The tight end in the NFL is very different from what it was 20 years ago. Tight ends have evolved the same way running backs have through the years. They are expected to be multi dimensional. While blocking is important for tight ends, it’s not nearly as important as catching the ball. The tight ends in today’s game blur the line between wide receiver and tight end. Below are some of the best tight ends heading into the 2018-2019 season.
The best of the best….
1: Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski has been at the top of the tight ends group for the last few years. If not for his propensity for injury, how many yards and receptions would he have? Gronkowski has missed 26 regular season games over the course of his career. Even with his injury troubles, he has over 7,000 yards receiving and over 440 receptions. Gronk already has a bid for top ten all time at the position. What does this season hold for him? With Brady entering the twilight of his career (or not who knows with that guy), Gronk will remain a focal point of the offense. He is 29 and with all the injuries he has sustained, how many years does he have left? The number one spot has been his for a few years now, when will he relinquish his throne?
2: Travis Kelce
The Chiefs huge target is in the perfect situation. With Patrick Mahomes starting this year, the young signal caller has one of the best safety blankets in the NFL. Travis Kelce is entering his 6th year and coming off of back to back 1,000+ yard receiving seasons. In 2017, Kelce set his career high with touchdown receptions with eight. With the addition of Sammy Watkins to the offense, the Chiefs tight end should find himself even more open than last year. The Chiefs offense has some serious potential especially, is Watkins can stay healthy. Kelce has shown the ability to be an elite receiving threat and more importantly, he has played in every regular season game since 2014.
3: Zach Ertz
The super bowl winning tight end has been the picture of consistency. Since 2014, Zach Ertz has had four different starting quarterbacks. Still, Ertz has managed over 700 yards receiving every year since 2014, despite the rotation under center. With Carson Wentz returning to the lineup and Frank Reich departing to Indianapolis in the off-season, we will see what role Ertz plays this season. Ertz running mate, Trey Burton, also left the defending super bowl champs for Chicago. Despite all this, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a career year from Ertz, barring injuries.
4: Greg Olsen
Although the injury last year slowed him down, he is still one of the elite tight ends in the game. It took Cam Newton one year to figure out who his best friend on the Panthers offense was and he hasn’t looked back since. From 2012 through 2016, the lowest receptions and yards total for Olsen was 69 and 843, respectively. Headed into the 2017 season Olsen had nine consecutive seasons with 16 games played and ten seasons with only two games missed. He would be higher on this list, but his injury and age may see Olsen slowing down, even if its just slightly.
5: Kyle Rudolph
While Kyle Rudolph’s best season was in 2016, he has a new quarterback who loves to throw the ball to his tight ends. Captain Kirk Cousins had good chemistry with Jordan Reed and when Reed was hurt, Vernon Davis. Since Cousins became the guy in 2015, his tight ends have put together monster numbers. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis alone combined for 196 receptions since 2015. Rudolph is a capable tight end and pairing him with Cousins could lead to a career year from Rudolph. By the end of the season, I fully expect Rudolph to be higher up this list.
The Next Five in line….
6: Jimmy Graham
With Jordy Nelson departing via free agency, Jimmy Graham will try to fill the hole left. Graham didn’t quite live up to his potential in Seattle, but if him and Aaron Rodgers can get on the same page, expect big things from Graham.
7: Evan Ingram
The rookie burst onto the scene for 64 receptions and 722 yards. The Giants receiver (basically) has a chance to improve on those numbers in just his second season. With the Odell Beckham Jr back around and Saquon Barkley at tailback, the young tight end could have spectacular matchups coming out of the slot.
8: Cameron Brate
The undrafted rookie has tremendous chemistry with Jameis Winston. Although Winston will miss the first three games due to his suspension, the tight end will still finish the year with solid numbers. Last year, Brate was a target of the Buccaneers offense in the red zone and that shouldn’t change this year.
Could have break out years…
9: David Njoku
Take one look at the starting quarterback and you know why David Njoku could be primed for a big season. Tyrod Taylor and Charles Clay had had a connection in Buffalo, I expect Njoku to break out big this season. With the Browns offense being suddenly loaded, the only question is how will the targets be shared?
10: George Kittle
With Jimmy Garoppolo getting his first full season at the reigns, George Kittle should be an important piece in the 49ers offense. In 2015, Kyle Shanahan led the Falcons to an astounding offensive season. Second in yards that year, behind Julio Jones, was tight end Jacob Tamme. Its no stretch to suggest Kittle is better than Tamme, time will tell.