Is Aaron Hernandez third-best tight end?

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton recently provided his list of the top-10 tight ends heading into the 2012 season. To no surprise, the New England Patriots duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both made the cut. But the rankings were interesting: Gronkowski was No. 1 and Hernandez was No. 3.

Gronkowski has catapulted to the top of the tight-end rankings after a record-setting season. I doubt many would argue that point. But is Hernandez, Gronkowski's backup, the third-best at his position?

"Hernandez isn't as physical as Gronkowski after the catch, but he's a beast to stop in routes. Hernandez takes double coverage away from Gronkowski and vice-versa, which forces opponents into more man-to-man coverages," Clayton wrote.

There are a lot of good tight ends in the NFL. But the big point is that both Gronkowski and Hernandez are unique talents who may not be together very long in New England. Both will be looking for top dollar when their contracts expire in two years. New England will struggle to pay both at the same position.

Also worth noting is Dustin Keller of the New York Jets also came in at No. 9 on Clayton's list of top tight ends.