I read an interesting comment pertaining to Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley a couple weeks ago. Basically, a scout said Finley wasn’t among the top 10 tight ends in the league.
His argument was that Finley wasn’t a complete player in both facets of the tight end’s game — blocking and receiving — and that he dropped too many balls (11 in 2011).
“The best tight ends in the league are complete — Jason Witten, Heath Miller and Vernon Davis can block as well as they catch,” one pro talent evaluator told PFW. “(Patriots TE Rob) Gronkowski belongs in the same class. Even Jimmy Graham has shown a lot of promise as a blocker. And as long as (Tony) Gonzalez and (Antonio) Gates are playing, they will still be near the top of the list as receiving tight ends. Others include Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, Greg Olsen, Kellen Winslow, even Aaron Hernandez.
“Finley would fall more in that group in the 10-15 range.”
The reason this comes up, of course, is because Finley will be a free agent this offseason and is looking to cash in with a big contract. While it’s not totally off base, that evaluation is a pretty tough pill to swallow if you’re Finley or the Packers.
We all know there’s a downside to having Finley on the roster. He drops too many passes and complains when he feels he isn’t getting the ball thrown his way enough. Despite that, we all know he’s a huge matchup problem for opposing defenses and he did set career highs with 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.
So, do 10-15 other tight ends really deserve to be ranked above Finley as this scout suggested? That’s doubtful, but unless he reaches his full potential, he’s clearly not in the top five. Consider: Finley was beaten out for the Pro Bowl by Graham, who led all tight ends in catches, and Gonzalez, who had better numbers than Finley even though he’s like, 85 years old.
Here’s our breakdown and where Finley fits.
- Rob Gronkowski (Patriots): 90 catches, 1,327 yards, 17 TDs — The 17 TDs are an NFL record for a tight end. This guy is what Finley should be.
- Jimmy Graham (Saints): 99 catches, 1,310 yards, 11 TDs — The number of catches tells you he doesn’t drop balls. It’s even more impressive that he’s Drew Brees No. 1 target over Marques Colston.
- Antonio Gates (Chargers): 64 catches, 778 yards, 7 TDs — He’s still San Diego’s best receiver. He put up these numbers despite missing three games in 2011.
- Jason Witten (Cowboys): 79 catches, 942 yards, 5 TDs — Has more than 900 yards each of the past five seasons and went over 1,000 in three of those.
- Tony Gonzalez (Falcons): 80 catches, 875 yards, 7 TDs — Yeah, he’s old, but he’s one of the most complete tight ends in the game, if not of all time.
- Vernon Davis (49ers): 67 catches, 792 yards, 6 TDs — He’s the Niners best receiver by a mile and is a solid blocker in the run game, which is San Francisco’s bread and butter.
- Aaron Hernandez (Patriots): 79 catches, 910 yards, 7 TDs — This guy would have had Gronk numbers if Gronk weren’t on the same team. He still put up better numbers than most guys on the list.
- Jermichael Finley (Packers): 55 catches, 767 yards, 8 TDs — If only he could hold onto the ball. If you think this is unfair to Finley, tell me who you’d move down.
- Jermaine Gresham (Bengals): 56 catches, 596 yards, 6 TDs — You could make an argument to move Gresham higher because he’s a good blocker. There’s a reason he made his first Pro Bowl in 2011.
- Heath Miller (Steelers): 51 catches, 631 yards, 2 TDs — He might be the best blocker on the list and he’s sure-handed. The only knock is he doesn’t get into the end zone.