Let’s talk about tight ends.
I usually like to go a bit off topic in this little introduction, but this week, I want to talk football, and only football. After all, isn’t that why you all are here?
Here’s the thing, tight ends are becoming more and more active in the NFL. Huge, monstrous athletes towering in at 6’6″, and weighing over 275 pounds of pure muscle. They’re scary guys, and the game that’s being played today is their game.
Over the past few years, two guys have stood out among the rest, and have pushed the tight end name in to the spotlight: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Now, I’m not going to do a “who’s better?” thing here, but they are arguably two of the most talented and athletically gifted tight ends to ever grace the NFL.
Graham, who redefines the word “imposing,” comes in at 6′ 7″ tall and 265 pounds. Gronkowski isn’t far behind, coming in at 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds. Now, while that may seem somewhat normal for most NFL players, you have to combine those numbers with unprecedented speed and agility for someone of that size. Gronkowski clocked in a 40-yard dash time at 4.65 seconds, only .13 seconds longer than Julian Edelman, a receiver (and teammate of Gronkowski) who comes in at 5 feet 10 inches and only 195 pounds. Jimmy Graham tops that, clocking his 40-yard dash time at 4.53 seconds, which he shares with his running back teammate Mark Ingram.
In 2013, Jimmy Graham was number 15 on the list of receiving yards leaders, above seasoned wide receivers such as Anquan Boldin, Julian Edelman, and Larry Fitzgerald. Even among the kickers that consistently lead the league in points scored, Graham still hit number 31 (96 total points scored), with Jamaal Charles the only non-kicker that sat above him in the rankings. Even back in 2011, both Gronkowski and Graham sat at numbers six and seven (respectively) on the list of receiving leaders.
The game of football is filled with a multitude of amazing and incredible feats and athletes, from the almost magnetic hands of Calvin Johnson, to the unparalled athleticism of legends like Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher; from the cannons that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees light and fire every week, to the unmatched speed and agility of LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles.
But tight ends bring something new to the table. They bring something we can’t see anywhere but the tight end position. They bring a combination of all of the above (save the cannon thing) to the field. Athleticism, intelligence, hands, agility, and size all come together in this position that is such a key element in the way playbooks are being drawn out in today’s game. The tight end is essential to victory, and will continue to be essential for years to come.
QBs I like in Week 4:
- Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): Two weeks ago, Philip Rivers shocked the world with his stellar performance against the defending Super Bowl Champions. Against a team that allowed the least amount of passing yards per game in 2013 (an average of 177), Rivers managed to toss three touchdowns on 284 yards, with zero interceptions. This week, he’s going up against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who managed to give up an average of 247 passing yards per game last year, and have already managed to give up an average of 306 passing yards per game this year. And it’s only been three weeks. Rivers should tear up the Jacksonville defense (or lack thereof) with ease.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (@Minnesota Vikings): In 2013, the Minnesota Vikings gave up the most amount of passing yards per game (averaging about 287 yards per game). In 2013, Matt Ryan and the Falcons hit number five on the list of most passing yards per game (about an average of 265), and they’re currently topping that list with an average of 333 passing yards per game. Last week, the Falcons stomped on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Ryan leading the charge with three touchdowns on 286 yards. Ryan should take care of the Vikings with ease, just like about every other quarterback in the NFL.
RBs I like in Week 4:
- Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers): In 2013, the Carolina Panthers run defense was as good as it got. They only allowed an average of 89 rushing yards per game to opposing backs, and kept those backs to an average of only .3 touchdowns per game. In his last three outings, Bell filled out the gap that Rashard Mendenhall left pretty nicely, putting up double digit points in all three games. This week, he goes up against the Buccaneers, who last week gave up two rushing touchdowns on 122 rushing yards to the Falcons, who are a relatively pass heavy team. I’d expect Bell to put up at least minor double digits this week, if not more so.
- Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (@Oakland Raiders): The Dolphins travel to Oakland this week to take on the Raiders, and Lamar Miller is definitely someone to be watching out for. This year, the Raiders have already given up an average of 158 rushing yards per game, and we’re just three games into the season. It seems that even with the addition of former New York Giants lineman Justin Tuck, the Raiders are still having trouble becoming a relevant team in the NFL, as they’ve started this season with zero wins. I would expect Miller to put up some pretty acceptable numbers, especially coming off 108 yards on 15 attempts against the Chiefs.
WRs I like in Week 4:
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (@Minnesota Vikings): Like I said for Matt Ryan, any Falcon is a good pick here. Julio Jones had an incredible game last week, racking up 28 fantasy points which came from two touchdowns on nine receptions, on a total of 161 yards. This week, he’s going up against the Minnesota Vikings, who have given up an average of 19 fantasy points to opposing receivers over the last three games. Expect big numbers from Jones.
- Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Last week, Antonio kind of came out of nowhere with his performance. Although he’s always a solid start, Brown doesn’t tend to put up Megatron like numbers too often. However he finished last week’s game against Carolina with 90 yards on 10 receptions, and hauled in two touchdowns. That totaled out to be 21 fantasy points, which caused my personal last minute downfall. Some might say “don’t count on him, he’s not going to do it again.” But last week the Buccaneers gave up an unprecedented amount of points to the Falcons, and three of the Falcons’ touchdowns in that game were passing touchdowns.
TEs I like in Week 4:
- Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): Antonio Gates has been a Charger for life, and has been one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets since they began playing together in 2004. Last week, the Chargers put up big numbers against an average Buffalo Bills defense. However, the week before, the Chargers stunned the nation and took the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks to the house, defeating them 30-21. I know last week was one of Gates’ worst outings since he started playing, but I have faith. Sometimes, bad games happen. And I would put Gates on the “it was just a fluke” side of the argument, as opposed to the “nope, that’s it, he’s done for the season” side. He and Rivers have serious chemistry, and I don’t expect them to let up against the mediocre Jaguars defense.
- Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (@Dallas Cowboys): They say Jimmy Graham is open even if he’s covered. But here’s the thing: over the past three years, teams and coaches have realized that Graham is a serious, serious threat. So not only is he covered, but he’s completely covered. He towers over a majority of defensive backs, and easily outweighs them, which makes breaking tackles like walking down the street. However, Graham may not necessarily be living up to his expectations every single game. A lot of people put a lot of faith in him, and for good reason, but some of us need to see more. I would put him in this week, simply because it’s just a sin not to, and the Cowboys have a subpar secondary which Graham should easily plow through. If Brees and Graham are in sync, there should be no problems with the quality and quantity of numbers he puts up this week.
Taylor Lust is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.