Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South: No. 16, Tony Gonzalez

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJuly 11, 2012

Matt Ryan frequently looks to Tony Gonzalez in go-to situations. That won't change in 2012.
Matt Ryan frequently looks to Tony Gonzalez in go-to situations. That won't change in 2012.Al Bello/Getty Images

Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolds, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.

Forget for a moment that no tight end in the history of the National Football League has more receiving yards than Tony Gonzalez. Also push to the side the fact that he ranks 11th on the all-time receiving yards list with 13,338 yards, just 561 yards short of Cris Carter in the No. 8 spot.

Focus just on the fact that Gonzalez is one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets and he’s caught 70 or more passes in each of his three seasons with Atlanta. You should probably also put it out of your mind that Gonzalez is entering his 16th season or that he’s 36 years old.

The point here is that even though 2012 might be the last year in football for Gonzalez, he’s not a dinosaur with one foot out the door. Gonzalez is a major part of the Falcons' game plan, and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter might actually get him the ball more.

When Koetter was with Jacksonville, Marcedes Lewis led the team in touchdown catches with 10 in 2010 and led the team in receiving yards with 460 last season. Koetter knows how to get the tight end involved, and Gonzalez is a much more capable receiver than Lewis—Atlanta has a higher-powered offense than the Jaguars.

Expect status quo for Gonzalez in 2012, maybe even increased output in what may be his final season.


The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List

16. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

17. James Anderson, LB, Carolina Panthers

18. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints

19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons

20. Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers

21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

22. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

23. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints

25. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Top 25 List (by team)

Atlanta Falcons:  3

Carolina Panthers: 3

New Orleans Saints: 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2 


Top 25 List (by position)

LB: 4

DE: 3

OG: 1

QB: 1

TE: 1