A lot of debate has been made over Jimmy Graham's case of whether he should be ruled as a tight end or wide receiver, for franchise tag purposes.  Unfortunately for Graham, the arbitrator has ruled him as a tight end, which will mean that he will be making significantly less money than a wide receiver if he plays on the franchise tag.  However, Graham and some of the best tight ends in the league have truly redefined the position.  What used to be a sixth blocker on the offensive line and an occasional pass catcher has become a position that is used for matchup nightmares.  Take Graham, for example: he's too quick for linebackers and too big for most safeties.  Nevertheless, I thought that this would be a good time to break out a top 10 list of today's tight ends.

  • Harry How, Getty Images Sport
    Harry How, Getty Images Sport

    Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

    Pitta missed most of 2013 after a hip injury that occurred early in training camp.  In 2012, though, he was one of the main cogs of the Ravens offense that led them to a Super Bowl victory.  Although Baltimore signed Owen Daniels to either challenge Pitta or put them in a double-tight end set, I think that he can re-establish himself as the starter and perform like he did in the 2012 playoffs.

  • Wesley Hitt, Getty Images Sport
    Wesley Hitt, Getty Images Sport

    Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

    Does anybody else think that he looks like Todd from Breaking Bad?  Anyways, Rudolph has proven that he can still be effective in a run-first offense, and once Minnesota finds their franchise quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater?), he could be posting some big numbers.

  • Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images Sport
    Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images Sport

    Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

    As a former first round pick for the Chicago Bears, Olsen just didn't mesh well with Jay Cutler.  However, now with Cam Newton and the Panthers, his game has certainly excelled, and it has helped Carolina's offense in a big way.  Look for him and the Panthers to take another big step in 2014 and possibly make another playoff appearance.

  • Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images Sport
    Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images Sport

    Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Of all of the tight ends on this list, Miller plays the position most like the tight ends of yesteryear.  He's a great run blocker, and he continues to improve in the passing game.  Also, the Roethlisberger-Miller connection has been one of the best QB-TE combos in the last 10 years.

  • Donald Miralle, Getty Images Sport
    Donald Miralle, Getty Images Sport

    Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

    There's a good chance that someday, we'll be calling him the greatest all-time tight end behind Tony Gonzalez.  Right now, he's a little past his prime and he's been battling pesky foot injuries.  However, he is still Antonio Gates, and with the revival of the Chargers' offense by new coach Mike McCoy, he may still have a couple of good years in him.

  • Jamie Squire, Getty Images Sport
    Jamie Squire, Getty Images Sport

    Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    Like Gates, Witten has been at this for a long time, but he is still putting up solid numbers.  As long as he has a solid quarterback like Tony Romo throwing to him, he could be wearing a blue star on the side of his helmet for quite a while.

  • Matt Sullivan, Getty Images Sport
    Matt Sullivan, Getty Images Sport

    Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns

    If you play fantasy football, I would advise you to target Jordan Cameron early.  With Wide Receiver Josh Gordon facing a possible season-long suspension, Cameron could quickly be in the discussion as the number one tight end in the league if he has an adequate quarterback.  Who knows, maybe Cameron and Johnny Manziel becomes a combination similar to what Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are right now.

  • Jared Wickerham, Getty Images Sport
    Jared Wickerham, Getty Images Sport

    Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

    Many people view Gronkowski as the best tight end in the league.  In my opinion, with all of the injuries and surgeries that have been keeping him down for the last year and a half, I think I'm being generous by putting him at number three.  Nevertheless, when he is healthy, he is absolutely incredible and could no doubt be in the discussion of TE greats in 10 years or so.  Still, Gronk needs to be on the field for that to happen.

  • Stacy Revere, Getty Images Sport
    Stacy Revere, Getty Images Sport

    Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

    Right now, Davis is currently in a holdout in hopes of receiving a more expensive contract.  This may have something to do with Graham's arbitration and the possibility of him getting a new deal done.  Overall, Davis has mind-blowing speed for a tight end his size, and he could make the Pro Bowl with literally every team in the league.  However, I'm not too sure he is being utilized correctly in San Fran, and that may also be the reason for his holdout.

  • Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport
    Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport

    Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

    Hopefully this isn't a surprise to you.  There's been no other tight end ever that has affected the deep, middle of the field quite like Graham.  Sure, players like Gates and Gonzalez were the first to start the basketball player revolution at the position and started catching 80+ balls each season, but Graham is like Randy Moss in a tight end's body.  I know that everybody's making a big deal about his franchise tag, but New Orleans will definitely be giving him a long and large contract.  Players like Davis, Gronk, and Cameron will definitely contest his spot at number one, but for now, he's clearly above the rest.

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