New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown, Jimmy Graham, No. 2

Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, our New Orleans Saints coverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints' roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible - essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and obviously that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we'd love to hear it. Feel free to add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

Year 3, Age 25. Ht. 6-7, Wt. 265.

We're all so familiar with Graham's rise to stardom now that we risk taking it for granted. But it's worth re-stating the obvious: This guy just started playing football three years ago, and he's already developed into one of the most dynamic tight ends in NFL history.

Graham's first full year as the Saints' starter in 2011 was spectacular. He caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. He briefly broke the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end before New England's Rob Gronkowski passed him up minutes later.

Chances are, Graham will get another crack at the record before his career is up. After all, he's still new to the sport.

Defenses definitely will start devoting more attention and resources to Graham as he's clearly emerged as the Saints' top offensive weapon. But Graham saw a lot of that as last season went on, and he proved he could handle it just fine. As Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins says below, there's some skills that no defensive strategy can stop.

"He's just a pure athlete. There's a lot of stuff where he just has God-given talent that you can't stop. Most of the time, he's taller than everybody, longer than everybody, he can jump higher. And those are the things that, no matter how good your technique or your knowledge of the game is, those are things you just can't stop. Then when you pair him with a quarterback like Drew Brees or even Chase Daniel, it's hard to stop. Some plays that Jimmy makes, as a defense, you just have to live with it and know that as a defense you're just going to have to make them earn it. You've got to force him to make phenomenal plays all the time. He's a force of nature that you really can't stop."

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