August 21, 2009

Preseason tight end power rankings


We continue our preseason power rankings at each position with the tight ends.

You can check out our post-spring practice power rankings here . We will update the power rankings each week during the regular season and release the final rankings for the season after the BCS title game.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.


1. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (6-6/258, Sr.)
: Gresham ranked second on the Sooners last season in catches (66) and yards (950) and has 111 career receptions for 1,629 yards and 26 TDs. He needs six more TD catches to break Mark Clayton's school record.

2. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona (6-6/265, Sr.)
: He has a great combination of size, speed and strength, and he can even play some receiver in Arizona's spread offense. He had 47 catches for 672 yards last season, with 10 TDs.

3. Dennis Pitta, BYU (6-5/248, Sr.)
: Pitta, the brother-in-law of BYU QB Max Hall, had 83 receptions for 1,083 yards and six TDs last season and has 142 catches in the past two seasons. While his blocking needs improvement, he possesses the speed to get down the seam against zone defenses.

4. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin (6-4/248, Sr.)
: Graham considered turning pro but opted to stay in school. He led Wisconsin in receptions (40), receiving yards (540) and receiving touchdowns (five) last season even though he missed two games because of injury. As you'd expect from a Wisconsin tight end, he also is an accomplished blocker.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Florida (6-2/250, Jr.)
: Hernandez is a great fit in Florida's spread attack. He has the speed to get deep but also the toughness to run over people on shovel passes. He's becoming a devastating blocker, too.

6. Mike McNeill, Nebraska (6-4/240, Jr.)
: McNeill might not be the same type of blocker as past Huskers tight ends, but he has sticky hands, runs precise routes and possesses good speed. He could have a 50-catch season, assuming Nebraska can find a consistent quarterback. He was a teammate of former Missouri star Jeremy Maclin at Kirkwood (Mo.) High.

7. Ed Dickson, Oregon (6-4/243, Sr.)
: Dickson might be the most reliable target returning for Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli. He has the speed to spread out wide and can be used in an H-back role as well.

8. D.J. Williams, Arkansas (6-2/251, Jr.)
: He doesn't have prototypical tight end size, but he has good hands and deceptive speed. He led the Hogs with 61 receptions for 723 yards last season. He caught three TD passes, and that number should increase with Ryan Mallett at quarterback.

9. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame (6-6/260, Soph.)
: Rudolph had a solid freshman campaign for the Irish last season, with 29 catches for 340 yards and two TDs. He should benefit from the presence of WRs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, which means safeties will have to pay more attention to them than to Rudolph.

10. Cody Slate, Marshall (6-4/229, Sr.)
: Slate is coming off career lows in catches (40) and yards (510), but the senior did catch a career-high eight touchdown passes last season. Slate enters 2009 with 19 career receiving touchdowns (eighth in Marshall history) and 2,012 career receiving yards (10th).

11. Jamie McCoy, Texas A&M (6-3/242, Sr.)
: The Aggies are just trying to keep up with the passing games in the Big 12. Having a weapon such as McCoy (43 catches, 500 yards, five TDs) helps.

12. Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State (6-6/253, Sr.)
: A three-year starter, Mastrud didn't catch a touchdown pass until his junior season, when he set career highs in receptions (38), yards (435) and touchdowns (two).

13. Anthony McCoy, USC (6-5/250, Sr.)
: McCoy will give USC's new quarterback a big target in the passing game after catching 22 passes for 256 yards and a TD last season. He's a big, physical guy who's a solid blocker.

14. Ryan Moya, UCLA (6-3/243, Sr.)
: In his first season as UCLA's primary tight end, Moya caught 38 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns. His numbers could jump if the Bruins' anemic quarterback play improves.

15. Richard Dickson, LSU (6-3/240, Sr.)
: He had 32 catches for 375 yards and five TDs last season. His next TD catch will be the 11th in his career, which will be a school record for tight ends.

16. Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt (6-5/245, Soph.)
: Barden is Vanderbilt's top returning receiver after catching 29 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns last season.

17. Greg Boone, Virginia Tech (6-3/283, Sr.)
: Most teams' Wildcat formations don't utilize the tight end at quarterback, but most teams' starting tight ends didn't play quarterback in high school. Boone rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown while catching 22 passes for 278 yards and a pair of TDs.

18. Nate Byham, Pittsburgh (6-4/265, Sr.)
: The top tight end in the Big East is an excellent blocker. He is on the watch lists for both the Mackey Award for tight ends and the Lombardi Award for linemen and linebackers.

19. Ben Wooster, Wake Forest (6-5/235, Sr.)
: Wooster came up with the go-ahead touchdown in Wake's come-from-behind win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl. He finished the season with 24 catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns.

20. Weslye Saunders, South Carolina (6-5/280, Jr.)
: The Gamecocks expect a big season from Saunders after he spent last season in the shadow of Jared Cook.

(Rankings by staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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