Bears disrespected in PFF top tight ends in NFL list

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Bears disrespected in PFF top tight ends list originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Outside of trading up to Justin Fields, nearly every move Ryan Pace and the Bears have made over the past two offseasons has been panned. From signing Andy Dalton and trading for Nick Foles, to cutting Kyle Fuller, there have been many transactions widely criticized by fans and media among them. One of the biggest lighting rods was the signing of Jimmy Graham, but after an impressive 2020 campaign where he led the Bears in receiving touchdowns, most have taken the L and admitted Graham was an impactful addition to the offense.

But the folks at PFF apparently still aren’t sold.

On Wednesday, PFF released their list of the top 32 tight ends in the NFL, and neither Graham nor Cole Kmet made the cut. You could make a case for Kmet to be on their, since other tight ends like Adam Trautman (~50% fewer catches, ~20% fewer snaps) and Anthony Firkser (only one more career touchdown, over three years in the league) made the list. Then there’s the fact that Kyle Pitts ranks No. 4 overall before ever taking a snap as a pro! While you could make the case for Kmet’s inclusion, I’ll let that slide since he really started picking up his play in the second half of the season, and only has one year under his belt. But leaving Graham off that list feels like a massive oversight.

First, Graham is an undeniable legend at the position. His 82 touchdowns rank fourth among all tight ends, in NFL history, behind only Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Rob Gronkowski. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and has made one All-Pro team. You may say his best years are behind him, but his eight touchdowns last year tied for fourth among all tight ends. You could also say he’s far from a great run-blocker, but so are other tight ends who made the list, like Jordan Akins and Evan Engram. Those guys not only have similar blocking issues, they also don’t add offensive production like Graham does.

Then we get to what Graham brings to the Bears locker room as a leader.

“He’s invaluable,” said Bears tight ends coach Clancy Barone ahead of rookie minicamp. “He’s a guy a lot of people lean on and so forth and listen to and so trying to build that great culture in the locker room. Jimmy is a guy that I think is part of that foundation.”

Graham has also been invaluable as a mentor to Kmet. Over the offseason, Graham joined NBC Sports Chicago to talk about his bond with Kmet and described their growing relationship on and off the field.

“I don’t think people realize, truly, just how close me and him had gotten this season,” Graham said. “From the beginning to the end. His hunger to be good, and to be elite, and learn was amazing to see. Then to see his growth from one day to the next was truly awesome to see, as well.

“No matter where I’m at, I’m always going to help him. I’m always going to be close with him, and he’ll always truly be my little brother.”

That’s gotta be worth some points, right?

No matter how you slice it, Graham clearly deserves to be in the conversation as one of the top tight ends in the league.

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