- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The league's best tight end resides in New England. His name is Rob Gronkowski. Maybe you've heard of him. He set NFL records for receiving yards (1,327) and touchdowns (17) for the position last season. Graham (1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns) wasn't far behind, but he's certainly not ahead.
NFL players got the vote wrong by ranking Graham seven spots higher than Gronkowski. Graham finished as the 14th best player -- and the No. 1 tight end -- in the league. Gronkowski was 22nd overall and No. 2 at his position.
Although Gronkowski has the edge in numbers, that's not everything. He is also more well-rounded than Graham in things you don't see on the stat sheet.
Gronkowski doesn't get enough credit for being one of the top run-blocking tight ends in the league. He's much more physical than Graham and isn't afraid to mix it up in the trenches. Graham admitted that is the weakest part of his game, which is important to being an all-around tight end.
Both players are dangerous in the red zone, but that edge also goes to Gronkowski. The Patriots' tight end has 11 more touchdowns than Graham the past two seasons.
You also have to wonder if the players' vote has something to do with Gronkowski playing in New England. For years Patriots often get labeled as "system players." The team has had so much success thanks to great coaching from Bill Belichick and quarterback play from Tom Brady that other players like Gronkowski, Wes Welker, etc. do not get the credit they deserve. The Saints have had great coaching (Sean Payton) and quarterback play (Drew Brees) in recent years, as well. But Graham apparently gets more credit as an individual.
Both Gronkowski and Graham are the two best tight ends at their position. But you have to consider the full package when comparing the two. Gronkowski has a few more tools, which gives him the advantage.
I like Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints. But he's not the best tight end in the NFL.The league's best tight end resides in New England. His name is Rob Gronkowski.