Celebrating 5 years: Top 5 Tight Ends of BTN era

BTN will celebrate its fifth anniversary later this month. The big day is Aug. 30, to be exact. As a way to celebrate – not to mention kill time before the 2012 season kicks off – I’m spotlighting some of the great football careers during our time on the air. I’ll do it in the mold of “Big Ten’s Best,” our popular countdown show that returns this fall for another season of ranking the best in Big Ten history. My third list ranks the top five tight ends of the last five seasons, aka the BTN era.

Editor’s note: This list only includes players who competed during the 2007-2011 seasons, and it ranks the best careers. As for players who only played one or two seasons during the five-year period (i.e. Mike Hart), their career totals are considered but don’t always carry as much weight as guys who amassed all of their numbers during the era. NFL success and pro potential have no impact.

[BTN.com: Top 5 wide receivers | Top 5 running backs]

1. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin – One of the best tight ends to come out of Wisconsin, unofficially Tight End U, Beckum compiled back-to-back 900-yard receiving seasons, the second coming in 2007, when he hauled in 75 passes for 982 yards and six touchdowns. Beckum was an absolute nightmare of a matchup, and it’s a shame injuries forced him to miss seven games in his final season.
BTN era stats: 98 rec., 1,246 yards, 6 TDs (2006-08 career stats: 159 rec., 2,149 yards, 11 TDs)

2. Dustin Keller, Purdue – Watching Keller at Purdue, it didn’t take long to realize he could have been a very good wide receiver, if needed. In his final two seasons, the former Boiler totaled 124 receptions, 1,652 yards and 11 touchdowns. He saved his best season for the 2007 campaign, when he teamed with Dorien Bryant to form one of the Big Ten’s top one-two receiving punches.
BTN era stats: 68 rec., 881 yards, 7 TD (2004-07 careers stats: 142 rec., 1,882 yards, 16 TDs)

3. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin – Graham did what all players aim to do during their careers: he improved in every statistical category in all three of his seasons. And it’s not like he set the bar low in his first season, either, with 30 receptions for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers jumped to 51, 624, 7 in his final season (2009). Most impressive, Graham did his work with the following quarterbacks: Tyler Donovan, Dustin Sherer/Allan Evridge and Scott Tolzien, the 2009 Tolzien.
BTN era stats: 121 rec., 1,492 yards, 16 TDs

4. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern – Some will argue Dunsmore accumulated his stats as a result of the system he played in, but that’s not fair. The former Wildcat was a reliable, consistent and productive outlet for all three of his quarterbacks – C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka and Dan Persa. Also, Dunsmore, thanks in large part to a history-making four-touchdown game, won the inaugural Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year.
BTN era stats: 143 rec., 1,567 yards, 14 TDs

5. Tony Moeaki, Iowa – It’s tough to look at Moeaki’s career and not wonder what could have been if it weren’t for all of the injuries. An uberly talented target, Moeaki averaged only 8.4 games per season during his five years in Iowa City (he received a medical redshirt in 2007 after getting injured in Week 4). Still, Moeaki was clutch when he was on the field, hauling in 11 touchdowns on 76 career receptions. That’s the same number as Travis Beckum, only on 83 fewer receptions.
BTN era stats: 57 rec., 701 yards, 8 TDs (2005-09 career stats: 76 rec., 953 yards, 11 TDs)

Next five (in alphabetical order of school): Jeff Cumberland, Illinois; Kellen Davis, Michigan State; Charlie Gantt, Michigan State; Andrew Quarless, Penn State; Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

Who did I miss? Who would you have No. 1? Tweet me your thoughts (@BTNBrentYarina) or leave it as a comment below.

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.

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12 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (12 Comments)
hawkeye eddie on 8/16/2012 @ 1:33pm EST Said:

Dallas Clark honorable mention?

Chad on 8/16/2012 @ 1:35pm EST Said:

Wisconsin as tight end u? really? Love to see how many TE are in the pros compared to Iowa.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 1:37pm EST Said:

    Off the top of my head, Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks.

Bob W on 8/16/2012 @ 1:44pm EST Said:

It’s for the last five years. Clark obviously doesn’t qualify. And as far as TE U. I will take Iowa TE over Wisky any day of the week.

Stephen on 8/16/2012 @ 3:09pm EST Said:

Once again, I like your list. I am NU fan but wonder what Kendricks, Wisconsin stats looked like in comparison? He was an impressive looking athlete at TE and really shined in one bowl game I recall.

Cory on 8/16/2012 @ 3:40pm EST Said:

Beckum was phenomenal. Usually the best athlete on the field whenever he was playing. Splitting hairs between Wisconsin and Iowa at this point as to which is “Tight End U”. Both have had great players at the position, with Iowa’s probably having more overall success in the NFL. I’d probably give Wisconsin the edge for collegiate production. And they probably have a couple of future pros on their roster at the moment.

Bottom line, hard to argue against Beckum based on him in college.

Matt on 8/16/2012 @ 7:22pm EST Said:

Bob W you are just being a homer. The only reason he didn’t put Kendricks on this list is because he probably didn’t want to have 3 Badgers. The fact is Kendricks had over 600 yards and 5 touchdowns his senior season battling injuries. He absolutely dominated games and started for the Rams as a rookie. His senior season was was much better or at the least very comparable to everyone on this list, not to mention he was a great blocker in college as well. Wisconsin and Iowa are very comparable but saying you take one any day of the week over the other is ridiculous.

Matt on 8/16/2012 @ 7:23pm EST Said:

Oh and I forgot to mention we currently have the best TE in the league who will also be in the NFL in Pederson. So we can make just as good of a case for TE U as Iowa.

Jeff on 8/17/2012 @ 10:41am EST Said:

Johathan Hayes, Mike Flagg, Marv Cook, Austin Wheatley, Zeron Flemister, Dallas Clark, Scott Chandler, Alan Reisner, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Meyers, Brad Herman – all Iowa tightends with careers in the NFL. I believe you will notice several PRO BOWLERS in the list.
Wisconsin TE U – HARDLY. Oh an by the way the only tight end you will hear about this year in the B10 is CJ Fiedorowicz who just happens to be attending, yes, Iowa.

Nathan on 8/17/2012 @ 5:09pm EST Said:

I’m not gonna go back to hallowed antiquity like my brethren but TE University is in Iowa City, and the best Tight End in the Big Ten this year is in that same city. CJ erupts this season. Having said that, Lance Kendricks not being on this list seems silly. Moeaki would have been, would have been worthy of this list if not for his injuries but you shouldn’t make lists based on shoulda, woulda, and coulda’s. You get sillier the more I read. Next you’ll do one of the top DT’s from the era and not have Mitch King on it.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/17/2012 @ 5:22pm EST Said:

    Moeaki was very good, and he produced despite the injuries. It’s not always about receptions and yards. Touchdowns are more important. Moeaki turned a good percentage of his catches into 6 points, which is very big. Yes, Kendricks was awesome, and he was the next guy on my list.

Nathan on 8/17/2012 @ 5:38pm EST Said:

Hey Brent your wide receiver list is legit and no not just because there’s a hawkeye on it. Even on the three goofy lists prior to that one i do appreciate your willingness to take on all comments, even those challenging your mental acumen. Much respect on that front