I hate to say it, but the Saints have the best tight end corps in the NFC South. Jimmy Graham is one of the best tight ends in the league, and is arguably a top three player at his position. Despite only finishing his third season, Graham already has over 2600 yards receiving. As long as Drew Brees is throwing passes to him, Graham will continue to produce at a high level.
The Saints also added veteran tight end Benjamin Watson this offseason in free agency. Watson is a do-it-all tight end who had 49 catches for 501 yards last season, and has been a steady player his entire career. The 32 year old should be a nice backup for Graham next season.
Although the rest of the Saints tight ends are not very impressive, having Graham and Watson puts New Orleans at #1 in the division at the tight end spot.
The Falcons have the second best tight end corps in the NFC South. Tony Gonzalez is arguably the greatest tight end to ever play the game, and even at the age of 37, he is still one of the best tight ends in the league. Although he's slowed down the last few years, he can still be very dangerous in the Falcons offensive system because of the lethal wide receiver combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside. These two premier wide receivers demand extra attention from defenses - this naturally softens up the middle of the field where Gonzalez can be a mismatch problem.
However, after Gonzalez, there is a significant drop off in talent at the position, and there isn't any primary backup at the moment. One interesting player to keep an eye on is Levine Toilolo from Stanford, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Toilolo is a big target (he’s 6-8) and can contribute as a red zone threat in his rookie year.
Without a clear-cut backup at the positon, the Falcons are in trouble if Tony Gonzalez goes down at any point next season. However, as long as he keeps playing at a high level, the Falcons will have the second best tight end group in the division.
It’s unfortunate that the Panthers have to rank third in the division at this position, because Greg Olsen is one of the best tight ends in the league. However, I don’t think he’s better than Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez right now.
The issue with the Panthers at the tight end position isn't with their starter – it’s with the depth, or lack thereof. Currently the Panthers have Ben Hartsock, who is primarily a run-blocking tight end with a total of 31 receptions over his nine year career. Behind him, they have Nelson Rosario, a UDFA from 2012 and Brandon Williams, another UDFA. Like the Falcons, the Panthers will be in trouble if Greg Olsen goes down next season.
The Buccaneers easily have the worst group of tight ends in the NFC South, and possibly even the worst group in the entire NFL. Although the team signed Dallas Clark to a one year deal last offseason, they elected not to re-sign him this offseason. For a team with a struggling quarterback in Josh Freeman, you’d think they’d try to help him out by drafting a tight end or signing one in free agency, but they chose not to do that. So, let’s sit back and laugh at the team that’ll be putting guys like Nate Byham, Danny Noble and Luke Stocker onto the field on Sundays.
So, what are your thoughts on these rankings, Panthers fans? Do you agree or disagree? Make sure to vote and comment below!