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

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

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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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Fixes for College basketball

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I watched a bunch of college basketball on Saturday and I saw quite a few games with final scores in the 50s. It’s hard for me to believe but teams in the ’90s used to score 100 regularly. Once teams started playing quality opponents regularly this season I can’t think of anybody outside of Kentucky that has scored 100 points much less both teams in the same game.

This is an offense problem and a pace of play problem. A lot of people blame this on the belief that players are less skilled because they don’t stay in school as long. I don’t think that is accurate; if it was, would Kentucky be rampaging through their regular season schedule right now?

I believe a couple of rule changes would rectify these problems:

1. 28 Second Shot Clock

Thirty-five seconds is too damn long. San Diego State yesterday waited till the end of the clock to get a shot up all game against Boise State. It would be one thing if every team was like Wisconsin and got a good shot up, but most of the time it was “Crap there are 5 seconds left on the clock, I’m going to hoist up a wild three that will carom off the back board.” Shave off 7 seconds and I think it will encourage players to shoot faster.

2. Defensive 3 seconds

Teams just pack the paint all day long in college. I would do the defensive 3 seconds just like the NBA: it’s a free throw and the ball. You don’t call it all the time but often enough to keep people honest. The offense of most teams at this point is drives and threes. Making driving a little easier would help the other.

3. Three timeouts per half total

The last 2 minutes of a college basketball game are agonizing with timeouts and clock reviews. At this point Pandora is out of the box with reviews, but we can limit all these timeouts. I would add that coaches who don’t use a timeout in the first half get an extra one in the second half.

4. Fewer games

Teams are playing 12 and 13 non-conference games. Cut that number in half. The first game of the college basketball season doesn’t start until football conference championship games are over; that was the second week in December this past year. Trust me, no casual fans are paying attention before then. I think conference tournaments are kind cool, but in the monster conferences is there a reason to have everybody play each other if there an end of season tournament? I think fewer games helps keep people fresh and would maybe increase offense.

5. Realign conferences

At this point, everyone understands that college football rules the roost for money and prestige in college sports, but why let football screw up all of these rivalries in basketball? First, put the band back together in the Big East. No Big East fan I ever met wanted that conference to disband when it was time for basketball (Boston College goes back to the Big East). Mizzou and Texas A&M go back to the Big 12 and Maryland goes back to the ACC (although Louisville makes sense in the ACC).

For college basketball, have the conferences make sense geographically — again I think this difference in travel will make players less tired and hopefully more offensively fruitful. SMU was meeting UCONN today for the fifth time in the history of both schools and UCONN had never won. The appropriate response to that factoid is “Who gives a crap?” or “Why the Hell are SMU and UCONN?” playing each other again?”