The tight end position is a do-or-die type player. They need to block, run routes, catch the ball, and break tackles when they get it. Generally, tight ends are your quick slant guys who help convert third-down conversions. This also means they can be hot red-zone targets.
Certain teams use the tight end position as a game-time threat, while some teams don’t see as much production from the position. Here’s a look at the top ten tight ends going into this years season.
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Easily the most well known tight end in the league, Gronk is a crowd favorite in New England. At 6’6″, 265 lbs, Gronk has finesse, both in playing the game and in touchdown celebrations. The chemistry between QB Tom Brady and Gronkowski is almost flawless. Gronk missed most of the 2016 season with injuries but has been looking healthy enough to bring back some big game highlights. He only scored three touchdowns last season but had 12 in 2014 and 11 in 2015.
2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
There is a bit of a gap between the one and two spot on this list. Kelce is built like Gronk, but doesn’t see the end zone quite as much, averaging only five touchdowns in his three seasons as a starter. However, the Kansas City Chiefs have been calling his number more and more. Kelce had 1,125 receiving yards last season, 300 more than the previous two years. On top of that, Kelce has strong hands and knows how to hold onto the football. He had no fumbles on 85 receptions in 2016.
3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
There’s been a lot of hype around Jordan Reed during the offseason. Some analysts are even predicting he will be the number one performing tight end in the league. His receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns went down between the 2015 and 2016 seasons and it seems he has something to prove. Reed is young and has a lot of room to grow. He has already shown great athletic ability, especially in 2015 when he scored 11 touchdowns. Whether he shines or struggles, Reed will most likely stay in the top half of this list barring injury.
4. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Olsen is a seasoned veteran. This will be his 11th NFL season and if there’s anything to say, he’s consistent. He knows how to get open and is a good out when the Panthers can’t get their run game going. Olsen averages 5.2 touchdowns per season and his receptions and receiving yards have been on the rise since his rookie year in 2007. In the last three years, Olsen has received over 1,000 yards and, in fantasy football, those yards add up.
5. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy is newer to the Seahawks but has great potential. He’s still getting used to things in Seattle but is sure to have some big games this season. Graham had a great thing going with Drew Brees in New Orleans before being traded to Seattle in 2015. If Graham and Russell Wilson find a comfortable rhythm, they could be an outstanding duo on the field. When Graham first joined the Seahawks his receptions were cut in half, but they are slowly on the rise. He’s known to make big plays with the ball and at 6’7″, 265 lbs, he’s not easy to take down. Graham scored six touchdowns last year, and that number could easily rise.
6. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Eifert is a great player but it seems an unlucky one. He still makes our top ten list, but it’s a gamble with him. When you look at his stats it’s easy to see he flip flops between seasons. In 2013, his rookie season, he played all but one game, scored a few touchdowns, received for almost 500 yards and things looked promising. Injuries only allowed him to play 1 game in 2014 where he had 3 receptions and the season was over with. He worked hard to come back in 2015 and averaged a touchdown per game. Easily Eifert’s best season, 2015 showed us what he’s made of. Injury caught up with him again last season and he only started 8 games and scored 5 touchdowns. So if you believe in patterns, Eifert will have another breakout year this year… or he will struggle with injury again. Like I said, it’s a gamble.
7. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Bear with me here. Tight ends are bigger than wide receivers. Bigger targets are easier to hit. Younger quarterbacks often go for bigger targets. Marcus Mariota is still a young quarterback. Luckily for him, Delanie Walker is a seasoned veteran who’s more than capable to produce open looks in coverage and catch what’s thrown to him. As the Titans continue to figure things out as a team, the Mariota/Walker duo will continue to come up big in games. Of Mariota’s 45 career touchdown passes, 12 have been to Walker. They know it works, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
8. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota had a crazy run at the beginning of last season that baffled many people. Kyle Rudolph was a big help in those games by scoring a touchdown in three of those first five games. At 5-0, people began to wonder if the Vikings would go all the way, but coming out of their bye week, they lost four games in a row. However, through the ups and downs, Rudolph continued to shine. He scored four more touchdowns that season finishing with a total of seven. This was all during their Teddy Bridgewater/Sam Bradford quarterback struggles. Now that Bradford is officially behind center, who knows what Rudolph can accomplish.
9. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Phillip Rivers and the Chargers have been a tight end heavy team for years. Antonio Gates was one of the best in his prime. As Gates nears retirement, Hunter Henry steps in to fill the void. Henry had an amazing rookie season last year scoring eight touchdowns on only 36 receptions. Needless to say, Henry proved he can get the job done. Since he was a rookie last year, defenses didn’t quite know what to expect. They will be gunning for him this season and Henry will need to step up his game even more to have another great year.
10. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz amazed many in his rookie year behind center, and like I said before, young quarterbacks trust in their tight ends. Ertz had a decent 2016 season with four touchdowns on 78 receptions and 816 receiving yards. With Philadelphia’s slot-man, Jordan Matthews out of the picture now that he’s in Buffalo, Ertz will be an even bigger go-to target. The Eagles were in the shadows of the Cowboys and Giants in the NFC East last season, but the division is known to jump around quite a bit. If Wentz and Ertz can find a rhythm, the Eagles can fly higher than their current expectations.
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