Witten top young TE

Gil Brandt, probably the most respected talent analyst in the history of the National Football League, rates a former University of Tennessee standout as the best young tight end in the professional ranks.

That would be Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys. Witten's resume' certainly qualifies him for the honor. The Elizabethton native caught 35 passes for 347 yards as an NFL rookie in 2003. He added 87 grabs for 980 yards and six touchdowns in '04, then produced 66 catches for 757 yards and six more TDs in '05. Witten made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons.

Tennessee Titans standout Ben Troupe, who played his college ball at Florida, is listed as "also considered" at the tight end posiiton. Brandt did not consider players born before Jan. 1, 1981. This eliminated several high-profile standouts such as San Diego tight end Antonio Gates. Incidentally, Witten was born May 6, 1982.

Brandt earned fame during his days as personnel director for the Cowboys by locating obscure prospects from small colleges that other teams overlooked. Many of these raw gems developed into excellent NFL players, making the Cowboys into a dynasty and making Brandt look like a genius.

Now he shares his insights by writing columns for the NFL.com website. One of these columns – Gil Brandt's all under-25 team – is currently posted on CBS.sportsline.com.

Two players who starred for other Southeastern Conference schools also made Brandt's first-team all under-25 offense. They are Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Travelle Wharton (South Carolina) and Philadelphia Eagles guard Shawn Andrews (Arkansas).

Besides Troupe, three more SEC alumni earned "also considered" recognition. They are New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (Ole Miss), Tampa Bay running back Carnell Williams (Auburn) and Cincinnati Bengal offensive tackle Stacy Andrews (Ole Miss).

Manning is ranked behind Pittsburgh Steeler star Ben Roethlisberger, while Williams is listed behind Washington Redskins star Clinton Portis and Buffalo Bills standout Willis McGahee.

Brandt's all under-25 defense will be posted at a later date.

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