A theme developed in the divisional playoff round: the dominance of the young, athletic tight end. Whether it was New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, or San Francisco’s Vernon Davis or New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, the tight end took over.
It is clear a way to offensive success in the NFL is having one of these types of players. Let’s take a look at each AFC West’s teams situation at tight end:
Denver: The Broncos have an interesting crew of tight ends. It has veterans Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario and youngsters Julius Thomas and Virgil Green. Fells is a good blocker and receiver and the team would like to re-sign him. But they are excited about Thomas (who like Graham was a college basketball player) and Green. Thomas was a fourth-round pick and Green was a seventh-round pick. Green is further along than Thomas right now, but the team believes Thomas -- who was bothered by an ankle injury all season -- has Graham-like potential.
Kansas City: The Chiefs have a young stud in Tony Moeaki. They just need him to get healthy and to stay healthy. Moeki set some Kansas City rookie tight end records in 2010 (yes, the great Tony Gonzalez was a Chief rookie at one time), but missed all of the 2011 season with a knee injury. He is improving and the team is excited about his future.
Oakland: The Raiders signed Kevin Boss after Zach Miller shocked the team by signing with Seattle last summer. Boss has big-play ability, but he has some limitations. The Raiders could like to see more plays and better health from Boss in 2012.
San Diego: Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends the NFL has ever seen. He has been dealing with injuries the past few seasons and he is likely on the back nine of his career. Still, he will be an impact player in the immediate future. Watch for San Diego to look for an eventual replacement fairly soon.