2012 NFL tight ends
As the passing game has evolved to become the most important facet of the NFL in 2012, tight ends are now perhaps the greatest athletes in the league. In 2012, the NFL's best tight ends are strong, fast, agile, good route runners and tough run blockers. Take a closer look at the top five NFL tight ends for 2012.
1. Jimmy Graham: New Orleans Saints
Last year, Jimmy Graham proved to be the steal of the 2010 NFL Draft. Graham became Drew Brees' favorite target. The New Orleans Saints' tight end led the NFL with 99 receptions at his position. 2012 will only be Graham's third year in the NFL and at 25 years of age, he should be even better this season.
2. Rob Gronkowski: New England Patriots
In the final NFL regular season game last year, Rob Gronkowski just barely passed Graham in receiving yards by tight ends. Gronkowski finished with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 receiving TDs, both NFL records for tight ends. If Tom Brady stays healthy, Gronkowski should have another great season at tight end in 2012.
3. Jermichael Finley: Green Bay Packers
It should come as no surprise that the top three NFL tight ends for 2012 catch passes from the top three NFL quarterbacks. The tight end who is fortunate to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers is Jermichael Finley. Last year, Finley only had 55 receptions but he should rebound in 2012.
4. Vernon Davis: San Francisco 49ers
Vernon Davis may be the best physical specimen at tight end in 2012. But I can't rank Davis higher because his quarterback is Alex Smith. Of course, the 49ers don't have as many weapons as the Saints which means Davis should get a lot of touches. Perhaps 2012 will be Davis' break out year.
5. Antonio Gates: San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers had a tough season in 2011, but if he plays like he's capable of in 2012, Antonio Gates should have a great season at tight end. However, Gates is now 32 years old and his days in the top five of NFL tight ends could be numbered. Gates caught 64 passes for 778 yards and seven TDs in 2011.
Honorable mention 2012 NFL tight ends
Brent Celek: Philadelphia Eagles, Owen Daniels: Houston Texans, Fred Davis: Washington Redskins, Aaron Hernandez: New England Patriots, Jason Witten: Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
"Players: Tight Ends," nfl.com
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