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  • Devan Flint

My Top 20 NFL Tight Ends

Updated: Aug 24

1. George Kittle

Regular Season Stats – 14 games

4th in Targets, 106

4th in Catches, 85

T-2nd in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 80.2%

3rd in Receiving Yards, 1,053

2nd in Receiving Yards Per Game, 75.2

T-7th in Receiving Touchdowns, 5

8th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 12.4

3rd in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 7.1

4th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 115.9

2nd in 1st Down Receptions, 53

7th in Best Drop Percentage, 1.9%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 2nd in Targets, 37

- 1st in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 78%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-1st in First Downs, 20

Red Zone

- 5th in Targets, 17

- 9th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 65%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 66.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 78.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs – 3 games

- 13 Targets, 8 Catches

- 62% Catch Percentage

- 16, 19, 36 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 2 Targets, 50% Catch Percentage

As both a huge Chiefs and Travis Kelce fan it pains me to say it but the best tight end in the NFL in my opinion is George Kittle. Kittle is a physical freak and an absolute monster on the field, combining his elite intangibles and blocking with game changing after the catch ability. He might not be the route runner Travis Kelce but since 2010 Kittle’s 9.9 yards after catch in 2018 leads the NFL and it is that explosive ability with the ball in his hands that saw him finish 3rd in the NFL with 26 15+ yard receptions. Since 2017 only two tight ends have more than 1,000 receiving yards after the catch, Kelce with 1,397 and Kittle with 1,748, there simply is no stopping Kittle in the open field, he can run past you, through you as well as making you miss with a league high 20 missed tackles in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. One of Kittle’s underrated traits is his hands, 80.2% catch rate is incredible for a receiver and to then see it only fall to 78% on 3rd-down is the reason he ranked 1st in Pro Football Focus receiving grade on 3rd-down, 91.9/100. While you can undoubtably say that Kyle Shanahan scheme’s Kittle open a bit within than offense it should also be noted that he plays in a run first offense who only 3 teams passed the ball less than in 2019 so for his numbers to be comparable to Kelce’s goes to show his talent and ability. Overall, there is a reason Kittle is expected to “destroy” the tight end market as analyst Daniel Jeremiah has suggested, when he steps on the field you get an athletic freak with unreal passion and energy who can line up as an extra offensive lineman on running plays as well as break open the game as a receiver. Kittle is unstoppable and will continue to push the boundaries of the tight end position.

2. Travis Kelce

Regular Season Stats – 16 games

1st in Targets, 130

1st in Catches, 97

6th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 74.6%

1st in Receiving Yards, 1,229

1st in Receiving Yards Per Game, 76.8

T-7th in Receiving Touchdowns, 5

T-6th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 12.7

25th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 4.2

3rd in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 116.5

1st in 1st Down Receptions, 67

26th in Best Drop Percentage, 5.9%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 5th in Targets, 31

- 13th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 55%

- 0 Touchdowns, 0 Interception

- 6th in First Downs, 13

Red Zone

- T-1st in Targets,

- 23rd out of 23 in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 37%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 77.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 64.9/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs – 3 games

- 22 Targets, 19 Catches,

- 86% Catch Percentage

- 134, 30, 43 Yards

- 4 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 7 Targets, 71% Catch Percentage, 4 First Down, 2 Touchdowns

You can make a very compelling argument that Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL, no one can dispute that he is the best route running tight end in the league and his numbers over the last 4 seasons are unmatched by current and previous players, in 2019 he became the first tight end in NFL history to have 4 consecutive seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, further his 6,367 yards through his first seven seasons shatters the NFL record for a tight end at this point in their career. Kelce has also made 5 straight Pro Bowls with 2 First team All-Pro’s in 2016 and 2018. Kelce was incredible in the Chiefs play-off Superbowl run proving that his route running savvy and athletic ability allows him to be great on the greatest stages. While Kelce may not be the receiver after the catch that George Kittle is, he still has 1,397 yards after the catch over the past 2 seasons, making him the only other tight end other than George Kittle to eclipse 1,000 yards after the catch. In my view Kelce is the best receiving tight end in the NFL and the stats show it, in 3 of the last 4 years Kelce has led the league in first down receptions, totalling 271, Zach Ertz is 2nd with 223. Even if you account for Kittle only being at his best for the last two years Kelce betters him 155 to 117. Travis also led league in 2019 in 15+ yard receptions amongst tight ends with 38 and since 2017 he has 100, 2nd place has only 69. To go along with Kelce’s route running he has explosive hips allowing him to catch and turn up field very quickly which very few other tight ends possess, none of those at the level of Kelce. Since 2016 there has been no better tight end against man coverage, Kelce has a Pro Football Focus grade of 93 against man coverage which ranks 1st amongst tight ends with 500 or more routes ran against man coverage, second, Ertz has a grade of 85.1, proving that Kelce is by far the best route running tight end in the NFL. While Andy Reid’s offensive scheme undoubtedly gives Kelce more opportunities than most tight ends, he also has to share catches with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman all of whom warrant significant targets. Kelce is also an incredibly underrated blocker in my opinion which I believe is due to him being the 2nd best tight end in the league for the majority of his career, hence, he is compared to the best in the game, Gronkowski and Kittle, both of whom are historically great blockers at the position. Kelce’s RedZone and 3rd & 4th down numbers dropped in 2019 but I have no doubt he will return to his 2018 form which saw him catch 67% of his 27 targets for 10 touchdowns in the RedZone and 73% of his 37 targets for 24 first downs on 3rd & 4th downs. So while I don’t believe Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL right now I don’t believe it is as clear cut as a lot of people make it out to be.

3. Zach Ertz

Regular Season Stats – 15 games

2nd in Targets, 128

3rd in Catches, 88

14th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 68.8%

4th in Receiving Yards, 916

4th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 61.0

T-4th in Receiving Touchdowns, 6

T-21st in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 10.4

T-31st in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 2.9

14th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 101.6

4th in 1st Down Receptions, 50

T-15th in Best Drop Percentage, 3.7%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 4th in Targets, 32

- 7th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 66%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- 3rd in First Downs, 17

Red Zone

- T-1st in Targets, 19

- 18th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 47%

- T-4th in Touchdowns, 5

Blocking

- 62.0/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 53.9/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs – 1 game

- 4 Targets, 2 Catches,

- 50% Catch Percentage

- 44 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 0 Targets

Zach Ertz has been one of the most consistently productive tight ends over the past 5 seasons, not once has he fallen below 800 receiving yards. Ertz does not have elite athletic ability and is not a threat after the catch but with the exception of Kelce he is the best route running tight end in the NFL, Ertz has great hands and runs his routes to precision allowing him to be an great safety blanket for quarterbacks as well as a number one receiver. His precise routes allowed him to form an unmatched chemistry with his quarterback Carson Wentz which played a huge part in Ertz breaking Jason Witten’s record of 110 catches in a single season in 2018 with 116. Ertz also leads the league amongst tight ends in contested catches since 2018 with 55 proving he has some of the best hands in the league. While Ertz does a lot of damage in the short range, he does have the ability to go deep when required. As a whole Ertz is a very complete tight end, he just lacks the athleticism of guys like Kittle and Kelce to go along with his polished skill set.

4. Darren Waller

Regular Season Stats – 16 games

3rd in Targets, 115

2nd in Catches, 90

4th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 78.3%

2nd in Receiving Yards, 1,146

3rd in Receiving Yards Per Game, 71.6

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

T-6th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 12.7

T-6th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 6.3

7th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 109.6

3rd in 1st Down Receptions, 53

18th in Best Drop Percentage, 4.3%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-7th in Targets, 26

- T-9th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 62%

- 1 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- 7th in First Downs, 12

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- T-10th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 64%

- T-15th in Touchdowns, 3

Blocking

- 57.5/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 58.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Despite a rocky start to his NFL career with 2 suspensions due to substance abuse Darren Waller had a huge breakout year in 2019 making the 2018 Hard Knocks Star not only a feel-good story but a legitimate weapon at tight end for the Las Vegas Raiders. What is most impressive about Waller’s development is that he only began playing at tight end in 2016 meaning he has still only played 20 games at the position. As a former wide receiver Waller has a lot of the tools to beat defenders and at 6ft 6, 255 pounds he causes mismatches all over the field with his game changing speed and size. While he is not the polished route runner of a Kelce or Ertz he still ranked 2nd amongst tight ends in 15+ yard receptions with 29, so if Waller can continue to progress as a route runner I wouldn’t be surprised to see him surpass Ertz in tight end rankings across the league.

5. Mark Andrews

Regular Season Stats – 15 games, 4 started

5th in Targets, 97

7th in Catches, 64

19th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 66.0%

5th in Receiving Yards, 852

7th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 56.8

1st in Receiving Touchdowns, 10

5th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 13.3

T-21st in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 4.5

5th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 115.1

5th in 1st Down Receptions, 45

29th in Best Drop Percentage, 7.1%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 1st in Targets, 43

- T-4th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 67%

- 3 Touchdowns, 1 Interception

- T-1st in First Downs, 20

Red Zone

- 6th in Targets, 15

- 15th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 53%

- 1st in Touchdowns, 8

Blocking

- 61.1/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 66.5/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs – 1 game

- 7 Targets, 4 Catches

- 57% Catch Percentage

- 39 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 2 Targets, 50% Catch Percentage , 1 First Down

Mark Andrews made the jump in his second year from 50 targets to 98, finishing the season with 852 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns and a trip to the Pro Bowl. What makes Andrews breakout year so impressive is that he was able to total these stats while only playing in 41.36% of offensive stats. While this can be accounted to Andrews not being the best blocker playing in a run heavy scheme it is still impressive that Andrews was able to put up the numbers he did. The primary knock in Andrews is that his inability to be a good blocker means he only sees limited snaps however that could also be because the Ravens had three viable tight end options and now with Hurst gone, I expect Andrews to see an increased work load in the run game. I believe Andrews fits the Ravens offensive system perfectly and assuming Lamar Jackson evolves as a passer I believe Andrews numbers will rise as well, as he proved to be Lamar’s favourite target in the big moments and in the RedZone.

6. Dallas Goedert

Regular Season Stats – 15 games, 9 started

11th in Targets, 78

9th in Catches, 58

7th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 74.4%

10th in Receiving Yards, 607

13th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 40.5

T-7th in Receiving Touchdowns, 5

T-19th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 10.5

T-9th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 5.7

13th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 101.8

10th in 1st Down Receptions, 33

25th in Best Drop Percentage, 5.7%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-10th in Targets, 21

- 20th out of 21 in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 48%

- 1 Touchdown, 1 Interception

- T-9th in First Downs, 10

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- T-3rd in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 73%

- T-8th in Touchdowns, 4

Blocking

- 71.6/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 78.9/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 8 Targets, 7 Catches

- 87.5% Catch Percentage

- 73 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 2 Targets, 100% Catch Percentage, 1 First Down

Dallas Goedert is so often overlooked when it comes to ranking the NFLs best tight ends simply due to playing second fiddle to and being overshadowed by Zach Ertz’s Pro Bowl accomplishments the past two seasons. However, over both seasons Goedert has proven that he is great tight end who would be the starter on the majority of NFL teams. Goedert is one of the most well-rounded tight ends in all of football, he provides mismatches as a receiver with his route running and after the catch ability at his size and frame whilst also being a great blocker. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team slowly shift the workload more towards Goedert in the coming season and thereafter and I’m all for it, at only 25 Goedert still has plenty of room to grow and has the athletic and blocking ability Ertz simply doesn’t have.

7. Tyler Higbee

Regular Season Stats – 15 games

7th in Targets, 86

6th in Catches, 69

T-2nd in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 80.2%

7th in Receiving Yards, 734

10th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 48.9

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

T-17th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 10.6

T-9th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 5.7

9th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 109.0

8th in 1st Down Receptions, 36

9th in Best Drop Percentage, 2.2%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 34th in Targets, 9

- 22nd in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 56%

- 1 Touchdown, 0 Interceptions

- T-27th in First Downs, 4

Red Zone

- T-1st in Targets, 19

- 2nd in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 74%

- T-15th in Touchdowns, 3

Blocking

- 63.6/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 63.1/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

With Darren Waller and Mark Andrews breakout seasons in 2019 Tyler Higbee flew under the radar, despite finishing the season with a healthy 734 receiving yards Higbee did not see many targets until Week 13 onwards in which he totalled 522 of his 734 yards averaging 104 yards a game over the 5-game stretch. Given his play at the end of the year and Brandin Cooks departure I believe he will see more targets and have a more important role in the Rams’ offense in 2020. Like most of the tight ends already mentioned Higbee causes mismatches at 6ft 6 with his speed and his lack of usage up until the 2019 season can more be attributed to the Rams offensive weapons than instead Higbee’s ability. While I’m not sure Higbee’s ceiling is much higher than his 2019 numbers he is undoubtably a top 10 tight end given his ability to block at a high level and be a threat in the passing game.

8. Evan Engram

Regular Season Stats – 8 games, 6 started

14th in Targets, 65

13th in Catches, 44

18th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 67.7%

15th in Receiving Yards, 467

6th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 58.4

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

T-17th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 10.6

T-9th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 5.7

11th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 103.8

T-18th in 1st Down Receptions, 23

19th in Best Drop Percentage, 4.4%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 19th in Targets, 17

- T-14th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 53%

- 1 Touchdown, 0 Interceptions

- 20th in First Downs, 5

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- 18th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 45%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 67.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 50.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

If Evan Engram could stay healthy I believe we would be looking at one of the NFL’s star tight ends, however, ever since being drafted in 2017 he has been an injury liability missing 14 out of 48 games and only starting 25 of those 34 games played some of which can be accounted for being banged up. Despite his injury trouble when on the field Engram has been a dangerous receiving weapon for the Giants, his 4.42 speed causes mismatches and you will find it hard to find another tight end faster than him as Vernon Davis the fastest ever tight end at combine recorded 4.38. Engram is also a good pass blocker which is rare in receiving tight ends of his skillset. If healthy in 2020 I believe him could be a big X-Factor in the Giants’ offense opening up the middle of the field. However, that is the issue, ‘if’ he is healthy, his injury trouble similar to Hunter Henry are why I have them ranked lower than some, but when healthy Engram is undoubtably one of the league’s best tight ends he just needs to work on staying on the field.

9. Hunter Henry

Regular Season Stats – 12 games

12th in Targets, 74

10th in Catches, 55

8th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 74.3%

9th in Receiving Yards, 652

8th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 54.3

T-7th in Receiving Touchdowns, 5

10th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 11.9

30th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 3.0

2nd in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 117.6

7th in 1st Down Receptions, 37

23rd in Best Drop Percentage, 5.3%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-14th in Targets, 19

- 8th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 63%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-9th in First Downs, 10

Red Zone

- T-9th in Targets, 12

- T-7th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets,

- T-8th in Touchdowns, 4

Blocking

- 57.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 56.8/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Hunter Henry is one of the NFL’s best when healthy, but he simply can’t stay on the field and has become one of the league’s biggest what if stories. When fully healthy Henry draws comparisons to prime Greg Olsen with his speed and frame as well as his route running and good hands. However, Henry has missed 23 games in 4 years including a torn ACL in 2018. The best ability is availability and Henry isn’t close to having that. The Chargers placed the franchise tag on Henry in the 2019 offseason and while both parties have expressed interest in getting a long-term deal nothing was worked out so Henry must know going into a contract year that he has a chance to really cash in. While his quarterback play may not be at the level of those listed above him, one of a young quarterbacks best friend’s is a security blanket in the form of a tight end, hence, assuming Henry stays healthy which is a big if I expect him to have a good year in 2020.

10. Jared Cook

Regular Season Stats – 14 games, 7 started

T-15th in Targets, 62

T-14th in Catches, 43

T-11th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 69.4%

8th in Receiving Yards, 705

9th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 50.4

2nd in Receiving Touchdowns, 9

1st in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 16.4

8th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 5.9

1st in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 140.1

11th in 1st Down Receptions, 32

27th in Best Drop Percentage, 6.2%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-10th in Targets, 21

- 17th out of 21 in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 52%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-11th in First Downs, 9

Red Zone

- T-20th in Targets, 10

- T-16th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 50%

- T-4th in Touchdowns, 5

Blocking

- 44.7/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 41.7/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 5 Targets, 5 Catches

- 100% Catch Percentage

- 54 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 1 Target, 100% Catch Percentage, 1 First Down.

Although Jared Cook is most known for his game winning side-line catch courtesy of an all-time throw by Aaron Rodgers in the divisional-round game of the 2016 playoffs he has proven over the last two years that he is still one of the leagues best tight ends at the ripe old age of 33. Cook has made back to back Pro Bowls the past two seasons as well as the best two years of his career. Despite his athleticism dwindling as he has aged, he still finished 4th amongst tight ends in 2019 for 15+ yard receptions with 24, and since 2017 he ranks 3rd with 64 according to Pro Football Focus. Cook also saw a career high of 10.8 yards per target in 2019 playing in New Orleans offense. Cook has proven to be a reliable target in the passing game and since 2016 only Ertz (85.1) and Kelce (93.0) have a higher Pro Football Focus receiving grade with 500 or more routes runs against man coverage with a grade of 82.5/100. The main knock against Cook for most of his career is he is not a very good blocker and that showed again in 2019. Heading into 2020 I expect Cook’s numbers to decline slightly due to the addition of Emmanuel Sanders and getting Alvin Kamara back to full health as well as slight regression as he continues to age, even with that said I still expect Cook to be a reliable targets for Brees in one of the NFL most explosive offenses.

11. Austin Hooper

Regular Season Stats – 13 games, 10 started

6th in Targets, 93

5th in Catches, 75

1st in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 80.6%

6th in Receiving Yards, 787

5th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 60.5

T-4th in Receiving Touchdowns, 6

T-19th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 10.5

T-21st in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 4.5

6th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 114.5

6th in 1st Down Receptions, 41

5th in Best Drop Percentage, 1.0%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-17th in Targets, 18

- T-4th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 67%

- 1 Touchdown, 0 Interceptions

- T-11th in First Downs, 9

Red Zone

- 4th in Targets, 18

- 13th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 56%

- 3rd in Touchdowns, 6

Blocking

- 65.0/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 56.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Austin Hooper is in my opinion one of the most overrated players in the NFL, whilst I can’t argue that Hooper has been productive and has become increasingly productive each year it’s how he gets his production that makes him overrated in my view. Hooper has got his production by finding soft spots in the defense more than any other tight end since 2016, 75.5% of his receiving yards have been on targets defined as holes in zone or underneath the defense according to Pro Football Focus. Whilst this is not a negative necessarily when paired with his inability to win against man coverage it becomes a real issue. Since 2016 only 10 tight ends have run 500 or more routes against man coverage according to Pro Football Focus and Hooper ranks 10th in PFF receiving grade with 56.8/100, putting him behind the likes of Witten, Graham and Rudolph all of whom are not viewed as great tight ends, and when you extend it to 250 or more routes he ranks 30th out of 41 right between Lance Kendricks and Darren Fells according to Pro Football Focus. Hooper is not a particularly great blocker either so overall, I don’t see how he can be ranked any higher or why the Browns made him the highest paid tight end in NFL history this offseason. With that said he is still productive and will likely continue to be in the Browns stacked offense playing within Stefanski’s tight-end heavy scheme but until he is able to beat man coverage consistently, he cannot be any higher in my tight end rankings.

12. Rob Gronkowski

2018 Regular Season Stats – 13 games, 11 started

12th in Targets, 71

13th in Catches, 47

15th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 66.2%

6th in Receiving Yards, 682

6th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 52.5

T-17th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

2nd in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 14.5

18th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 3.9

13th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 99.6

6th in 1st Down Receptions, 35

12th in Best Drop Percentage, 4.2%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-12th in Targets, 22

- 21st out of 23 in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 50%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-10th in First Downs, 10

Red Zone

- T-18th in Targets, 8

- 35th in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 38%

- 1 Touchdown

Blocking

- 60.1/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 19 Targets, 13 Catches

- 68.4% Catch Percentage

- 25, 79, 87 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns, arguably the Super Bowl winning play

- 3rd & 4th Down – 7 Targets, 57% Catch Percentage, 3 First Downs

Rob Gronkowski is in my opinion far from his prime but will still be very serviceable on big plays due to his chemistry with Tom Brady. Although the 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players opinions ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler compiled ranked Gronkowski the 4th best tight end in 2020 I just don’t see it. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that coming off a year of retirement in which Gronkowski has seemingly got leaner and lost weight that he will be any better than the Gronk we saw in 2018, who was not by any means great. Gronk has been an all-time blocker throughout his career hence I expect him to repeat his high-level blocking in 2020, while Gronk may be sharing snaps with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate there’s is no doubt that in the RedZone and 3rd downs Tampa Bay and Brady will look to Gronk to make big plays, so although Gronk may not have great numbers in 2020 I believe he will have a big impact on the Buccaneers offense in the big moments.

13. Hayden Hurst

Regular Season Stats – 16 games, 4 started

37th in Targets, 38

35th in Catches, 30

7th in Catch Percentage with over 30 Targets, 78.9%

T-28th in Receiving Yards, 349

37th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 21.8

T-33rd in Receiving Touchdowns, 2

T-14th in Yards Per Reception with Over 30 Targets, 11.6

T-17th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 4.9

6th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 30 Targets, 122.5

30th in 1st Down Receptions, 16

T-1st in Best Drop Percentage, 0.0%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-31st in Targets, 10

- T-7th in Catch Percentage with 10 or more Targets, 70%

- 0 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-19th in First Downs, 6

Red Zone

- T-27th in Targets, 8

- 38th in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 38%

- T-39th in Touchdowns, 1

Blocking

- 72.1/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 51.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 6 Targets, 4 Catches,

- 66.7% Catch Percentage

- 53 Yards

- Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 1 Target, 100% Catch Percentage, 1 First Down

In my opinion Hayden Hurst is going to be an immediate upgrade for the Falcons who wisely allowed Austin Hooper to hit free agency. Despite only starting 4 games out of 16 this past season I believe he showed the skillset to excel at the position with a bigger workload which he will get in Atlanta. Hurst is a very well-rounded tight end; he blocks well whilst also being a good receiving threat. Hurst creates mismatches at 6ft 5, 265 lbs due to his speed which makes him difficult to cover for linebackers and safeties. Atlanta’s quarterback Matt Ryan summed up Hurst’s impacts perfectly:

"He is for sure one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I've ever played with, He's a mismatch problem, he's going to create separation and win in different ways than those guys did."

Ryan’s mention of Hurst’s ability to ‘create separation’ is what in my opinion makes him an upgrade over Hooper. Hurst’s ability to win against man coverage is a huge boost to the Falcons offense as with Julio and Ridley on the outside Hurst will see single coverage the majority of the time. Hurst also has great hands, catching 78.9% of his targets as well as dropping none. Overall, I expect Hurst to have a great year in 2020 with the Falcons which will shoot him up tight end rankings and prove the 2nd round pick the Falcons gave up to get him well worth it, however, given his smaller workload up to this point in his career to rank him any higher would be un just to guys who have proven their production consistently.

14. Eric Ebron

Regular Season Stats – 11 games, 2 started

27th in Targets, 50

T-31st in Catches, 31

25th out of 27 in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 62.0%

24th in Receiving Yards, 375

16th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 34.0

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

9th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 12.1

T-15th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 5.0

27th out of 27 in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 80.0

25th in 1st Down Receptions, 20

35th in Best Drop Percentage, 9.6%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-9th in Targets, 25

- T-12th in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 60%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-9th in First Downs, 11

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- 14th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 55%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 59.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 67.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Eric Ebron never quite lived up to his 10th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft but he saw a resurgence in his careerafter signing for the Colts in 2018, with Andrew Luck under centre Ebron put up career numbers, 750 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on course to making his first career Pro Bowl. However, in 2019 Ebron saw what appears to be a huge statistical regression falling to 375 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, but in fact Ebron’s yards per route run actually increased form 2.12 in 2018 to 2.19 in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus which ranks him in the top 8 tight ends in both seasons. Ebron is also 5th in Pro Football Focus receiving grade amongst tight ends since 2016 with 500 or more routes against man coverage, proving that despite his struggles with pass blocking and drops (9.6% in 2019) he is still a big threat as a receiver. Ebron’s regression from 13 touchdowns to 3 is likely to be somewhat down to his own injury struggles in 2019 as well as the loss of Andrew Luck to retire with whim Ebron has elite chemistry with in the RedZone. However, Ebron’s new quarterback in 2020, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 92 RedZone passing attempts in his past two healthy seasons so Ebron could see a resurgence in his RedZone productivity in 2020. Overall, Ebron still has pass blocking and drop issues that have been a problem his entire career but the Steelers have Vance McDonald in their tight end room who perfectly fits with Ebron as he is not a great run blocker but a good pass blocker. So, with that said I expect Ebron to have a good year with the Steelers which could potentially see him reach his 2018 heights once again.

15. Noah Fant

Regular Season Stats – 16 games, 11 started

17th in Targets, 59

18th in Catches, 40

17th in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 67.8%

13th in Receiving Yards, 562

15th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 35.1

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

2nd in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 14.1

1st in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 8.3

16th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 94.0

T-15th in 1st Down Receptions, 24

32nd in Best Drop Percentage, 7.6%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-10th in Targets, 21

- T-17th out of 21 in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 52%

- 1 Touchdown, 1 Interception

- 19th out of 21 in First Downs, 6

Red Zone

- T-24th in Targets, 9

- 44th out of 44 in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 11%

- T-39th in Touchdowns, 1

Blocking

- 27.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade

- 45.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade

Noah Fant is a freak athlete at the tight end position. At 6ft 4, 249 he ran 4.50 at the 2019 NFL Combine which is 0.01 second slower than Dalvin Cook, the same as Kenny Golladay’s time and faster than Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon’s times which really allows you to understand just how fast he is, then when you partner that with his size, frame and strength he is an instant mismatch for defenses. While his rookie campaign was nothing to shout about and he proved to be pretty useless on 3rd downs and in the RedZone, George Kittle had 43 catches for 515 yards and 2 touchdowns and Gronk had 42 catches for 546 yards as well as 10 touchdowns, both of whom jumped to 80+ catches for 1,300+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in year 2. While its unlikely that Fant will have the development between year 1 and 2 that both Kittle and Gronk did there is a definite trend in tight end production where they become a lot more productive in their 2nd or 3rd year in the league. My main knocks on Fant are than in his rookie season he didn’t prove himself to be a very capable blocker or great route runner, however, if he can become a better route runner allowing him to win in man to man coverage he will provide Denver with a 4th receiver capable of getting separation and really open up that offense.

16. Jonnu Smith

Regular Season Stats – 16 games, 14 started

31st in Targets, 44

26th in Catches, 35

5th in Catch Percentage with over 40 Targets, 79.5%

19th in Receiving Yards, 439

29th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 27.4

T-19th in Receiving Touchdowns, 3

8th in Yards Per Reception with Over 40 Targets, 12.5

2nd in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 7.8

4th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 40 Targets, 121.5

T-30th in 1st Down Receptions, 16

20th in Best Drop Percentage, 4.5%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-50th in Targets, 5

- 6th in Catch Percentage with 5 or more Targets, 80%

- 0 Touchdowns, 1 Interception

- T-50th in First Downs, 1

Red Zone

- T-35th in Targets, 6

- T-3rd in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 83%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 43.5/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 52.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 9 Targets, 6 Catches,

- 66.6% in Catch Percentage

- 9, 12, 38 Yards

- 1 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 3 Targets, 67% Catch Percentage, 1 First Down

Jonnu Smith is in my view the most underutilised tight end in the NFL, he might not be the best route runner, but he has shown the ability to get open and make contested catches, but where he is truly unlocked is once the ball is in his hands. Smith is the most fluid runner I’ve seen at the tight end position, and once the ball is in his hands defenses can’t catch him or bring him down, hence ranking 2nd in yards after catch per reception. Why Jonnu doesn’t get a larger workload is baffling to me, in 2018 Smith averaged 12.9 yards per reception and in 2019, 12.5, while when you look at his year stats they don’t look great, over 3 years Smith has been targeted 104 times, caught 73 balls for 854 yards and 8 touchdowns which is good production for a tight end. Tennessee’s offensive scheme and system doesn’t seem to utilise Smith due to the run heavy play action scheme, assuming he hits free agency in 2021 I think it would be very interesting to see how he produces in another system.

17. Kyle Rudolph

Regular Season Stats – 16 games

T-29th in Targets, 46

19th in Catches, 39

1st in Catch Percentage with over 40 Targets, 84.8%

T-25th in Receiving Yards, 367

35th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 22.9

T-4th in Receiving Touchdowns, 6

28th in Yards Per Reception with Over 40 Targets, 9.4

T-17th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 4.9

2nd in NFL Passer Rating with Over 40 Targets, 139.5

T-15th in 1st Down Receptions, 24

T-1st in Best Drop Percentage, 0.0%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-20th in Targets, 16

- T-2nd in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 75%

- 3 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-11th in First Downs, 9

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- T-3rd in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 73%

- T-4th in Touchdowns, 5

Blocking

- 59.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 57.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 10 Targets, 6 Catches,

- 60% Catch Percentage

- 31, 4 Yards

- 1 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 5 Targets, 60% Catch Percentage, 2 First Downs

While Kyle Rudolph is currently most known for his uncalled offensive Pass-Interference on the Vikings game winning 3rd and Goal touchdown against the Saints in the 2019 Wild Card Match-Up he is a good tight end in his own right. In 2019 Rudolph saw his targets significantly drop from his usual 80+ to 48, despite his drop in targets 2019 was in fact one of Rudolph’s best years in terms of efficiency. Rudolph was great on both 3rd downs as well as in the RedZone. Although Rudolph is not particularly fast or the best route runner his 6ft 6, 265lb frame allows his win jump balls and contested catches. Rudolph was more of the traditional tight end who is more of a safety blanket with secure hands in 2019. Rudolph showed the extent of his secure hands by leading the league in catch percentage in 2019 with 84.4%. While Rudolph will continue to see his touches split between himself and young developing tight end Irv Smith Jr I expect him to continue to be a consistent and trustworthy target in the RedZone and big moments for Minnesota.

18. Irv Smith

Regular Season Stats – 16 games, 7 started

T-29th in Targets, 46

T-23rd in Catches, 36

6th in Catch Percentage with over 40 Targets, 78.3%

33rd in Receiving Yards, 311

42nd in Receiving Yards Per Game, 19.4

T-33rd in Receiving Touchdowns, 2

T-30th in Yards Per Reception with Over 40 Targets, 8.6

28th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 3.8

12th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 109.3

28th in 1st Down Receptions, 18

8th in Best Drop Percentage, 2.1%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-35th in Targets, 8

- T-8th in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 75%

- 0 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-27th in First Downs, 4

Red Zone

- T-20th in Targets, 10

- T-5th in Catch Percentage with 10 or more Targets, 70%

- T-24th in Touchdowns, 2

Blocking

- 64.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 65.4/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Play-Offs

- 3 Targets, 3 Catches

- 100% Catch Percentage

- 0, 39 Yards

- 0 Touchdowns

- 3rd & 4th Down – 1 Target, 100% Catch Percentage

Irv Smith Jr. flew under the radar in the 2019 draft and season due to the young stars Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, however, he proved in limited snaps in 2019 that he is capable to be a starting tight end in the NFL. Similar to his counterpart in Minnesota Smith has great hands dropping only 2.1% of his passes which ranked 8th best in the NFL whilst also catching 78.3% of his targets, a number while hardly fell when targeted on 3rd downs and in the RedZone. What makes Smith a potential great tight end is the fact he truly is a complete tight end. At 6ft 2, 242 lbs Smith provides quickness and agility with the ball in his hands, he can get separation in man coverage and what elevates him amongst a lot of receiving tight ends in my opinion is his great blocking ability in both the run and pass game, this ability partnered with his receiving ability is what I believe with elevate him past Kyle Rudolph in the depth chart in 2020 and see slightly more snaps come his way. Due to the Vikings run first system and snap sharing with Rudolph, Smith might not be the most productive tight end in statistical terms in 2020 but that does not stop him from becoming a great tight end in my view.

19. T.J. Hockenson

Regular Season Stats – 12 games, 7 started

20th in Targets, 56

30th in Catches, 32

26th out of 27 in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 57.1%

T-25th in Receiving Yards, 367

24th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 30.6

T-33rd in Receiving Touchdowns, 2

T-13th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 11.5

T-6th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 6.3

T-18th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 88.9

T-26th in 1st Down Receptions, 19

13th in Best Drop Percentage, 3.4%

3rd & 4th Downs

- T-26th in Targets, 12

- 30th out of 33 in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 50%

- 2 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-19th in First Downs, 6

Red Zone

- T-31st in Targets, 7

- T-35th in Catch Percentage with over 5 Targets, 43%

- T-39th in Touchdowns, 1

Blocking

- 35.2/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 60.8/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Coming out of the 2019 draft the 9th overall pick T.J. Hockenson was predicted to have a big season for Detroit, however, injuries derailed Hockenson’s season after an outstanding debut in which he caught 6 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, meaning he was only able to play in 12 games, and he wasn’t truly healthy for those games either. Hockenson is undoubtedly a great prospect who can play all three downs for Detroit due to his route running, sure-handedness and run blocking ability. One of the main knocks on Hockenson was his strength going into his rookie campaign however all reports and recent images have shown that over the offseason he has put on some serious muscle. While I expect Hockenson to be a great tight end in the future he has not proven his ability yet so to have him any higher yet would be overhyping in my opinion, that is not to say he will not have a good season in 2020, in fact similar to Fant and Smith I expect him to take the usual trend amongst tight ends and elevate his play a long way in his second year.

20. Mike Gesicki

Regular Season Stats – 16 games, 5 started

10th in Targets, 89

12th in Catches, 51

23rd out of 27 in Catch Percentage with over 50 Targets, 63.8%

12th in Receiving Yards, 570

14th in Receiving Yards Per Game, 35.6

T-7th in Receiving Touchdowns, 5

15th in Yards Per Reception with Over 50 Targets, 11.2

29th in Yards After Catch Per Reception, 3.2

15th in NFL Passer Rating with Over 50 Targets, 100.5

14th in 1st Down Receptions, 25

T-1st in Best Drop Percentage, 0.0%

3rd & 4th Downs

- 6th in Targets, 27

- 21st out of 21 in Catch Percentage with over 15 Targets, 44%

- 0 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions

- T-11th in First Downs, 9

Red Zone

- T-13th in Targets, 11

- T-20th in Catch Percentage with over 10 Targets, 45%

- T-8th in Touchdowns, 4

Blocking

- 66.6/100 in Pro Football Focus Pass Blocking Grade,

- 48.3/100 in Pro Football Focus Run Blocking Grade,

Rounding off my top 20 is Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, Gesicki made the usual jump from year 1 to year 2 in Miami finishing 2019 with 570 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, while those stats alone look good Gesicki is in my opinion slightly overrated. As a receiver Gesicki may not have dropped a pass but he didn’t hall in a great percentage of his targets and was especially poor in the RedZone and on 3rd downs, Gesicki also had close to zero impact after the catch. So, while his 6ft 6, 250 lb frame causes mismatches for defenses with his 4.54 speed shown in the 2018 NFL Combine he is not the same athletic receiver with the ball in his hands as Noah Fant or Jonnu Smith. Gesicki is still developing as a run blocker but is a very serviceable pass blocker. What makes Gesicki a potential breakout star in 2020 as he was in 2019 is that the Dolphins have no other playable tight ends on their roster giving him the full workload, especially as a receiving tight end.



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YPRR – PFF

PFF Receiving Grade when targeted vs single coverage – PFF

Targets, Catches - PFF

Catch Percentage - PFF

Receiving Yards - PFF

Receiving Yards Per Game – Pro Football Reference

Receiving Touchdowns - PFF

Yards Per Reception - PFF

Receiving Interceptions - PFF

Fumbles - PFF

NFL Passer Rating When Targeted With Over 50/80 Targets - PFF

Yards After Catch Per Reception - Pro Football Reference

Drop Percentage - Pro Football Reference

3rd & 4th Downs – Targets, Catches, Catch Percentage, Touchdowns, First Downs – Sharp Analytics

1st Down Receptions – Sharp Analytics

Red Zone -Targets, Catches, Catch Percentage, Touchdowns – Sharp Analytics

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