Out of nowhere, Jimmy Graham is on pace to have one of the best seasons a tight end has ever had.

After a six-catch, 78-yard performance Sunday against Tampa Bay, Graham is now ranked third in the league with 55 receptions through nine games. He’s got 11 more catches than the next-best tight end on the list, Rob Gronkowski.

But what’s truly amazing is his yardage total, which ranks him fifth in football. With 791 yards, he has a 195-yard lead on Gronkowski in that category. He’s become the most productive tight end in football, and it isn’t even close.

Graham’s on pace to catch 97 passes for 1,406 yards and 10 touchdowns. That would easily surpass Kellen Winslow’s tight end record of 1,290 receiving yards in 1980. To hit that mark, Graham would only need 72 yards per game for the remainder of the season. He’s reached that plateau six times during his first nine games. He also has a decent shot at Tony Gonzalez’s tight end record of 102 catches in one season.

Pretty impressive for a 24-year-old sophomore who was passed on 94 times in the 2010 draft.

Graham’s career yards-per-reception average would place him sixth on the all-time list of tight ends in that category, ahead of the likes of Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe. Playing with Drew Brees has certainly helped, but Jeremy Shockey, a fellow former Miami tight end with a hell of a lot of talent, failed to catch more than 50 passes or reach the 600-yard mark in the last three seasons with Brees as his quarterback.

We’re seeing a new wave of superstar tight ends, and Graham has clearly emerged as the face of the next generation at that position.