The Arizona Cardinals are in a race that they cannot win at tight end. After a dominating 2009 season by the 49ers' Vernon Davis, he has catapulted himself to the top of the totem pole in not only the NFC West, but the entire league. Even the Seahawks are better at tight end right now, with the exception being the Rams, who haven't found an identity just yet. This all extends from the simple fact that the Cardinals haven't had a great tight end in decades and the Ken Whisenhunt/Kurt Warner offense hasn't relied on one. Let's see where they stack up.
- Vernon Davis - 965 yards and 13 touchdowns in an offense that was supposed to be run-based sounds impressive to me. You could say that Davis experienced his "breakout year" in 2009. After head coach Mike Singletary took over in 2008, there's been a noticeable change in Davis' attitude and play on the field. He became the leader of the team. He already possesses great blocking and receiving skills. Now he's applied the mental aspect of his game and it has showed. He's clearly the number one tight end in the NFC West.
- John Carlson - Obviously the second choice on our list is the Seahawks' John Carlson. Although his numbers declined from his rookie season, he managed to catch two more touchdowns on a relatively bad Seahawks' offense. Carlson is still young and is one of the up-and-coming young tight ends in the league. His combination of speed and athleticism makes him a difficult target to cover and he doesn't miss many games (32 games played in 32 games). He'll be Hasselbeck's security blanket next season.
- Anthony Becht - Even though I would prefer/believe Ben Patrick will be the starter next season, for now Becht is that man. It makes the most sense considering A.) He can block better for Matt Leinart, and B.) He's the better run-blocker. Becht almost didn't return this season after hearing offers from the Raiders and Seahawks, but knew where he belonged in the end. He's a vet with an abundance of experience and is the Cardinals best option ... for now.
- Daniel Fells - Who? Daniel Fells is the St. Louis Rams starting tight end, at least according to the current depth chart. Fells caught 273 yards and three touchdowns for the Rams last season and stands atop their ranks at the moment. He's 26-years-old and still has time to improve, but must do so sooner rather than later. The Rams are still rebuilding and can't afford to wait for Fells to develop into a dependable starter. If he doesn't, they have rookie 5th round pick Michael Hoomanawanui waiting in the depths.
With one tight end on the brink of NFL elite, another as an emerging talent, and two guys trying to make a living, the tight ends in the NFC West are an interesting unit to look out for in 2010. The Cardinals, in particular, have a rotation of tight ends they can implement next season. They also have Ben Patrick, who's waiting to break out and show what he's all about. What are your thoughts on the NFC West tight ends? Can Ben Patrick win the starting job in training camp this year?