NFL Week 8: Who's Hot, Who's Not at Tight End

Justin PedersenCorrespondent IIOctober 25, 2011

NFL Week 8: Who's Hot, Who's Not at Tight End

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    It takes certain breed of athlete to play tight end, but an even more unique individual to excel at it.

    As a hybrid role, tight ends do not always get the recognition they deserve. They certainly are a very important aspect to any football team, though.

    Players like Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Shannon Sharpe and plenty of others have all revolutionized the position. Nowadays, the tight end is asked to do so many different things for the offense, and having someone of quality makes a team tick.

    Heading into Week 8 of the NFL season, let’s take a look at who is hot and who is not at the tight end spot.

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: HOT

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    The 24-year-old out of the University of Miami has taken little time to introduce himself to opposing defenses.

    A favorite target of Drew Brees, Graham is leading NFL tight ends in catches (45), yards (674) and touchdowns (five). His career is starting to blossom and, as expected, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him.

    Graham’s numbers rival that of a quality wide receiver, and he continues to impress every single week.

2. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars: NOT

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    Lewis’ numbers have dropped dramatically from just a year ago, and the Jaguars are getting pretty much nothing out of the former UCLA Bruin.

    After posting monster stats in 2010, many fantasy owners were excited to grab Lewis off the draft board. With only 11 catches and zero touchdowns accounted for, the production of last year seems more like a fluke than an indication of his worth.

    With rookie Blaine Gabbert leading the offense, it doesn’t look like he will be replicating his form of last season any time soon.

3. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: HOT

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    The resurgent Lions have plenty of young weapons at their arsenal, and Brandon Pettigrew is just one of many who have been contributing to their success.

    A high draft pick of Detroit, Pettigrew is beginning to read the game as a tight end and is utilizing his athleticism to be a strong second option for quarterback Matthew Stafford. He is averaging about 50 receiving yards a game and is also pivotal to helping out the Lions’ running game.

    With the status of Stafford in the air, whoever plays at quarterback for the Lions will need plenty of help from someone other than Calvin Johnson; Pettigrew looks to be that guy.

4. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: NOT

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    As one of the greatest tight ends to ever play this game, it upsets me to see Antonio Gates failing to play at the caliber we are used to.

    Bothered by a foot injury, last week was Gates’ first game back since Week 2. He was targeted seven times by Phillip Rivers (while catching five for 54 yards with one touchdown), but still looked to be out of sync and out of rhythm.

    Although I do not expect this slump to last very long, his health is the biggest concern for the Chargers and they will closely monitor him during the week.

5. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins: HOT

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    As Chris Cooley continues his injury tenure, Fred Davis has seen himself become the focal point of the Washington offense.

    Coming off a game where he was his team’s leading receiver, Davis is a valid deep-ball threat for John Beck. And with Santana Moss set to be sidelined the rest of the season through injury, the former Washington Husky’s role in the offense will only increase.

    The inexperienced Beck will need plenty out of Davis as the ‘Skins push for the playoffs, and he will get plenty of looks.

6. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles: NOT

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    Having been seriously underused all of this season, Brent Celek is actually a lot better than his stats portray.

    Unfortunately, his numbers stick out for all the wrong reasons. He has only 13 catches to go along with one touchdown this year.

    While Andy Reid expects to get more out of his young tight end in the coming weeks, fans are growing impatient with Celek's role, or lack thereof.

7. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: HOT

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    One of the most consistent performers for the Cowboys the last few years, Jason Witten continues to keep himself in the upper echelon of elite tight ends.

    He has always been Tony Romo’s favorite target, and his stats continually prove it. With 36 grabs and three touchdowns so far, Witten is an all-around player that shows his value to the Cowboys week in and week out.

    Dallas will face the Eagles in Week 8, a team that has given up plenty of touchdowns through the air. I expect Witten to tally one himself come Sunday.

8. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts: NOT

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    Off all the people suffering from the absence of Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark is hurting the most.

    He wasn’t even targeted in Monday night’s debacle against the New Orleans Saints, something Jim Caldwell and others might have difficulty swallowing. With his track record and reliability throughout his career, the Colts need to start finding the All-Pro tight end if they expect to wake up from this nightmarish season.

    But if Monday’s defeat offers any insight, I expect them to continue overlooking Clark in Week 8 when they play the Tennessee Titans.

9. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: HOT

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    It is hard to pick between both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez when it comes to this, but Gronkowski edges his teammate just slightly.

    Coming out of the Week 7 bye, Gronkowski has one less touchdown than Wes Welker, an astonishing fact considering the level Welker is playing at. His athleticism is testament to his football background and he will challenge the depleted Pittsburgh Steelers defense in Week 8.

    As a raw, young and emerging tight end, Gronkowski is catapulting himself into stardom and will continue to shine so long as he remains one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets.

10. Daniel Fells, Denver Broncos: NOT

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    The Broncos offense has been under a microscope all season, and the play of Daniel Fells has deteriorated because of this.

    While he plays a lot of downs, he is not targeted nearly as much a quality tight end should. With Tim Tebow still learning how to run the offense and Brandon Lloyd gone, Fells will try and be a go-to guy for the quarterback going forward.

    Still, he is not guaranteed to get the best out of Tebow and will surely find himself ineffective the next couple weeks.