As I move on to the tight end position in my breakdown of the New Orleans Saints' depth chart, things start to look a little thin on the roster after superstar Jimmy Graham. This is why I was adamant about bringing in Dallas Clark (who signed with Tampa Bay) to add depth to the roster, even if it was on a situational basis.
After Graham, the Saints are left with David Thomas, who is a very underrated H-Back/tight end, Michael Higgins, an undrafted rookie free agent from last year, and Jake Byrne, an undrafted rookie free agent from this year.
Unless Higgins makes a Graham-type of leap in development, another tight end will likely make the final roster.
We all know the story of Graham. Played college basketball, only one year of football, and bam, drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. At the time, a player with only one year of collegiate football under his belt would be seen as a bit of a reach, but his skill-set said otherwise.
He turned it on towards the end of his rookie year, and made Jeremy Shockey and his ridiculous contract expendable.
Even with the way Graham ended his rookie season, no one could have pictured him breaking just about every single-season record held by tight ends, especially with only five career starts under his belt. His 99-catch 1,300-plus yard season was also topped off with 11 touchdowns. Graham won numerous awards and honors after the season.
David Thomas, Michael Higgins
Thomas is going to be the wild card in this entire tight end depth chart. When he is healthy, he could be one of the best H-Back/backup tight ends in the league. But that's the problem. He just can't stay off the injured list. Supposedly, he is in the best shape of his career this offseason. Let's hope he can stay on the field and add that extra dimension to the Saints' already potent offense.
Higgins is in the Jimmy Graham-mold: tall and fast with limited blocking skills. He was brought up to the active roster after Thomas went on IR, and John Gilmore proved he is nothing more than a practice squad player. Higgins could be the reason that the Saints chose not to select a tight end in this year's draft.
The Undrafted Free Agent:
Jake Byrne, Wisconsin
He was a college teammate of fourth-round selection Nick Toon, but didn't have quite the career of Mr. Toon up in Madison. Byrne had one catch in the 2011 season despite starting 13 games. Obviously, he isn't thought of as an explosive threat from the tight end position.
He could be seen as a younger Thomas, and might be groomed into that position in the next year or two, but don't expect for Byrne to see anything more than the practice squad this season.