Here are my five draft tiers for tight ends before NFL training camps open soon.
The first two tiers may be loaded with hypothetical locks for 800 yards receiving and/or six touchdowns, but there are still many intriguing options after that for 14- and 16-team leagues.
Tier 1 (1,000 total yards and/or 8 TDs)
Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham
Tier 2 (800 total yards and/or 6 TDs)
Aaron Hernandez, Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Fred Davis, Dustin Keller, Kellen Winslow Jr., Jermaine Gresham, Brent Celek
Tier 3 (650 total yards and/or 5 TDs)
Ed Dickson, Jared Cook, Coby Fleener, Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen, Tony Scheffler, Jacob Tamme
Tier 4 (500 total yards and/or 4 TDs)
Scott Chandler, Joel Dreessen, Kellen Davis, Dwayne Allen, Marcedes Lewis, Kyle Rudolph, Lance Kendricks, Martellus Bennett, Todd Heap, Benjamin Watson, Anthony Fasano, Brandon Myers, Kevin Boss, Tony Moeaki, Chris Cooley
Tier 5 (Best Of The Rest)
Evan Moore, Jake Ballard, Robert Housler, Zach Miller, Luke Stocker, Michael Hoomanawanui, Dennis Pitta, Michael Egnew, Taylor Thompson, Weslye Saunders, Leonard Pope, John Carlson, Delanie Walker
YouTube Memory Lane
Back by popular demand, here's some YouTube cheer, courtesy of a few epic NFL clips from the 1970s and '80s:
1. 1972—Monday Night Football: One of the oldest clips of an actual NFL regular-season game on YouTube, with the eventual champion Dolphins crushing the Cardinals, 31-10. The event, on its own, is rather mundane...and yet noteworthy for four reasons:
a) Miami faced only two teams with eventual winning records that season (Minnesota, N.Y. Giants)...and 4-9-1 St. Louis would fall twice to that year's other Super Bowl entrant, Washington, by a combined score of 57-13.
b) The Fins posted double-digit point differentials in 11 of the 14 games that season, while only being threatened twice (Vikings, Bills).
c) On this night, the Dolphins QB was Earl Morrall, who had taken the reins after Bob Griese went down with a broken ankle in Week 5. Morrall, who was Don Shula's starting QB in Super Bowl III with Baltimore (before giving way to Johnny Unitas), led Miami to a perfect 14-0 regular-season mark in '72, before Griese returned for the AFC title game.
d) Speaking of which, the undefeated/untied Dolphins had to travel to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game on Dec. 31 because The Orange Bowl, Miami's home stadium, was making preparations for the bowl game of the same name on Jan. 1; and the Fins needed a fake punt to prevent the Steelers from pulling off the upset.
In today's media world, can you imagine the national outcry if an undefeated team (Green Bay, for sake of argument) had to go to New Orleans for the NFC title game? It would be a major p.r. debacle for the NFL. And yet, in 1972, the NFL chose not to fight the likes of The Orange Bowl, the Orange Bowl parade, the Orange Bowl queen, and college powerhouses Notre Dame and Nebraska. Weird.
2. 1973—Here's a short, but invigorating clip of NBC's Sunday introduction to the NFL (AFC package). Wouldn't you love this theme music on your iPod? Wouldn't the mere sound of it make you run a little faster on the treadmill, or go a little more loco in P90X workouts? It should be noted that neither NBC nor CBS had Sunday pregame shows in 1973. There was also no fantasy football.
In other words, men between the ages of 25-54 were a lot more accessible to their wives on fall Sundays back then, whether it involved mowing the lawn, clearing leaves out of the gutter or running to the store to purchase Joe Namath-endorsed pantyhose for women!
3. 1978—For ABC's Oscars-like celebration of the network's Silver Anniversary special, sportscaster Frank Gifford hosts a brief segment about football, demonstrating how far the technology for covering the college and pro ranks had progressed from 1953 to present day ('78). OK, so we've made vast improvements in the 34 years since this show aired...but the genesis of everything we know and love about football-on-TV today was spawned from these early years of experimentation and innovation.
Can you imagine the NFL if Roone Arledge hadn't brainstormed Monday Night Football?
What would life be like if we never had Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, Bob Costas, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, Phyllis George, Chris Berman, Bryant Gumbel, Pete Axthelm, James Brown, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson, Frank Caliendo or Terry Bradshaw getting us ready for the action with illuminating pre-game shows?
What if Matthew Berry never left Hollywood for the all-encompassing, highly-addictive world of fantasy football?
As Gifford put it best: "Football and TV make for the perfect marriage."
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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