Earlier, I gave you my AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams, the easiest part of which was picking the starting tight ends from each conference. Simply put, Jimmy Graham of the Saints and Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots, who were picked 52 spots apart in the 2010 NFL draft, are having two of the best seasons in NFL history at the tight end position.

And while only 11 weeks ago we were comparing Graham to Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, it’s become clear of late that Graham and Gronkowski stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league’s tight ends. Both are in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of receptions, yardage, touchdowns and first downs.

In less than a week, I’ll give you my All-Pro team in this spot. For that, it won’t be quite as easy to deal with the tight end position, because I’ll have to decide between the two Gs. Maybe laying it all out in the final 2011 edition of Would You Rather will help provide some clarity.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Jimmy Graham
Age: 25
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 122 REC, 1,569 YDS, 12.9 AVG, 15 TD
This season: 91 REC, 1,213 YDS, 13.3 AVG, 10 TD

OR

Rob Gronkowski
Age: 22
Experience: 2nd season
Career stats: 124 REC, 1,765 YDS, 14.2 AVG, 25 TD
This season: 82 REC, 1,219 YDS, 14.9 AVG, 15 TD

Obviously Gronkowski’s career numbers are better than Graham’s, but it should be noted that he’s had more opportunities in the New England offense. Graham has only started 15 games in his two-year career, while Gronk has started 26. And I don’t think anyone will disagree with the notion that the offense is more crowded in New Orleans than it is in Foxboro.

On a per-start basis, Graham’s numbers are better across the board. He even has a very slight edge in touchdowns per start (15 in 15 vs. 25 in 26).

Let’s set aside their 2010 rookie numbers, because neither really had an obvious edge over the other. This year, Graham’s catching more passes but Gronkowski is scoring more touchdowns. But including Darren Sproles, the Saints have four other receivers with at least six touchdown receptions. Drew Brees likes to spread it around, especially in the red zone.

By comparison, New England has just two other receivers with at least six scores and only three with more than a single touchdown. It seems Tom Brady has been more a creature of habit, which has probably benefited Gronkowski a fair bit.

In terms of athleticism, versatility and explosiveness, Graham probably has an edge. Gronk is three years younger and probably stronger, but he also has a more frightening history with injuries after missing the entire 2009 college football season due to back surgery.

My take: Although it’s seemingly impossible to cover Gronkowski, especially in the red zone, I think I’d take the athletically gifted Graham. The age gap doesn’t worry me too much, because both look to have many good years ahead.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles?

Comments (4)

  1. Seriously? You did a detailed comparison of TIGHT ENDS without even mentioning blocking ability? There is no contest…. Gronkowski is far more valuable.

  2. Gronk is a beast after the catch. He has more TDs because he breaks tackles.

  3. I would take Gronkowski in a heart beat. Grownkowski not only is a mismatch on trying to cover but it nearly makes it impossible to get around him or through him when he blocks. I understand Jimmy Graham is playing in New Orleans not New England so he doesn’t have Brady, but he does also have the man who just broke Dan Marino’s record and having Brees doesn’t excuse the fact that Gronk has more TDs (which quite a few have been achieved through YAC).

  4. Meh I take Graham still, Tom Brady tends to make his players look a lot better than they really are. And right now Rob is one of them, notice he started to not throw to Wes Welker and the spotlight goes away? Remember Danny Woodhead? The only reason why Rob has 15 tds because he is huge, Tom Brady only throws to him and the Patriot barely runs. How could a little CB stop something that weights 260 and stands at 6’6? Jimmy now is the better athlete, he actually works hard to get those catches, not all his catches are wide open, he got a lot of tough ones. He’s also 6’6, a bit lighter than rob and he is faster. Rob is slow, all he got is his 260 pounds momentum. People are just looking at the stats and not in the long run. What would Rob do without Brady accuracy and intelligent?

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