness makes up for it.

    Size

    10

    Massive frame at 6’7” and 267 lbs.

    Release

    5.5

    Will get hung up more often by defensive ends sliding out on him. Can be a bit high, but strong enough to fight off jams.

    Run After Catch

    4.5

    Is a catch-and-hit type player who doesn’t pick up much after the catch.

    Health

    10

    Played in every game in 2011.

    Overall

    64.5

    Underused in the Chicago offense, Davis has more talent than his production would indicate. Expect a bigger role from him in 2012.

33. Zach Potter, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    Potter has good initial quickness. When playing inside a short area you cannot see any weakness in agility. When asked to extend, or get in space, Potter is an average athlete.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Has the length and bulk to stand next to the tackle and slide with pass-rushers. If he added 15 more pounds, he would be a tackle and not a tight end.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Didn’t always do well as a run-blocker, but mostly because he was asked to play in space. When Potter could fire off and bang into defensive ends he did much better.

    Route Running

    Inexperienced in the passing game, he does a nice job using his big frame to box out. Has the ability to extend and get the ball at its highest point.

    Hands

    6.5

    Was targeted only seven times but caught five of those passes. He has soft hands when used.

    Speed

    4.5

    For his size, Potter’s speed is very good. Compared with other tight ends, it’s below average.

    Size

    10

    Is built like a small offensive tackle at 6’7” and 280 lbs.

    Release

    5

    Can be tied up and knocked off the line. First step isn’t very powerful.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Average skill and limited by his lack of speed.

    Health

    10

    Missed Week 17 with a calf injury but could have played if it were any other week.

    Overall

    65

    Potter makes the grade due to his ability more than his production, which can be tricky. The talent is there, but he needs more opportunities.

32. Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    7

    Has very good balance and body control, with good timed speed and quickness for his position.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    He’s balanced, strong at the point of attack and agile enough to mirror and slide.

    Run Blocking

    2

    Could stand to come out lower and with more aggression. He will get in the way, but he doesn’t redirect the defender well.

    Route Running

    6

    Quick off the ball and into his cuts, but he's rounding off his cuts. Needs work to improve understanding in zone and option routes to better his placement.

    Hands

    5

    Dropped five passes in 2011 on just 70 targets.

    Speed

    7

    Above-average speed for a tight end. Can outrun linebackers but not defensive backs.

    Size

    10

    Ideal build at 6’4” and 250 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Has the experience to beat defenders off the line, but defenders can stick him and rock him back.

    Run After Catch

    Not a threat to make plays after the catch, Shiancoe is average in this category despite good agility and speed.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    66

    A good receiver, Shiancoe lacks the all-around game to grade out higher. His drops in 2011 were another factor in a low grade for a solid player.

31. Kevin Boss, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    8

    Is more quick than fast, showing good lateral agility and the hip flexibility to sink and change direction in his routes.

    Pass Blocking

    2.5

    Rarely asked to stay in and help on blocks, Boss doesn’t have the strength in his lower body to be considered a threat as a pass-protector.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Isn’t very physical at the point of attack and can be beaten off the line. Doesn’t yet have a great feel for angles and technique. Due to his height, he loses leverage early and hasn’t shown the footwork to be a drive-blocker.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Can get too high in his stance, failing to sink his hips to separate out of his cuts downfield. Otherwise a clean route-runner who knows how to use his body to set up defenders.

    Hands

    8.5

    Only dropped one pass in 2011 but missed several others that could have been caught if he had extended better.

    Speed

    6.5

    Boss has enough speed and is above average compared with other tight ends.

    Size

    10

    At 6’6" and 255 lbs, he represents the ideal size for an NFL tight end.

    Release

    6

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times. Can be knocked off his route initially when he fires out too high.

    Run After Catch

    Lacks the speed to be a major player post-catch but has the presence of mind to turn upfield and pick up available yards.

    Health

    9

    Missed the first two games of the season with an injury.

    Overall

    66

    Boss is an exceptional athlete with very good feet and length, but he is a raw blocker who needs to work on his all-around game.

30. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    7.5

    Daniels is quick enough to get open and make moves in space. Doesn’t show great burst or open-field moves.

    Pass Blocking

    2

    Rarely asked to help as a pass-blocker, Daniels doesn’t show much ability in screen packages or when in-line.

    Run Blocking

    1.5

    A liability in run blocking, Daniels has never been a great in-line player on running downs. He fails to initiate contact and can be pushed off the ball.

    Route Running

    7

    Is able to avoid underneath coverage on the route stem and uses his frame to box out defenders.

    Hands

    9

    Just two dropped passes all season. Daniels is a reliable target over the middle.

    Speed

    6.5

    Nothing special, but fast enough to be faster than the average tight end—and to do damage in the secondary. 

    Size

    10

    Looks the part at 6’3” and 247 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Can get held up at the line of scrimmage by a good edge defender. Has the speed to recover.

    Run After Catch

    7.5

    Fast enough to catch, turn and run. Good open-field ability and will pick up big yards after the catch.

    Health

    9

    Started every game in 2011 and appears healthy after a torn ACL cost him chunks of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

    Overall

    66

    Daniels faded down the stretch when Matt Schaub was injured, failing to find a chemistry with T.J. Yates. He was almost invisible in the playoffs. You can blame it on the quarterback, but Daniels’ play slipped more as a blocker than receiver down the stretch.

29. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts

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    Agility

    6.5 

    Clark has noticeably lost a step as he ages. He still shows good short-area quickness, but his burst is all but gone.

    Pass Blocking

    Is able to stay in-line and hold his own against defensive ends and outside linebackers. Struggles to maintain after initial pop.

    Run Blocking

    5

    Is no longer able to move the pile in one-on-one situations. Has always been at his best when given a running start.

    Route Running

    8.5 

    Clark runs crisp routes with a technician’s eye on timing and counting his steps. He is used in a variety of routes and asked to make changes at the line.

    Hands

    5

    Dropped eight passes in 2011, but it’s worth noting he played with three different quarterbacks. The talent was there; the consistency wasn’t.

    Speed

    7

    Not as fast as he used to be, but above average.

    Size

    10

    Has a stocky, athletic build at 6’3” and 252 lbs.

    Release

    9

    Comes off the ball clean by way of pre-snap motion and a quick first step. Smart and experienced, Clark is hard to beat at the line.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Isn’t quick enough to run away from defenders, but has some quickness after the catch. Picks up yards by continuing to move forward.

    Health

    5

    Missed five games in 2011 with injury.

    Overall

    67

    A future Hall of Famer, Clark’s on his last legs in a career that saw him do everything a tight end could be expected to do in the NFL.

28. Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

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    Agility

    7

    Solid all-around agility, has nice short-area quickness and only needs to add strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Blocking

    4.5

    Can be overpowered in one-on-one situations. Does a good job getting low to cut pass-rushers. 

    Run Blocking

    7.5

    Is best when blocking on the move. Plays often from motion and is good at cracking or drive blocking in space. Not as effective when asked to block from a stationary position.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Has the ability to sink his hips and get in and out of routes but is limited in where he can get open.

    Hands

    4

    Surprised by dropping nine passes in 2011. Worked with numerous quarterbacks, which can throw off consistency. Has to look the ball in more often.

    Speed

    7

    Not a burner or straight-line guy, but his quickness and initial burst are enough to give him an edge against defenders.

    Size

    10 

    A little short at 6’3” but has good bulk at 247 lbs.

    Release

    5

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times and can be knocked off his route initially. 

    Run After Catch

    7

    Lacks the speed to be a major player post-catch but has the presence of mind to turn upfield and pick up available yards.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    66.5

    Kendricks has a ton of talent but was too inconsistent as a receiver in 2011. To move up the list in 2012, he has to become a durable pass-catcher.

27. Dustin Keller, New York Jets

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    Agility

    8

    Keller has good lateral agility, working both in-line and in the slot. Shows good balance to fight off shoves when in his route.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Is rarely asked to stay in and help but works well chipping defensive ends off the line.

    Run Blocking

    1.5

    Can be overpowered at the point of attack too often. Will get high in his stance and allow tacklers to run by him.

    Route Running

    7

    Very good route-runner who can use his agility to shake defenders. Excels at post-corner routes and getting up the seam.

    Hands

    7.5

    Four dropped passes in 2011 isn't bad, but he could do a better job extending his hands to get the football.

    Speed

    7

    Has the speed to run past a linebacker if matched up, but he doesn’t have the straight-line ability to run past defensive backs consistently.

    Size

    9.5

    Good bulk at 250 lbs to make up for his 6'2" frame.

    Release

    5.5

    Struggles against the initial hit he'd get against 3-4 defenses.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Strong enough to beat the jam, he has the initial quickness to fly off the line. Can get held up by in-line defensive ends who get into his body.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    68

    Keller's production has declined with the play of Mark Sanchez, but he's also regressed as a blocker. He's a big target in the red zone who would see a rebound with better quarterback play.

26. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

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    Agility

    7

    More quick than fast, showing good lateral agility and the hip flexibility to sink and change direction in his routes.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Rarely asked to stay in and help on blocks, Davis has average strength in his lower body. Not considered a threat as a pass-protector.

    Run Blocking

    1

    Defenders can stand him up, as he fails to fire out low and maintain leverage. Lacks the strength to push the pile.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs a nice seam route. Shows quick feet when working back to the ball. Underrated by most in this regard.

    Hands

    8

    Doesn’t mishandle many—just three dropped passes in 2011.

    Speed

    6.5

    Doesn’t have the speed to run away from defenders. Works better in short spaces and tight windows where his size and quickness can be an asset.

    Size

    10

    Fits the ideal build at 6’4” and 258 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Has good burst off the line but can come out too high, which allows defenders to get into his frame and knock him off the route.

    Run After Catch

    8

    Picked up more than six yards after the catch on average. Has the quickness and vision to be an impact in space.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss any starts to injury in 2011.

    Overall

    68.5

    Davis’ season was cut short due to a suspension, and he enters free agency this summer. An underrated player to date, Davis has the athletic ability and talent to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player if he can turn his potential into production.

25. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    6.5

    Is not always very light on his feet but moves around quickly. Not as quick off the ball as other tight ends.

    Pass Blocking

    5.5

    Asked to be more of a receiver than blocker, his weakness is his ability to stay in-line and handle pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    A liability in run blocking, as he has never been an great in-line player on running downs. He fails to initiate contact and can be pushed off the ball.

    Route Running

    6

    He’s not used in a variety of routes, but those he’s asked to run are done well. Lacks a full range in route tree.

    Hands

    9

    Is about as sure-handed as any player in the game. He rarely drops passes, including none in 2011.

    Speed

    6

    Adequate, but not approaching elite.

    Size

    10

    Has good size and build at 6’4” and 245 lbs.

    Release

    6

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times and can be knocked off his route initially.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Looks for his yards right upfield, but he has no breakaway skills.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011.

    Overall

    68.5

    Pitta has the smaller frame to be used in the slot and in motion before the snap. He’s not much of a threat to block but is an increasing presence in the passing game.

24. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Agility

    7.5

    Celek’s quickness, balance and change-of-direction skills show off surprising agility.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Is good when asked to help in a screen package, and can chip off the line, but he’s not an in-line blocker.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    Not a run-blocker, Celek is vulnerable. He’s not strong enough to move the pile or maintain contact.

    Route Running

    7

    A smart player who gets open using angles and initial quickness. Does very well changing direction and working back to the football.

    Hands

    6

    Will drop passes, especially if he has to extend to reach the ball. Celek is at his best when the ball hits him right in the chest.

    Speed

    6.5

    Doesn’t have elite speed but is quick enough to get free in space and work himself open against pass coverage.

    Size

    10 

    Has a big, solid frame at 6’4” and 261 lbs.

    Release

    6.5

    Can get hung up at the line, especially if there’s a strong outside linebacker hitting him, but he does use his hands well to break free and get back on his route.

    Run After Catch

    8

    Top five among all tight ends with an average of eight yards after the catch. He’s not blazing fast, but Celek is smart and uses his quickness to pick up extra yards.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a start in 2011.

    Overall

    70

    Celek isn’t an all-around tight end, but he’s the perfect fit for the West Coast offense in Philadelphia. He can get open, has the quickness to pick up yards after the catch and is strong enough to break tackles.

23. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    8

    Very strong and quick off the line, Olsen moves well in space. He has the overall athletic ability to be a matchup problem in the red zone and up the seam.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    Wasn’t asked to stay in and block often in Carolina. Doesn’t have the size to stay in-line and handle pass-rushers one-on-one. Can help and chip, but nothing more.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Fires off with good spark but doesn’t maintain well when locking on. Gives up plays to a strong inside-out move.

    Route Running

    8

    Flashes on film when creating space between himself and defenders. Has the size to fight off press coverage and the quickness to change direction and leave the coverage hanging.

    Hands

    6.5

    Five dropped passes in just 89 targets is a bit worrisome. Was adjusting to a new quarterback, so his numbers should jump in 2012.

    Speed

    7

    Enough speed to create and separate. Won’t run away from defenders post-catch but is fast enough to get into the cushion and then redirect.

    Size

    10

    Fits the mold of today’s tight end at 6’5” and 255 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Strong enough to fight off the jam but will get caught up when coming from off the line of scrimmage. Plays better in-line, where he can use his strength and quickness to jump off the ball.

    Run After Catch

    5

    Picked up 4.7 yards after the catch, a solid number for a big tight end. Olsen’s numbers could improve with better ball placement, but he’s also not fast enough to elude tacklers in space.

    Health

    10

    Played in every game in 2011.

    Overall

    70

    One of the players who would greatly benefit from a “potential” score, Olsen has just scratched the surface of the player he can become. Fewer drops and fewer penalties will help his chances down the road.

22. Tony Scheffler, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    6

    Is not a great athlete but has the quickness to get in and out of his routes quickly. Has very good balance.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Can hold his own when asked to stay in and protect. Tough at the point of impact.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Can crack off the edge but shouldn’t be asked to simply line up and move the pile.

    Route Running

    6

    Runs hard off the line and gets into his route quickly. Flashes his hands to the quarterback and is a big target up the seam. Hard to defend in the red zone.

    Hands

    7

    Dropped just three passes in 2011 but was only targeted 41 times. Needs to be more consistent. The talent is there.

    Speed

    8

    Quick enough to get away from defenders, has straight-line speed and is fast as much as he is shifty. Ran a low 4.6 in the 40-yard dash before the 2006 NFL draft.

    Size

    10

    Has very good size at 6’5" and 250 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Fast enough to explode out of the blocks and pick up a nice lead on defenders. Succumbs to a strong jam from an in-line defensive end.

    Run After Catch

    7.5

    Fast enough to pick up yards post-catch. Has the shiftiness in the open field to make moves.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011.

    Overall

    70.5

    Scheffler is a situational player in Detroit, which limits his numbers. He played well against teams using a 3-4 defense (like Kansas City and Green Bay). His play improved throughout the season.

21. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccanneers

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    Agility

    7.5

    A very good athlete, Winslow has the quickness to win battles in space. Can quickly get in and out of cuts.

    Pass Blocking

    5.5

    Isn’t asked to stay in and block much but works well off the line to chip and stun defenders.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Fails to initiate and maintain contact. Winslow can’t be asked to drive block.

    Route Running

    7

    Has the quick feet and change-of-direction skills to get in and out of breaks. Has enough speed to eat up yards.

    Hands

    7

    Has been known to drop passes by trying to turn upfield too soon. Let six passes hit the ground in 2011.

    Speed

    7

    Winslow’s quickness and initial burst are enough to give him an edge against defenders.

    Size

    10

    Has an athletic build at 6’4” and 240 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Strong enough to beat the jam, Winslow has the initial quickness to fly off the line. Can get held up by in-line defensive ends who get into his body.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Picked up an average of 3.5 yards after the catch—a solid number but one that shows his limitations in space.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    71

    Not a game-breaker, but Winslow is someone who can move the chains. If he could limit his penalties (seven in 2011), Winslow’s production and value would be even higher.

20. Delanie Walker, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    7

    Solid all-around agility, Walker has nice short-area quickness and strength at the point of attack.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    Can be overpowered in one-on-one situations. Does a good job getting low to cut pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Is best when blocking on the move. Plays often from motion and is good at cracking or drive blocking in space. 

    Route Running

    6

    Has the ability to sink his hips and get in and out of routes but is limited in where he can get open.

    Hands

    7.5

    Won’t put the ball down but doesn’t have the length to extend and make tough catches.

    Speed

    7.5

    Quick enough to get away from defenders, Walker isn’t straight-line fast as much as he is shifty.

    Size

    8.5

    Built more like a fullback, which fits his H-back role well.

    Release

    8

    Struggled against 3-4 defenses that hit him at the line, Walker can be great when sent in motion or coming out of the backfield.

    Run After Catch

    7.5

    Has the quickness to make people miss in space. Walker doesn’t break many tackles but looks to get upfield in a hurry.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games in 2011 but had an unnaturally quick recovery from a broken jaw to come back for the playoffs.

    Overall

    71.5

    A valuable piece of the San Francisco offense as a blocker and receiver, Walker plays more of an H-back role that asks him to play in motion more than a classic tight end.

19. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans

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    Agility

    8

    Cook has good lateral agility, working both in-line and in the slot. Shows good balance to fight off shoves when in his route.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Is rarely asked to stay in and help but works well chipping defensive ends off the line.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Can be overpowered at the point of attack too often. Will get high in his stance and allow tacklers to run by him.

    Route Running

    7

    Cook works the seam well, giving his quarterback a big target. Maintains timing and space well.

    Hands

    7

    Three dropped passes in 2011 aren’t bad, but he could do a better job extending his hands to get the football.

    Speed

    7.5

    Has the speed to run past a linebacker if matched up but doesn’t have the straight-line ability to run past defensive backs consistently.

    Size

    10

    Cook has an athletic build at 6’5” and 245 lbs. Ideal for the position.

    Release

    7

    Shows good burst off the ball and the strength to fight off jams. If hit in his stance, he’ll rock back and lose momentum.

    Run After Catch

    7.5

    Not always a threat to run away from defenders, Cook averaged 6.8 yards post-catch—a good number for any tight end.

    Health

    10

    Started all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    72

    An emerging player, Cook has the agility and speed to grow as a target for Jake Locker in Tennessee. His red-zone numbers will improve once Kenny Britt is back and pulling safeties over the top.

18. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

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    Agility

    10 

    Finley is an exceptional athlete, but it doesn’t translate to the field. His run after catch can be spotty and his hands are a major question mark.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Uses his frame well to redirect pass-rushers but doesn’t stand in and "chicken fight" when needed.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Poor leverage kills his chances of drive blocking. Will get in the way and wall off. Blocks more like a wide receiver.

    Route Running

    8

    Very good route-runner who can use his agility to shake defenders. Excels at post-corner routes and getting up the seam.

    Hands

    3.5

    His 12 drops in 2011 were by far the most among tight ends.

    Speed

    8

    Has very good speed and can eat up yards. Uses his speed well to get open on linebackers or cornerbacks.

    Size

    10

    Looks and plays like a power forward. Uses his long frame to extend for the ball and block out defenders.

    Release

    6

    Can get a little high but is athletic enough to rip or swim linebackers trying to jam him off the line. Not as good when working in-line as opposed to the slot.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Doesn’t use his athleticism to the full advantage here. Looks to make too many lateral moves instead of powering ahead.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011.

    Overall

    72.5

    An intimidating athlete, Finley has yet to turn his athleticism into a force on the field. Is a finesse player who has to learn to get dirty and take a hit. His biggest value, by far, is in that he draws attention away from the wide receivers on the field.

17. Jake Ballard, New York Giants

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    Agility

    7.5

    Has the agility to move laterally and change direction. Good overall balance and flexibility.

    Pass Blocking

    5

    Is strong but will get beat off the edge. Lacks the experience and technique to stay in and block. Is asked to be a receiver first and second in the Giants offense.

    Run Blocking

    4

    Has the strength to fire off the line and make contact. Doesn’t maintain his blocks well. Will be beaten with a solid second move.

    Route Running

    7

    Solid change-of-direction skills allow Ballard to get open. Has a big frame and uses his body to box out defenders.

    Hands

    8.5

    Ballard does a great job securing the ball, even when he’s on the verge of being rocked. Looks the ball in and has big, strong hands.

    Speed

    7.5

    Ballard doesn’t possess breakaway speed, but he has very good burst. While his straight-line speed is lacking, his short-area quickness makes up for it.

    Size

    10

    At 6’6” and 275 lbs, Ballard has a great frame for the position.

    Release

    7.5

    Strong enough to get free off the line but did struggle against a jam from an outside linebacker at the line. Against San Francisco he had his worst game in terms of release.

    Run After Catch

    7.5

    Has very good vision. Makes the catch and then quickly turns to get upfield. Has the speed and quickness to pick up yards. Averaged 5.2 yards per clip after the catch.

    Health

    8

    Missed two games in late 2011. Tore his ACL in the Super Bowl.

    Overall

    72.5

    Ballard’s 2012 season will be set back by a torn ACL suffered during the Super Bowl. He’s a talented tight end who has room to grow after an impressive second season in the NFL. His future hinges on his recovery time.

16. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Agility

    8

    A very good all-around athlete, Gresham moves very well for a man who weighs 260 lbs.

    Pass Blocking

    7

    Has the long arms and big frame to stand in and fight at the edge. Does well coming off the ball and chipping blitzers.

    Run Blocking

    3.5

    Struggles when asked to play in-line and come off the ball to drive block. Can crack off the edge but shouldn’t be asked to simply line up and move the pile.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs hard off the line and gets into his route quickly. Flashes his hands to the quarterback and is a big target up the seam. Hard to defend in the red zone.

    Hands

    7

    Put six passes on the ground in 2011. Has big hands and does well extending but needs to secure the ball before turning.

    Speed

    7

    Ran a solid 4.66 in the 40-yard dash before being drafted. Has speed comparable with a slow wide receiver, which is great for a tight end.

    Size

    10 

    A dominant athlete with the ideal frame at 6’5” and 260 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Strong enough to beat linebackers off the edge. Comes out in the slot often. Will get hung up more often by defensive ends sliding out on him.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Can make some moves post-catch. Has enough speed to hit the open field and pick up yards. Will see an increase as Andy Dalton improves his placement. His production did not match his ability in 2011.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games due to injury in 2011.

    Overall

    72.5

    Gresham wasn’t used to his full ability in 2011, but as young quarterback Andy Dalton progresses, Gresham’s numbers should too. The pressure is on him to improve as a run-blocker and work on looking the ball in.

15. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins

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    Agility

    7

    Is not a great athlete but has the quickness to get in and out of his routes quickly. Has very good balance.

    Pass Blocking

    6.5

    Can hold his own when asked to stay in and protect. Tough at the point of impact.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Is physical when asked to fire off and drive block. Keeps his feet churning. Will get dirty when needed.

    Route Running

    7

    Runs a nice seam route. Shows quick feet when working back to the ball. Underrated by most in this regard.

    Hands

    9.5

    Doesn’t drop many—just one dropped pass in 2011.

    Speed

    6

    Doesn’t have the speed to run away from defenders. Works better in short spaces and tight windows where his size and quickness can be assets.

    Size

    9

    Somewhat shorter and stockier, Fasano has a solid frame at 6’4” and 255 lbs.

    Release

    7.5

    Comes off the line cleanly. Does work some in the slot and could stand to run lower.

    Run After Catch

    4

    More of a catch-and-hit type player, Fasano doesn’t pick up many yards after the catch.

    Section title

    9.5

    Missed one start late in 2011.

    Overall

    72.5

    An all-around tight end who can be used in multiple ways. He’s solid as a blocker and a threat to work up the seam or attack the corners in the red zone.

14. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    8

    Agile enough to get in and out of transitions. Has quick feet and good moves in space. Can be heavy-footed at times.

    Pass Blocking

    7

    Has the size and length to redirect pass-rushers off the edge. Does a nice job chipping off the line.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Can be stood up by defenders, but when he fires out low and maintains leverage he is very good.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Lewis runs high and can be knocked off his route. Doesn’t sink into zone routes particularly well. More of a jump-ball player.

    Hands

    6.5

    Will drop easy passes, especially over the middle. He dropped six passes in 2011.

    Speed

    7.5

    Has the speed to eat up yards off the ball. Uses a long stride to get into a defensive back's cushion quickly.

    Size

    10 

    Ideal build for an athletic tight end at 6’6” and 275 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Has good burst off the line but can come out too high, which allows defenders to get into his frame and knock him off the route.

    Run After Catch

    5

    Not a threat to make plays after the catch, Lewis is average in this category despite good agility and speed.

    Health

    9

    Missed one start in 2011.

    Overall

    73

    Lewis didn’t play well with a rookie quarterback in 2011, but the talent is there for him to be a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Better consistency in his route running and run blocking will help.

13. Martellus Bennett, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    7.5

    Bennett moves well for a man his size, showing quick feet and good agility, both laterally and vertically. Has the quickness to get free off the snap.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Asked to stay in and block often, Bennett can extend and reach pass-rushers, but has the quick feet to slide and protect. Loses focus and will miss assignments.

    Run Blocking

    8.5

    Better than advertised, Bennett excels at firing off the line and driving defenders off the ball. He’s also dangerous pulling and cracking on linebackers.

    Route Running

    5.5

    Doesn’t show great consistency and must become more of a technician in this area through increased exposure in the passing game. Asked to stay in and block more than run routes.

    Hands

    7.5

    Will occasionally put the ball on the ground, but has big, strong hands and does a nice job extending to make the catch. Despite his impressive skill set, Bennett was targeted just 24 times in 2011.

    Speed

    8

    Has the burst to eat up ground off the ball, but also has the straight-line speed to outrun defenders once he has the ball.

    Size

    10 

    Has overpowering size at 6’6” and 260 lbs.

    Release

    5.5

    Gets too high coming out of his stance on passing routes, giving the defense a clear tell on the play. On blocking assignments he’s low and clear, which shows ability to correct this. Bennett was asked to release fewer than 50 times all season.

    Run After Catch

    6.5

    Has the agility and speed to be dangerous here, but Bennett hasn’t become a run-after-catch factor yet in his career.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    74

    An underrated tight end who plays in the large shadow of Jason Witten. Bennett has the measurables and traits to be a starter, but to date he’s not capitalized on his opportunities.

12. Jeremy Shockey, Carolina Panthers

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    Agility

    8

    Agile enough to get in and out of transitions. Has quick feet and good moves in space.

    Pass Blocking

    3

    Not someone you want left on an island with a pass-rusher. Doesn’t extend or show the technique to be effective.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Can lower his hips and get into a defender but fails to sustain the block. Is not a drive-blocker but can wall off tacklers.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Not much of a technician, Shockey runs a nice seam route but can get lazy rounding off cuts when changing direction.

    Hands

    8.5

    Does a very nice job bringing the ball in once it makes contact. Has the hand strength and concentration to go up and get the ball.

    Speed

    7

    Above-average speed for the tight end position, Shockey can outrun linebackers but will be outpaced by defensive backs.

    Size

    10 

    Has the ideal size and frame at 6’5” and 251 lbs.

    Release

    7

    Has the experience to beat defenders off the line, but the older he gets the easier it is to stick him and rock him back.

    Run After Catch

    9

    Has good moves in the open field. Shockey makes the most of the space around him and wisely gets upfield as quick as possible. He won’t elude defenders, but he can run them over.

    Health

    9

    Missed one start in 2011

    Overall

    74.5

    Shockey has started to fade athletically at 32 years old, but he’s still a solid pass-catcher who can be a dependable threat over the middle and in the red zone.

11. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

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    Agility

    9

    Has the explosion and lateral quickness to fire out into his routes. Good change-of-direction skills. A top-shelf athlete.

    Pass Blocking

    8

    Pettigrew was used almost exclusively as a blocker early in his college career, and that shows in his pass-blocking technique. Rarely used here as a pro, Pettigrew has elite ability.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Could stand to come out lower and with more aggression. Will get in the way but doesn’t redirect the defender well.

    Route Running

    8

    Has the lower-body strength to make quick changes of direction. Shows a good understanding of the route tree, with solid timing on three- and five-step routes.

    Hands

    6.5

    Gets his hands out away from his body but will put the ball on the turf too often. Had six dropped passes in 2011.

    Speed

    6.5

    Lacks dangerous straight-line burst. Pettigrew has respectable speed but won’t break many long runs.

    Size

    10

    Has the size to be a factor as a receiver and blocker at 6’5” and 265 lbs.

    Release

    6.5

    Has the size to fight off jams but will lose his timing if hit hard at the snap. Needs to redirect better.

    Run After Catch

    5.5

    Doesn’t have the speed to be a factor post-catch.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a start in 2011.

    Overall

    74.5

    A very good all-around player, Pettigrew has the size to be a red-zone nightmare for defenses. His ability as a pass-blocker is underrated and overlooked but shows up big on film. Pettigrew should see an expanded role as Matthew Stafford grows into the position.

10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    8

    Has top-level agility, with quick feet and the balance to make changes in direction without losing steam.

    Pass Blocking

    Better than expected, Rudolph digs in and holds his ground against a bull rush. Is athletic enough to kick out wide and pick up the edge.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Fires off low and strong, getting into the defender quickly. Works well coming out of the slot and cracking on linebackers and defensive ends to set up the outside run game.

    Route Running

    6.5

    Quick off the ball and into his cuts but is rounding off his cuts. Needs work to improve understanding in zone and option routes to better his placement.

    Hands

    6.5

    Has the long arms and hands to extend for the ball but must show more consistency in securing the ball once it hits the target area.

    Speed

    8

    Runs like a wide receiver, with good initial burst and enough straight-line speed to get into a defender’s cushion and make him turn and run.

    Size

    10 

    Excellent height and bulk at 6’6” and 259 lbs. Rather statuesque.

    Release

    6.5

    Must learn to use his hands better to disengage. Can be rocked off the ball by outside linebackers. Did a better job coming off defensive ends vs. linebackers.

    Run After Catch

    6.5

    Has the speed to become dangerous in this area but must do a better job securing the ball and then running.

    Health

    9

    Missed one game in 2011 due to injury.

    Overall

    74.5

    Rudolph has the tools to become one of the elite tight ends in the NFL. A full offseason program and added time to learn the offense will be key to his development.

9. Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans

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    Agility

    6

    A solid athlete, Dreessen doesn’t have elite quickness but does well enough to make plays and extend blocks.

    Pass Blocking

    7

    Is able to stay in-line and hold his own against defensive ends and outside linebackers. Has long arms and quick feet to get to the edge.

    Run Blocking

    7.5

    Fires off the ball with good burst and leverage, sinking his hips through the block and controlling the defender with solid hand placement. A smart blocker who positions well.

    Route Running

    7

    Is a clean route-runner who may not be as fast as other tight ends, but he makes crisp cuts and has impeccable timing.

    Hands

    7.5

    Dreessen is big enough and strong enough to extend for the football. His concentration is key, as he rarely drops passes thrown in a catchable area.

    Speed

    6

    Has above-average speed to extend upfield and get in and out of breaks in his routes. Serviceable but not exceptional.

    Size

    10

    At 6’4” and 245 lbs, Dreessen is big enough to handle blocking duties and tall enough to grab jump balls in the passing game.

    Release

    8

    Comes off the line cleanly, showing good use of his hands and shoulders to rub defenders. Keeps enough distance to avoid being tied up.

    Run After Catch

    6

    Lacks the speed to be a major player post-catch but has the presence of mind to turn upfield and pick up available yards.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss time in 2011.

    Overall

    75

    Dreessen emerged in 2011 as a viable threat, both blocking and receiving for the Houston Texans. He doesn’t have the athletic ability to be a great receiver, but his value as a blocker makes him a key player in the NFL.

8. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    6

    Has very good balance and body control, with good timed speed and quickness for his position.

    Pass Blocking

    9

    Among the best in the game, Miller can slide and protect on the left or right side. He’s balanced, strong at the point of attack and agile enough to mirror and slide.

    Run Blocking

    6.5

    Very good at the point of attack, Miller is slightly overrated here by most. More was expected based on his reputation, but he struggles to drive block off the line.

    Route Running

    8

    Miller runs crisp routes with a technician’s eye on timing and counting his steps. He’s not used in a variety of routes, but those he’s asked to run are done very well.

    Hands

    6

    Will put passes on the ground in surprising fashion. Had five dropped passes in just 74 targets in 2011.

    Speed

    6.5

    Miller has enough speed and is above average compared to other tight ends.

    Size

    10

    At 6’5" and 256 lbs, he represents the ideal size for an NFL tight end.

    Release

    10

    Nearly unstoppable off the ball, Miller’s size and strength allow him to cleanly escape. Unlike most, he plays exclusively in-line and is asked to beat a defensive end or linebacker on every snap.

    Run After Catch

    5

    Does not show the speed to accelerate away from defenders after making the catch.

    Health

    10

    Played in all 16 games during 2011 season.

    Overall

    77

    One of the best all-around tight ends in the game, Miller isn’t flashy or explosive but makes plays consistently and is asked to be equally good as a blocker and receiver.

7. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    8

    Gates, in his advanced age, has above-average upfield and lateral quickness.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    Gates is hardly ever asked to stay in and block, but he does do a nice job getting upfield on screen packages to help in blocking.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Gates is not a run-blocker by any stretch of the imagination. He fails to drive off the ball and will miss assignments.

    Route Running

    9

    Brilliant as a route-runner. Is able to avoid underneath coverage on the route stem and use his frame to box out defenders.

    Hands

    10

    Just one dropped pass all season. Gates is a sure thing. His ability to adjust his body and make a catch no matter his positioning is remarkable.

    Speed

    8.5

    Still has the speed to get the ball and run away from defenders. This trait was lacking early in the season due to injury, but by the end of the year he was back.

    Size

    10

    Excellent size at 6’4” and 260 lbs.

    Release

    10

    When he explodes out of his stance, he immediately gains an advantage.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Doesn’t make people miss, but has the speed to pick up positive yards post-catch.

    Health

    8

    Missed three games to injury and was slowed in others during 2011 season.

    Overall

    77.5

    When healthy, Gates is arguably the best tight end of all time. His 2011 season was marred with injury, but Gates recovered well down the stretch and was once again the most reliable weapon in the San Diego offense.

6. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    8

    Davis is more fast than quick, showing good lateral agility and the hip flexibility to sink and change direction in his routes.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    Rarely asked to stay in and help on blocks, Davis doesn’t have the strength in his lower body to be considered a threat as a pass-protector.

    Run Blocking

    7.5

    Can be very good when asked to lock up at the line. Davis’ understanding of angles is among the best in the game. Struggled some in 2011 with one-on-one situations.

    Route Running

    7

    Has the quick feet to make up ground, but his best weapon is his speed once in the route. Davis’ early season routes were at times sloppy, but this improved as the season went on.

    Hands

    7.5

    Shows good range to extend his arms and make catches away from his body. Will drop passes at times when running laterally.

    Speed

    10

    Has elite speed for the tight end position.

    Size

    9

    Has ideal size for the position with exceptional strength and muscle tone, but he is a touch short.

    Release

    7

    Takes good angles to get free but will get hung up at times and can be knocked off his route initially.

    Run After Catch

    9

    Can run away from defenders and extend the play after the catch with his burst.

    Health

    10

    Started every game in 2011.

    Overall

    79

    An incredible athlete, Davis is also a smart blocker and technician at the position. His value as a blocker and receiver makes him the most valuable player on the San Francisco 49ers offense.

5. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    10

    Is an exceptional athlete with wideout speed and moves in a tight end body. Few players at any position are as athletic as Hernandez.

    Pass Blocking

    3

    Rarely asked to stay in and block. Hernandez isn’t built for an in-line pass-blocking role.

    Run Blocking

    4.5

    Though a decent hook-blocker, Hernandez is more of a wide receiver in terms of blocking ability.

    Route Running

    9

    Can get too high in his stance, failing to sink his hips to separate out of his cuts downfield. Otherwise a clean route-runner who knows how to use his body to set up defenders.

    Hands

    7.5

    Dropped five passes this season—too many for a player of his stature. Must watch the ball in before looking upfield.

    Speed

    10

    Has unreal speed for the position, combined with a long stride to give him rare ability to get away from tacklers and cover men.

    Size

    9

    Is shorter than you’d like at 6’1”, but he makes up for it with long arms and amazing athletic ability.

    Release

    7

    His burst off the snap allows him to consistently gain advantage, but he can be rerouted with a hard jam at the line.

    Run After Catch

    10

    Brilliant in the open field, Hernandez is fast enough to outrun defenders and elusive enough to make moves. Caused 23 missed tackles this season.

    Health

    9

    Missed two games early in 2011 with injury.

    Overall

    79

    The model for a new breed of tight end, Hernandez plays primarily in the slot and is used like an oversized wide receiver—which is exactly what he is.

4. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

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    Agility

    8

    Age is setting in, resulting in a less agile player, but Gonzalez is still quick enough to get open and make moves in space.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Asked to be more of a receiver than blocker, Gonzalez is not asked to stay in-line and handle pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    2

    A liability in run blocking, Gonzalez has never been a great in-line player on running downs. He fails to initiate contact and can be pushed off the ball.

    Route Running

    9

    A smart route-runner who uses great timing and small, subtle moves to get open. Gonzalez isn’t as fast these days, but he uses his body to create separation.

    Hands

    10 

    Gonzalez is as sure-handed as any player in the game. He rarely drops passes—just three in 2011 on 122 targets.

    Speed

    7.5

    Not as fast as he used to be, and by comparison to other tight ends he’s slightly above average.

    Size

    10

    Has a stocky, athletic build at 6’5” and 251 lbs.

    Release

    10

    Comes off the ball clean by way of pre-snap motion and a quick first step. Gonzalez is smart enough to get free from a jam and strong enough to disengage from press coverage.

    Run After Catch

    7

    Isn’t quick enough to run away from defenders but has some quickness after the catch. Picks up yards by continuing to move forward.

    Health

    10 

    Played all 16 games in 2011.

    Overall

    79.5

    One of the all-time greats, Gonzalez is a sure thing for the Hall of Fame. He is on his last legs, though, and has hinted at retiring after the 2012 season.

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    Agility

    7

    Not as quick off the ball as other tight ends, Witten does well moving laterally and has some quickness initially. He’s an above-average athlete, but in today’s era of super-athletes at the position he is a bit lacking.

    Pass Blocking

    6

    Asked to be more of a receiver than blocker, Witten’s weakness is his ability to stay in-line and handle pass-rushers.

    Run Blocking

    5.5

    A highly praised run-blocker, Witten’s 2011 tape didn’t show an elite drive-blocker. He succeeds at creating a seal, but he didn’t show the strength to push defenders off the ball consistently.

    Route Running

    9.5

    Witten’s understanding of space is elite. Few players use their hands as well as Witten does to bounce off defenders and get open. He’s quick enough to change direction on linebackers and is the best in the game at finding openings in a zone.

    Hands

    8.5

    Sure-handed in the open field, Witten will put a few on the ground when pressed. He does a nice job extending to get the football and catches with fingers stretched. Witten is strong enough to snag the ball out of the air.

    Speed

    6.5

    Witten has above-average speed for the position, showing enough quickness to get open but not enough to be a threat to break away from coverage.

    Size

    10

    Witten stands out at 6’6” and 260 lbs. He possesses the ideal Herculean build tight ends need to have.

    Release

    10

    Is strong enough to push off the line and get free. Uses his arms well to generate distance between himself and the coverage.

    Run After Catch

    6.5

    Not a speedster, Witten won’t pick up huge gains after the catch, but he’s elusive enough to get free and smart enough to find openings in the defense.

    Health

    10

    Did not miss a start in 2011.

    Overall

    79.5

    Not as consistent in 2011 as years past, Witten remains one of the best all-around tight ends in football. As the game shifts to a more athletic tight end, Witten is becoming a bit of a throwback player.

2. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    9

    Is very light on his feet and moves around quickly, showing the athleticism that made him a basketball player in college.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    A raw pass-blocker who is rarely asked to stay in and protect. Graham is better served in the passing game as a receiver.

    Run Blocking

    3

    Isn’t very physical at the point of attack and can be beaten off the line. Doesn’t yet have a great feel for angles and technique. Due to his height, he loses leverage early and hasn’t shown the footwork to be a drive-blocker.

    Route Running

    10 

    Is a natural athlete with good skills here. Graham is aware of space and does a great job using his body to shield defenders.

    Hands

    8

    Will drop a few, but Graham is sure-handed and dangerous. He’s able to track the ball deep, something few tight ends can do, and is a threat downfield. Graham does a nice job using his hands to go get the football, where his long arms are huge assets.

    Speed

    9

    Doesn’t have great speed out of the blocks, but uses his long stride and quick feet to eat up space. Has enough speed and length to drive defenders off the ball in coverage.

    Size

    10

    Unheard-of size at 6’7” and 260 lbs. Goliath-like.

    Release

    9

    Gets off the line very well in both a two- and three-point stance. Can be used in motion and is strong enough to fight off the jam. Has long arms that allow him to keep defenders at bay. His long stride makes it almost impossible to play him in bump coverage.

    Run After Catch

    10

    Shows his natural athleticism in space. Graham is a threat to take a short pass and turn it upfield for a big gain. His combination of agility, stride and speed make for a deadly combination.

    Health

    10

    Took some hard hits in 2011 but didn’t miss a start.

    Overall

    82

    Graham is one of the best tight ends in the game, but he’s also one of the best receivers in the game. The Saints use him all over the field, where his height and size make him a massive problem for defenders.

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    Agility

    10

    Good lateral agility to get into his route quickly. Is an overall great athlete who puts his skills on display regularly. Has the speed, burst and flexibility that NFL scouts love.

    Pass Blocking

    4

    A solid in-line blocker who has a solid punch off the snap and can sustain blocks. Isn’t asked to stay in and protect much, as he is the Patriots' best downfield threat.

    Run Blocking

    8.5

    Has the lateral agility to mirror and the hand strength to latch on and drive block. Very good seal-blocker on the edge and is surprisingly effective driving defenders off the ball.

    Route Running

    10 

    A very smart route-runner who took his experience at wide receiver in college and transformed himself into a dominant player. He has a great understanding of space and how to read safeties, which makes him dangerous in zone routes.

    Hands

    5.5

    Soft hands to pluck the ball outside of his frame but puts too many balls on the ground due to poor concentration. Can bend low to get the ball. Catches the ball with his hands, but will body-catch when he feels footsteps.

    Speed

    9

    Good acceleration and straight-line speed allow Gronkowski to blow by defenders. Quick release off the snap. Has enough speed to pressure cover men into their backpedal early. Is often covered by cornerbacks.

    Size

    10 

    Has ideal NFL size (6'6", 265 lbs) with no issues.

    Release

    8

    Good initial quickness off the snap with strong use of hands to fight through the initial jam. Has enough straight-line speed to challenge down the seam.

    Run After Catch

    10

    Doesn’t make many people miss but has great acceleration and very good field vision to find openings and get through traffic.

    Health

    10

    Didn’t miss a start in 2011.

    Overall

    85

    The NFL’s best all-around tight end, Gronkowski is an underrated and overlooked blocker in combination with his jaw-dropping ability as a tight end for the New England Patriots. He’s a matchup nightmare.

Honorable Mention

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    Todd Heap, Arizona Cardinals

    Overall: 55


    Logan Paulsen, Washington Redskins

    Overall: 50


    Tom Crabtree, Green Bay Packers

    Overall: 54.5


    Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers

    Overall: 50