The most important discussion in sports has always been “Who’s The Best” or “Who’s the Greatest”. The conversation hasn’t changed, only the term used to define it has. Elite is a word that is being used a lot these days when trying to describe players in the NFL from quarterbacks to running backs to coaches. We struggle at the beginning of the season to define which players are truly elite and which ones are “second tier” or “next in line”. This really started last year with the Eli Manning comments prior to the season and every one started using the phrase as the definitive word on what we used to call “the best”!
The 2012-13 season started no different with Ravens QB being asked if he was an elite QB and he said he felt like he was and added, “what NFL player doesn’t think they are”. Flacco is absolutely correct, if you are a top class athlete and do not think you are the best then there are concerns. Yet, each week with every win or loss, we have the radio heads discussing elite status of QB’s. Anytime a RB or WR wants a new or renegotiated contract the topic theme turns to, “Is He Elite?”. The discussion can not be absolute because there is no absolute definition of elite but I will try to provide a good spot to start.
I like stats but I also realize there are many other factors that make someone elite. Teams have different game plans for success that will alter the stats, negatively and positively. Great players can and will find a way to be successful but that doesn’t mean they will have the best numbers. We can also be fooled by teams style of play, in a good and bad ways. Often times players are dismissed because of certain situations like Wes Welker in New England and that causes confusion. So, how do we make informed decisions when striking up that discussion with our friends or that loud mouth at the bar?
My definition of elite takes in all the factors from stats, to situations, to periods of success and trade factor (not monetary). This is primarily an offensive discussion so let’s stick with that. Stats are a great starting place because it’s not subjective. Situations take in to account teams that rely heavy on the run or pass game that inflate stats of players who otherwise wouldn’t be as successful or recognized. A period of success proves a players value over a time. It shows that player isn’t a one hit wonder. Trade factor is the combination of all these factors and adds the ideal of “would anyone else truly be better at this very moment?”
Let’s take a look at the Tight End position first
Gone are the days of the extra blocker who occasionally catches a pass.
The Tight End position has really evolved and become a key offensive weapon. These big, fast, and sure handed athletes are becoming more available and finding their way on to more teams.
5. Vernon Davis
-Davis has unmatched athletic abilities. He suffered early on in his career with lack of QB play and some personality concerns. Davis would be successful in any system that gets him the ball. He is physical, fast, and would be higher on this list with a stronger passing game.
4. Jason Witten
-Witten has been a key ally to Tony Romo. Romo has been plagued by diva wideouts that have come and gone but his one main stay has been Witten. Witten is a huge target who has over 8000 recieving yards and over 700 receptions. After recovering from a spleen injury in preseason, he has 25 receptions over the last 4 games and will continue to be that outlet for Romo.
3. Jimmy Graham
-Graham is a monster. At 6-7 and great hands he is a target that the dimunitive Drew Brees can utilize. Last Year he caught 99 balls…99! Fantasy owners who wasted a 2nd or 3rd round pick on Graham are not excited but the struggling Saints have issues without their coach Sean Payton. Graham might not catch 99 balls in another offense but he would catch as much you would throw to him.
2. Tony Gonzalez
- Gonzalez has been in the league since ’97 and still does everything. He has 43 catches and 430 yds through the first 6 games, which leads the TE position in both categories. If he were to play next year he would still be a top 5 TE. This guy is a an original to the transformation of the position and guys like Antonio Gates and Graham owe their opportunity to this former California basketball star.
1. Rob Gronkowski
-Gronk catch ball, Gronk run fast, Gronk score TD. This guy is a offensive lineman who outruns linebackers, outmuscles defensive linemen, and runs over safeties. The Josh McDaniels offense has been tough on the Patriots and could affect Gronks Elite status if not given the opportunity to make plays down field but for now there is no more better option at TE than this behemoth.
Kyle Rudolph- This guy just needs looks. He is becoming a red zone target for Christian Ponder and should become more of a threat in the rest of the Vikings offense.
Antonio Gates- Gates is probably the next guy on the list. Good career that has seen injury slow him down the last two seasons. Still has enough in the tank to be Elite if he stays healthy and Phillip “Cry Me A” Rivers gets him the pigskin
Aaron Hernandez- This oversized wideout has had injury issues but if last season is any indication then we could be in store for a great career.
Check back in as we move to the WR and RB positions later this week.
Category: Pro Sports