EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Anthony Becht interview, fast-forward to 32:00)
Anthony Becht knows tight ends.
He played the position, was a first-round draft pick at the position, and now studies the position. So the 12-year NFL veteran feels comfortable describing himself as a “tight-end guru.”
“Not everybody can be one,” he said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com. “I came into the NFL as a complete tight end. A guy who can catch, can run, can pass protect … For me, I know the position, I love watching it and it’s just allowed me to grow within the framework of football.”
OK, then, so Becht should be qualified to evaluate today’s tight ends, right? We thought so, which is why we asked him to name the most “complete tight ends” in the game – individuals who, as Becht described himself, can catch, can run, and can pass protect. He named two, and, just a hunch, you’ve heard of them.
Up first, Tampa Bay’s Rob Gronkowski.
“He’s doing it at the line of scrimmage,” Becht said. “He’s pass protecting, he’s blocking … and it’s not safeties; it’s not the corner on the weak side. He’s blocking defensive ends, and he’s doing it well.
“He understands it. He’s got good technique. He’s not blowing guys off the ball, but he’s keeping guys in front of him and he’s taking away a huge part of what defenses lean on … which is that defensive end position. He sticks out to me because I have to watch and study those guys every week.”
But Gronk isn’t alone. Becht moved to his second choice, San Francisco’s George Kittle.
“I knew George a long time,” he said, “calling Iowa games when he first came in and became this kid who was going to be a weapon and wasn’t really acknowledged as a big-time tight end at Iowa. And the jump he’s made … he understands that to be a complete tight end and to do all the traits, stay on the field and be a guy (where) they don’t have to bring in an extra tackle has really elevated him.
“And, of course, (San Francisco coach) Kyle Shanahan has utilized his size and speed and made him a target. They force-fed him to become a gifted tight end, and he’s brought the physical and the attitude and the things you want to do.
“Those are two right off the top of my head. They do it at a different level. Gronkowski’s on the field for everything, and he was when O.J. (Howard) was there, and he’s now when O.J. is not. And he’s still running routes from a technician’s point better than a lot of tight ends throughout the league.”
Naturally, there are others that fans might nominate, with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce or the Raiders’ Darren Waller at the head of that class. It’s what Becht calls a wave of “route-running guys,” and he made sure to single out Kelce.
“(He) doesn’t have to block,” said Becht. “He’s not asked to block much. He can get in front of a guy. He doesn’t do it masterfully, but he’s a mismatch problem. And that’s kind of what teams are looking for right now.
“I promise you this: Teams want the complete tight end. They’re still looking for that guy, and when they find him that’s huge for any offense across the league. I don’t care if it’s spread, shot (gun), whatever you’re doing. They want those guys. And when they find them … and they’re hard to find … they’ll swallow them up.”