Top 10 tight ends for 2016

While Pats TEs face issues, Jimmy Graham should continue to excel

Updated: June 26, 2013, 2:57 PM ET
By Gary Horton | ESPN Insider

Jimmy Graham Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJimmy Graham breaks away from a talented pack of young tight ends.

We are blessed right now to be in a very productive era for tight ends. Their athleticism and ability to create nightmare matchups for opposing defenses provides an offensive dimension that hasn't really existed before on a large scale. The premier guys in today's NFL are pass-catchers first and blockers second, and all of the spread offenses in college are preparing a lot of good tight ends for the NFL.

As we look ahead to 2016 we will see an outstanding group of veterans either out of the league or at the end of their careers. But we will have a terrific group of sixth- and seventh-year players leading the way.

Here are the top 10 projected tight ends in 2016:

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

This ranking is a little risky because not only does he need to stay healthy, but he will likely be without Drew Brees as his QB in 2016. If Sean Payton is still the head coach, Graham will be highly targeted in this TE-friendly scheme that attacks the seams, and you can bet that Payton will find a QB -- Brees or someone else -- who will get Graham the ball. What is scary to defenses is the fact that he is just starting to realize his full potential.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.