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Top 5 ProCanes: Tight Ends

The real ‘TEU’ has no equals

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

There’s a perception that fans and supporters of the University of Miami are arrogant when it comes to evaluating players who attended the school. There may be some validity to that point, but when you look at the lineage of players this institution to football has generated over the years, can you really blame us?

In our ongoing series to evaluate the best NFL stars by position who hail from UM, today’s rankings focus on the bread-and-butter position: Tight end. Sorry, Iowa! As great as your list of TEs are, remember that Miami still wears the crown as Tight End U. The quality, résumé and sheer number of talented players the Hurricanes can boast about over the last three decades supports those claims. However, this is only a top five countdown.

Special Note: There is a notable omission from this list. I’ve decided not to include Kellen Winslow Jr. in this ranking based on the current legal matters surrounding his character as a human being. As great as football is, who we are as individuals away from the field matters most.

Alright, time to kick our feet up and go down memory lane.

Honorable Mention

Christopher Herndon — Herndon is only entering his second season in the league, but his potential is limitless on a young New York Jets’ offense. The fourth round selection of the 2018 NFL Draft became one of Sam Darnold’s more reliable targets in his rookie year. Herndon brought in 39 receptions, 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns on a middling offense. With the addition of Le’Veon Bell and Adam Gase taking over control of the offense, Herndon is poised to be a beneficiary of the team’s offseason additions.

Clive Walford — A former standout from Glades Central High School, Walford has spent most of his four seasons in the NFL playing with the Oakland Raiders. His 768 receiving yards and six touchdowns are pretty impressive when you consider the inconsistent playing time he garnered throughout his career.

Erik Swoope — Former hoops stars turning into tight ends was all the rage in the 2000s. Swoope never took a snap for Hurricanes’ football, but was a productive member of Canes Hoops. After getting acclimated to TE and the NFL, Swoope was on the precipice of a breakout season in 2018 before an injury derailed it. After bouncing between the active roster and practice squad with the Colts, he was released by the team. Where one path ends another begins, however. Swoope has earned an invite to work with the Oakland Raiders entering their 2019 Training Camp.

Five

David Njoku

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr /Getty Images

This move is truly ambitious considering that the tight end has only played two seasons for the Cleveland Browns. However, Njoku possesses the potential to be at the forefront of the position for the next decade. After catching 32 passes for 386 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his rookie year, he nearly doubled his output in year two. After a mutiny within the Browns’ organization, Njoku became more of a feature on offense. The New Jersey product hauled in 56 receptions for 630 receiving yards and four TDs.

Flanked by All-Pro WR Odell Beckham Jr. on one side of the formation and Jarvis Landry on the other, there’s hope that 2019 is setup to be a breakout year for the tight end in his third year.

NFL Career Stat Line

Receptions — 88

Receiving Yards — 1,025

Touchdowns — 8

Four

Bubba Franks

Daniel Lamont Franks is a big name in football. Or, I should say, his moniker “Bubba” is. From Big Spring, Texas, Franks came to the NFL having been named an All-Big East member multiple seasons. Spending all nine years of his career in Green Bay, he caught 262 passes for 2,327 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns. He also ranks sixth all-time in receiving yards, second in both career receptions and touchdowns by a Green Bay TE.

NFL Career Stat Line

Receptions — 262

Receiving Yards — 2,347

Touchdowns — 32

Three

Jimmy Graham

New York Giants v New Orleans Saints Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Although currently a member of the Packers, TE Jimmy Graham’s best days came when he was with the New Orleans Saints. A one-year wonder at the University of Miami, Graham joined the football program after putting together a solid college basketball resume with the Canes. Graham was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft and considered a project — someone who would need time to adapt given his sample size in college.

It turns out that Graham was ready to be an offensive weapon for the Saints sooner than we realized. With his long 6’7” frame, Graham’s ability to get up for jump balls over defenders has been and remains a strength to this day. While no one would qualify Graham as Sonic the Hedgehog, the tight end creates enough space and yardage after the catch. It’s part of the reason why, during his prime, Graham was considered one of the best tight ends in the game.

His 611 receptions, 7,436 receiving yards and 71 touchdowns are a testament to that. Graham is 69th in the all-time record book in receptions.

NFL Career Stat Line

Receptions — 611

Receiving Yards — 7,436

Touchdowns — 71

All-Pros — Twice (2nd team in 2011) (1st team in 2013) according to the Associated Press

Pro Bowl — 5x (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)

Two

Jeremy Shockey

Sporting News Archive Photo by Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

If there was a quintessential Miami tight end in the NFL, it would have been Jeremy Shockey. The take-no-guff, no apologies, run-you-over-and-let-you-know-about-it approach to the game made him beloved among the New York Giants’ fanbase and despised across the league. The Oklahoman operated as an elite receiving tight end for the Giants, New Orlean Saints and Carolina Panthers over the course of 10 seasons. Playing in the era of the rise of the athletic tight, Shockey was the best receiving option for the Giants during most of his tenure. Shockey is 15th all-time in career receiving yards with 4,228 (3rd most by a Giants TE) and has the most career receptions by a Giant TE with 371.

Shockey helped the Saints secure their Super Bowl XLIV win by scoring the winning touchdown on a slant route. The TD helped Shockey snag his second Super Bowl win, after being a part of the Giants’ XLII team.

His personality may have rubbed some the wrong way and he could cause a firestorm at any moment, but it’s part of what makes Jeremy Shockey one of the unique personalities in the ProCanes fraternity.

NFL Career Stat Line

Receptions — 547

Receiving Yards — 6,143

Touchdowns — 37

All-Pros — 1st team in 2013, according to the Associated Press

Pro Bowl — 4x (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006)

One

Greg Olsen

Dallas Cowboys v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

No longer that young man who was featured in the 7th Floor Crew Rap video, Greg Olsen tops our list of ProCane tight ends. In his 12 years in the NFL, split between the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers, Olsen has been a consummate professional on the field and in the community. Olsen is less than 200 yards from cracking the top 100 all-time receiving list. The Paterson, New Jersey, native is 55th on the NFL’s all-time receptions list with 666 — yeah, he’s a beast.

His career numbers are astounding: 666 receptions, 7,847 receiving yards and 57 touchdowns. Credited for his ability to run routes like a wide receiver with the frame to overmatch undersized defensive backs, this tight end has gotten the best of opponents. As accomplished as he is as a receiving threat, Olsen’s effort as a blocker provides him with all-around versatility.

The last couple of seasons have not gone the way that Olsen wanted. He suffered injuries that forced him to miss a significant amount of time. Despite the attraction of joining an NFL broadcast, Olsen is set to embark on his 13th season as a player. All Olsen does is produce, so don’t be shocked when he continues to do so in 2019.

NFL Career Stat Line

Receptions — 666

Receiving Yards — 7,847

Touchdowns — 57

All-Pros — 3x Second-Team (2014, 2015, 2016)

Pro Bowl — 3x (2014, 2015, 2016)

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!