NFC North: Chris Cooley

In compiling my list of the top 10 tight ends in the NFL, I found myself building around the four NFC North tight ends we've spent the better part of two years writing about. I didn't doubt that the Detroit Lions' Brandon Pettigrew would make the final cut after all of ESPN.com's power rankers got around to power ranking them, given his 71-catch performance in 2010, but I wondered how our other three tight ends would fare.

As it turned out, not too well.

Pettigrew took the No. 9 slot and Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley snuck into the No. 10 spot despite appearing on less than half of the ballots. I was the only voter to put Greg Olsen of the Chicago Bears and Visanthe Shiancoe of the Minnesota Vikings on my ballot.

In this case, I feel like neither a homer nor a power ranking manipulator, which I believe is a psychiatric condition outlined in most college-level textbooks. Instead, I feel like I was in was in a unique position to be able to judge these players in context. That's something I admittedly couldn't do with the two top 10 tight ends I left off my list, Kellen Winslow Jr. of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Marcedes Lewis of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(But with each divisional blogger participating, it should all come out in the wash, right?)

I voted for Olsen because we're only one year removed from him being the top receiving option in the Bears' offense. He caught 60 passes, including eight touchdowns, in 2009. It's true that his numbers dipped significantly in 2010, but context is important: His 41 receptions were the most ever for a tight end in a Mike Martz offense, which traditionally relegates tight ends to blockers. Even San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who finished No. 4 overall in this balloting, managed 31 catches in his one season under Martz (2008).

That should count for something. (In Olsen's case, it put him No. 15 in our expanded balloting.)

As with Olsen, there is no arguing that Shiancoe's production slipped in 2010. Most notably, his touchdowns dropped from 11 to two. But I would argue that his 47 receptions last season were just as impressive, if not more, than his 56 in 2009, when you consider the rag-tag quarterback situation the Vikings found themselves in for the better part of 2010. That should count for something, and for Shiancoe it put him at No. 17.

Finley, meanwhile, no doubt would have ranked higher had he not suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 last season. It's probably an accomplishment to rank in the top 10 considering he has missed 14 games over the past two seasons due to injury.

For the record, here is how I voted:
  1. Jason Witten
  2. Antonio Gates
  3. Vernon Davis
  4. Dallas Clark
  5. Tony Gonzalez
  6. Chris Cooley
  7. Jermichael Finley
  8. Brandon Pettigrew
  9. Greg Olsen
  10. Visanthe Shiancoe

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Adrian Peterson considers his first game against San Francisco the worst of his career and has set his sights on avenging a 14-carry, 3-yard performance Sunday at the Metrodome.

The 49ers broke out a new way of defending Peterson in that game, which the Vikings ultimately won 27-7 on Dec. 9, 2007. Both cornerbacks crashed the line of scrimmage, effectively creating a nine-man box that tested Peterson’s patience.
Peterson: "[After] watching film, I wasn't being patient enough, rushing my plays, not giving the offensive line time to do their job. That really is what disappointed me the most when I watched the film."

As Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune reports, Peterson has been waiting for this rematch for two years. You might consider this some brand of corny motivation, but knowing Peterson’s competitive fire, I’m sure those three yards have been burning a hole in his pocket for two years.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams on the Vikings’ home stadium: “The Metrodome is terrible.” Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press takes a look at the building.
  • Barring some kind of surprise, newcomer Derrick Martin will make his first NFL start at safety Sunday for Green Bay, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Just in case, the Packers are giving newer-comer Matt Giordano a crash course to be ready to play, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee speaks with Packers general manager Ted Thompson about the week's personnel moves.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times on Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris: “The Bears know they have to get more from Harris, but what can they do?”
  • Bears defensive end Alex Brown (ankle) is determined not to break his streak of 114 consecutive games played, notes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune reviews the impressive two-week performance of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who did almost no football work this offseason because of shoulder and back surgeries.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com looks at the challenge of facing Washington tight end Chris Cooley.
  • John Niyo of the Detroit News on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford: “I understand not wanting to push the panic button. But what's the harm in calling a rookie mistake a ‘rookie’ mistake -- something [coach Jim] Schwartz seems unwilling to do -- when that's exactly what it is? Who's kidding whom? There's no need to insulate Stafford, not after handing him the richest rookie contract ($41.7 million guaranteed) in NFL history.”

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