It should come as no surprise that the most prolific touchdown connection in the NFL over the past three years was well represented on ESPN’s #NFLRank list of the league’s top offensive players. But it is a surprise to see the order in which New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and quarterback Drew Brees finished.
Graham ranked fifth and Brees sixth on the list, which was decided by a panel of 90 ESPN analysts who rated players on a 1-10 scale. They were separated by one-hundredth of a point (9.53 to 9.52).
They actually both wound up with exactly 51 “10” ratings. But Graham received only three “8” ratings, while Brees received four.
I’m shocked by that last detail. I find it hard to believe anyone would grade Brees lower than a 10, much less lower than a 9. I don't have a big problem with Brees being ranked below fellow mega-stars like Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. But Brees' grade should be higher.
And for that reason, I do think Brees should be ranked higher than Graham. But I certainly have no problem with the amount of respect Graham received in this poll.
I sang Graham's praises all summer during the debate over whether he deserves elite wide receiver money. I made what I considered a strong pro-Graham argument that he should be ranked among the top 6-10 pass catchers in the NFL, in the neighborhood of guys like Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald.
In this case, however, it clearly actually helped Graham to be labeled a tight end. I have to imagine that he wound up getting more 10s and 9s because he’s clearly considered the No. 1 player at his position.
But that’s just nit-picking. In general, both players clearly deserve the elite recognition they received, similar to when they both cracked the top 10 in the NFL Network’s ranking of the Top 100 players in the league earlier this summer (Brees at No. 6 and Graham at No. 10).
They’re the only pair of teammates ranked in the entire top 15 on the #NFLRank list of offensive players – much less the top 6. And they’re two awfully compelling reasons why the Saints should be considered bona fide Super Bowl contenders again this year.