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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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College Football vs. the NFL

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I generally dislike when people say they like college basketball better than the NBA. It’s something I heard a lot living in Kansas and I’m guessing I’m going to hear it some in Florida. Usually the reasons given are that college basketball players try harder, NBA players are nothing more than overpaid cry babies and that an NBA game is meaningless until the last two minutes of the game. I found those reasons to be disingenuous because they usually spewed out of the mouths of people who had not watched the Association in some time.

I’m going to be hypocritical though and say that I like College football way more than the NFL of late. None of the reasons I like the NCAA are because the players are amateurs or play harder, though.

1. I’ve got to be honest, part of the reason I like college oblong ball more than the NFL is because my college team, the Missouri Tigers, are enjoying the most success in the 150 years of the school, and my NFL team, the Rams, has not made the playoffs in more than a decade.

2. College football generally includes higher point totals than the professional ranks. If you want innovative offense, go to college first. The spread, read option, pistol and constant no huddle are slowly becoming pervasive in the league but every college conference has multiple teams running all of that. Now part of that high scoring is that defensive stars are limited in college. Defenses also happen to be a little bit more vanilla.

3. There is at least one great game every week and its always on TV. College football is pretty predictable and sometimes that’s a good thing. Like I was pumped up for the first Seattle vs. San Fran NFL game last year and it was an awful defense first slugfest. Even games like that in college are like 21-17.

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4. One of the flaws of the college game is that it is probably the most unfair of any major American sport. The top programs have an enormous advantage in recruiting and becoming a major program usually requires a great coach, recruiting hot bed, luck and probably some cheating. For instance, Oregon has become a major power of the last two decades. They needed all of those and they’ve had some interesting criminals over that time. My point though is that I have more hate in my heart for college football than for any other sport. I hate Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Kansas and Georgia. Rooting against teams does make things more interesting.

5. Upsets happen all the time. Stanford over USC, Appalachian State over Michigan and even Auburn over Alabama this past year.

6. There hasn’t been a play in the NFL be this exciting in a long time.

7. Running quarterbacks are awesome.