Yes, this is an old debate. We fought about it ad nauseum a year ago. But I wanted to raise it again because I think it may be particularly relevant in this year's draft class.
In 2014 I have loudly favored the idea of getting a defensive playmaker at 1:15 and then grabbing the best available Receiving Weapon at 2:15. At WR the worthy prospects include Watkins, Lee, Evans, Beckham Robinson, Matthews, Adams, Benjamin, and maybe Cooks, or Landry (or even Moncrief if he has a monster Combine). At TE the names include Ebron, Amaro, ASJ, and maybe Niklas. That is 11 worthies and 4 maybes. At least four WR's will go before 2:15, and at least two TE's, but that still leaves a total of 9 candidates who could be there - surely one will fall! So who to dream for the most?
For the record, I have always been a fan who favored Tight Ends. I love the fact that they actively participate on every down, be it a run or a pass. And I also love the versatility of the modern double-TE sets, including the advantages you can get from going no-huddle with personnel that create a mismatch both anti-run and anti-pass defensive packages.
bias premise sent me over to Pro Football Reference in search of some statistics to support the argument that we should pray most fervently for one of the Big Three TE's to be the one who drops. Since we aren't after downfield plays so much as lots of move-the-chains receptions and a credible red zone threat, I looked up the records for number of receptions in a given year. To put it gently, the numbers do not match my preconceptions.
The TE with the highest number of receptions in a single year is Jason Whitten. He is #31 on the chart. The next entrant is Tony Gonzalez - #58. Then Dallas Clark at #79. How can TE's be 'a Quarterback's best friend' when they clearly gather in MANY fewer receptions? What about the record for catching TD's? Tight Ends are the prototypical Big Red Zone Target, right? Gronkowski tops the Tight Ends at #7 overall. Jimmy Graham at #14. Then Vernon Davis at #61. Obviously modern TE's catch a lot more touchdowns than their predecessors, but the numbers are just as clear as the records for annual receptions. If you want someone to catch passes of any kind, anywhere on the field, you are better off with a Wide Receiver than a Tight End to accomplish that task.
But...but...but... Does that really mean I need to Change My Mind?! Surely there must be a counterargument that can be supported on the numbers. Help me out here!
If you can.