Potential basketball playing tight ends

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks earlier this past week. The storyline for Seattle is that Graham makes them the odds on favorite in the NFC. For the Saints, it’s time to rebuild now that they’ve gotten rid of Drew Brees’ most effective pass-catching threat.

With much less fanfare, Julius Thomas signed as a free agent in Jacksonville. My question: are these guys that difficult to replace? Both were undervalued — if people knew Graham was going to be this exceptional, he probably would not have lasted until the third round; Julius Thomas was a fourth round pick.

What they have in common, along with Antonio Gates, is that they all played college basketball. Going back to Tony Gonzalez, the history of basketball tight ends is really strong. I can’t remember it ever not working out.

I did a quick perusal of college basketball rosters. I was looking for guys between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-9 who were solidly built, athletic and probably not on the NBA radar. Honestly, I don’t know if 6-foot-9 would be too tall for some reason but I have some of those guys.

Branden Dawson — Michigan State — 6-6, 225 pounds — SR

branden_dawson

I think 225 pounds might be a little light; I would check that scale. Regardless this guy is a monster and he can jump. I bet he’s fast enough too.

Treveon Graham — VCU — 6-6, 225 — SR

treveon_graham

The Saints draft Treveon they can probably keep all those Jimmy Graham jerseys they have lying around. This is the type of guy that is perfect. He’s playing high level college on a team that requires him to do a lot athletically — they press constantly. But, he might not be quite good enough to play in the NBA. Definitely a hard-nosed guy too.

Darius Carter — Wichita State — 6-7, 245 — SR

darius_carter

Classic case where a smaller school guy is a little undersized at his position but for an NFL tight end he would be huge. He’s a good leaper, which is becoming more and more important for a tight end.

Coreontae DeBerry — Cincinatti — 6-9, 275 — JR

deberry

I think this guy used to play football. To show how athletic he is, he’s a big shot blocker at 6-9. I don’t know if him being that tall is a problem, but good luck pushing him around at 275 pounds. Now, you might want to wait a year because he’s a junior. Side note, he has an awesome name.

Nnamdi Amilo — UCONN — 6-3, 225 — JR

nnamdi_amilo

Look at how built this guy is. Athleticism might be questionable because he walked onto the team after playing intramurals; actually I change my mind, that’s a plus because this isn’t a mid major — UCONN won the title last year. He has to be an incredible athlete to be able to do that. And you know with that back story that he won’t get a big head.

Thomas Gipson — Kansas State — 6-7, 265 — SR

Thomas Gipson

This is the one guy who I question whether he’s fast enough. If he is, he’s basically the exact same size as Jimmy Graham. Now, Gipson’s weight has fluctuated. You might want to just convince him to bulk up to 300 and play him at tackle; he has quick feet, but he’s not the explosive leaper as some of the other guys on this list.

Joe Thomas — Miami — 6-7, 245 — already graduated

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You already went to the well once with Jimmy Graham and this guy is a tank. Plus it would make for confusing NFL conversations because of all-pro Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

JayVaughn Pinkston — Villanova — 6-7, 235 — SR

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Justin Anderson — Virginia — 6-6, 228 — JR

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Both of these guys are athletic enough and, I think, swol enough to work. The problem is that it would make sense for both guys to get drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Anderson is slotted for late first round in this mock draft.

Rico Gathers — Baylor — 6-8, 275 — JR

rico_gathers

People are already speculating that he might be bound for the NFL. He apparently doesn’t like this talk; he’s leading the nation in rebounding, so I understand. But, I’ll put it this way — the ceiling for his NBA future would be Kenneth Faried, who is a bit of a specialist anyway. He’s probably projecting more like Reggie Evans, who can’t stay on the court because of flaws in his game. His ceiling as an NFL tight end is the best in the league.

Cliff Alexander — Kansas — 6-8, 240 — FR

cliff_alexander

That same mock draft still has Alexander as a late round pick in the first round. I’m not buying that though. He might be a steal in the second round but I would really want him to go back to school, mainly because he’s a power forward, he’s a little undersized and he doesn’t seem to understand how to play. I don’t know how the NFL’s age thing works with a guy who has NCAA trouble in basketball but this would be a chance to steal an otherworldly athlete.

Brady vs. Manning

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning

I will not accept Peyton Manning as the greatest quarterback ever, unless he wins the Super Bowl this year.

And that’s completely doable because the Broncos’ offense is loaded and their defense is about equally stacked. However, I think a smart team, maybe the Chargers or the Patriots, will challenge Manning to throw deep and grind out the game on offense. That’s the blueprint to beat Denver. When Manning has the ball, do not let them dink and dunk you to death and keep him off the field whenever possible because with all of their pick plays they will find a way to dink and dunk you death.

Manning’s arm has looked better at times this season. He had a pass a couple weeks ago to Emmanuel Sanders that was a bullet 30 yards down field. Eventually, the Demaryius and Julius Thomas will get open or Sanders or Wes Welker. But, this is Manning’s third year in Denver. There’s no way he avoids playing one brutally cold and possibly snowing game in the playoffs. Can he throw deep in those conditions? It’s hard to make a Super Bowl, as Manning would attest.

I don’t think Manning is the greatest quarterback of his era. I’ve made the case that Brady should be considered the greatest quarterback of all time. It went something like this: Brady won three Super Bowls with terrible wide receivers. Past his prime Corey Dillon was the best offensive player he played with until Randy Moss. The one time Brady plays with another hall-of-fame offensive player, he sets the single season yard and touchdown records, completes a 16-0 regular season and should have completed a 19-0 perfect season except for one of the craziest plays in NFL history. Quick side note, it’s amazing in the clip of the helmet catch how bored Joe Buck is. Jesus Joe you just saw perhaps the greatest play in Super Bowl history; can you get a little more excited than calling a sacrifice bunt on a Saturday afternoon?

Anyway, The Patriots can’t keep that team together because Randy Moss was a head case and got old. A few years later Brady takes his fifth team to the Super Bowl with Welker and two great tight ends. They can’t keep that team together because of the Patriots’ stubborn refusal to pay Welker (even though Brady was practically screaming at Bellichick to keep him) and Aaron Hernandez murdered a guy.

At least later in his career, Montana had Rice. Elway had Terrell Davis and Rod Smith. Manning had Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne and then went to this Denver squad, which is the most stacked either quarterback has had the privilege of guiding. Excluding Moss, has Brady played with a hall-of-fame player? I don’t think Richard Seymour is going to Canton and he’s the only guy who’s close. Maybe Gronk has a chance but he has to stay healthy, a tenuous proposition at best.

Throw all the numbers at me you want; I think the numbers that still matter are three and five, as in the Super Bowls Brady has won and played in. If Manning wins another, he’ll have two and four and all the stats that matter. But as long as Peyton has fewer rings than Eli (who, the last couple seasons, has shown he is the Frank to Peyton’s Sylvester Stallone), he can’t be the best ever. I’d still take Brady.