Ranking the 2012 NFL Draft's Top 10 Tight Ends

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Ranking the 2012 NFL Draft's Top 10 Tight Ends
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
With the recent success of young tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the NFL is hungry for talented college players. But can this year's Draft offer teams what they want?

The success of young players such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have made the tight-end position as red-hot as ever when it comes to the NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, the college game is not cooperating with the NFL's quickened hunger for true mismatch players.

College football has evolved into such a spread-dominated league that the next Rob Gronkowski is becoming harder to find. Jimmy Graham only caught 17 passes at the college level, and yet has clearly become one of the NFL's most dangerous targets. Antonio Gates followed a similar path.

Consider that of the league's five most productive tight ends (by yardage) in 2011, only one of them was drafted in the first round. That one player (Tony Gonzalez) was drafted in the first round about 15 years ago. Only three of the 10 most productive tight ends this year were drafted in the first round.

With 13 players having been drafted in the first round over the last ten Drafts, there has not necessarily been a shortage of highly graded newcomers.

The point I am trying to make is, the increasing disparity between how college football uses tight ends and how the NFL uses tight ends have made this a difficult position to project.

Players who were productive in college do not necessarily have the well-rounded skill set to be productive at the next level, whereas players who might have been relatively buried in their college offenses could turn out more productive at the next level. You are almost as likely to find productive players in the middle rounds as you are in the first round.

This makes the position very exciting to grade, as you have the potential to find true diamonds in the rough. Let's take a look at the guys I rate as the 10 best tight-end prospects, as you might find some players in there that you would not suspect.

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