Top-20 Bengals Players Of 2013: No.14 Tight End Jermaine Gresham

Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

We continue the countdown of our top-20 players with one of the most polarizing Bengals on the roster.

When the Bengals used a first round selection on Jermaine Gresham back in 2010, it marked only the second time that the team had done so in their history. That alone speaks volumes of what the staff though of the former Oklahoma Sooner--particularly when he was entering a not-so-tight-end-friendly Bob Bratkowski offense. Many heralded Gresham as the missing security blanket that Carson Palmer needed, and while that was true, other deficiencies caused that Bengals team in 2010 to crumble.

As Josh Kirkendall noted in a Friday article on the tight end, Gresham has been both productive and scorned by both coaches and fans. Some of that scorn has been rightfully earned, while some of it has been misplaced. Though he isn't the focal point of the offense, Gresham has been a productive offensive player for the Bengals in the last three seasons.

WHY HE RANKED HERE:

As Kirkendall noted, Gresham has two Pro Bowl berths to his name and has had the most productive statistical start in his three NFL seasons than any other Bengals tight end. The drops he has had aren't so much plentiful as they are critical, and no examples are more shining of this than the Wild Card rematch in January. He can dominate if and when he wants to, as we have seen numerous occasions where tacklers bounce off of him and he carries defenders on his back.

Gresham also has the ability to be graceful for his size, as we have seen a number of pretty one-handed grabs. He is a mismatch nightmare with his size and hands and should continue to be a productive player again this year.

WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE RANKED HERE:

Unfortunately for Gresham, he will always be compared to the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, as that is who the Bengals passed on to select Gresham. The good news here is that Gresham has been far more durable than "Gronk" in their respective careers, but Gresham has never come close to some of the numbers that his counterpart has put up. It's also important to note that Gresham's two Pro Bowl berths were born out of his alternate status, where unfortunate injuries to others and Super Bowl participation allowed him to earn trips to Hawaii.

And, for how graceful Gresham can look at times, he can also be a lumbering player who looks slow and has very little agility. There are also times where Gresham plays smaller than his size, be it by disappearing acts in the red zone, hearing footsteps from much smaller safeties when going across the middle, or having a ball jarred loose that a big guy like him should hang on to.

CONCLUSION:

We still expect Gresham to be a productive player in 2013, but his numbers may taper off some. This has to do with the talent behind him in the tight end group, which includes now-H-Back Orson Charles, as well as the possible emergence of Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard. Regardless, Gresham is still one of those core young players that the Bengals have on their radar to re-sign once his rookie contract expires. Like with many other young guys on this team, it's a big year for Gresham to make a statement.

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