Saints By Position: Top 5 tight ends in franchise history

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Jimmy Graham
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

One of the most important positions which requires a multiple skill set is the tight end position.

There are tight ends who are huge in the running game as excellent blockers at the point of attack. There are tight ends who are excellent receivers who can get up the seam or down the field, stretch a defense and make plays.

In the 53-year history of the franchise, the New Orleans Saints had had both types of tight ends and a few who could handle both aspects quite well.

There were a pair of those who were outstanding receivers, a pair who were great blockers with good hands and another who still handles both disciplines in consistent fashion.

Here are my top 5 tight ends in New Orleans Saints history:

1) Jimmy Graham
2) Hoby Brenner
3) Henry Childs
4) Josh Hill
5) John Tice

Simply put, Jimmy Graham became the best tight end in the NFL, a tremendous weapon for Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

Graham came to football late, while he was at Miami (FL), after playing basketball as his main sport until then.

A third-round draft pick of the Saints in 2010, Graham played five seasons (2010-14) with New Orleans. At 6-7, 265, Graham was an amazing target and athlete for his size.

Graham caught 386 passes for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns, averaging better than 10 touchdown receptions per season. He led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He caught 85 or more passes in four straight seasons. He averaged 77.2 catches for 950.4 yards per season. He played in four playoff games with 16 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Graham was named first team All-Pro in 2013 and made three Pro Bowls in five seasons (2011, 2013, 2014). He is still playing in the league, entering his 11th season.

Saints TE Hoby Brenner vs. Niners

Hoby Brenner (1981-93) was another third-round pick of New Orleans that worked out wonderfully.

Brenner arrived in 1981 and established himself immediately, earning a starting position which he would not relinquish for 13 seasons as an amazingly consistent performer.

Brenner was a devastating blocker for Bum Phillips and Jim Mora, clearing the path for a punishing running game, featuring 1,000 yard rushers in George Rogers, Rueben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard, among others.

Brenner was also sure-handed, a very good receiver, despite not possessing speed. Brenner is tied for seventh all-time in franchise history with 175 games played and he started 157 games.

Brenner started all 16 games in six different seasons. He caught 267 passes for 3,869 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Brenner was part of the first four playoff teams in franchise history. He had five catches for 74 yards in the playoffs. Brenner made the Pro Bowl in 1987, when the Saints had their first-ever winning season and playoff appearance.

Brenner was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2001.

Henry Childs played seven seasons for the Saints (1974-80). After arriving from Atlanta in 1974, he played in just one game for the Saints in 1974 before beginning to make his mark in 1975.

Childs was a superb receiver. He caught 207 passes for 3,224 yards and 27 touchdowns. Childs caught 50 or more passes in consecutive seasons in 1978 and 1979, when Archie Manning returned to the lineup healthy and when the Saints put together one of the best offenses in the NFL with the likes of Wes Chandler, Ike Harris, Tony Galbreath and Chuck Muncie.

In 1977, Childs caught nine touchdown passes, third most in the NFL, the sign of things to come.

In 1978, Childs caught 53 passes for 869 yards and four touchdowns and was named second team All-Pro by UPI.

In 1979, Childs made the Pro Bowl, catching 51 passes for 846 yards and five touchdowns. Childs was named first team All-Pro by Pro Football Weekly.

Childs was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1994.

Josh Hill has seemingly always been “the other guy” for the Saints at tight end.

Hill remains a constant stalwart for the Saints, having played seven seasons (2013-present) as he is set to enter his eighth season.

Hill has played in 103 games, starting 54. He has 108 catches for 1,024 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Hill has played in seven playoff games with 14 catches for 169 yards and 1 touchdown and he has been part of four playoff teams for the Saints.

Hill is a solid blocker at the point of attack and a dependable receiver as well. He will undoubtedly continue to add to his already impressive resume with a good team in 2020.

Like Hill, Tice was “the other guy” for the Saints at tight end but he was very good.

Tice played 10 seasons (1983-92) and was part of the turn-around for the franchise, part of the first four playoff teams in franchise history.

Tice played in 134 games, starting 57 games. Tice caught 158 passes for 1,603 yards and 15 touchdowns. Tice had four catches for 45 yards in the playoffs.

Tice was like having a third tackle for Bum Phillips and Jim Mora as he was huge (6-4, 242) and a terrific blocker at the point of attack but Tice, like Brenner, also had good hands.

Dave Parks was good in five years with the Saints with 149 catches for 2,254 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ben Watson was solid in four years in New Orleans with 148 catches for 1,587 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jeremy Shockey played just three years but had 139 catches for 1,460 yards and six touchdowns and he was part of the Super Bowl XLIV championship and caught what proved to be the game-winning touchdown pass in that contest.

Irv Smith and Larry Hardy did commendable, solid jobs over five and eight years, respectively.

Jared Cook could well make his mark if he continues on the path of his first season in New Orleans, when he caught 43 passes for 705 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019.

Honorable mention:
Dave Parks
Ben Watson
Jeremy Shockey
Irv Smith
Larry Hardy

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