Top 100 NFL Players by Position: Tight Ends

Movie Quote of the Day:

“The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?”

– Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.

I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.

I’m finally getting back to offense. Today’s list involves tight ends. I’ve always defined tight ends as much more athletic offensive linemen that have the hands of receivers. Their main responsibility is to block defenders and catch passes on third downs or in the red zone. Tight ends aren’t known for having over 1,000 yards receiving, but now it’s not uncommon in today’s NFL. In today’s game, it’s become expected to have tight ends act more like receivers and open the middle of the field in the pass game. Here’s my list:

Rising Star: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

2014 stats: 58 receptions, 702 yards, and three touchdowns

Ertz

Ertz has been in the league for only two seasons. He’s appeared in every game since getting drafted, but he only has eight career starts. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have the talent, because he does. Philadelphia has two quality tight ends in Ertz and Brent Celek. Ertz has 94 receptions, 1,171 yards, and seven touchdowns in his career. He just has to wait his turn in Philadelphia. Celek just turned 30 in January; it won’t be too long before it’s Ertz’s time.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins

2014 stats: 24 receptions, 424 yards, and two touchdowns

Cameron

I don’t think Cameron gets enough credit. I hopped on his bandwagon in the 2013 season, his breakout season where he made the Pro Bowl. He never had a quality quarterback when he was in Cleveland and still put up decent numbers. Cameron struggled with injuries last season causing him to miss six games. He has 130 receptions, 1,600 yards, and 10 touchdowns in his career. He decided to sign with Miami during free agency in March. He’s finally got a decent quarterback to throw to him. I expect his production to increase.

Top 5 Tight Ends:

Thomas

5. Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars

2014 stats: 43 receptions, 489 yards, and 12 touchdowns

Thomas really turned heads in 2013; he came out of nowhere and became a star in Denver. Prior to 2013, Thomas had only appeared in nine games in two seasons and had one reception for five yards. Excluding that, Thomas has 109 receptions, 1,282 yards, and 24 touchdowns in his career. After a great 2013 season, he had a down year in 2014. Thomas is a 2x Pro Bowler (2013 and 2014). He signed with Jacksonville during free agency in March. If they know how to use him, I don’t think his production should drop too much.

4. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

2014 stats: 84 receptions, 1,008 yards, and six touchdowns

Olsen was decent when he was in Chicago, but he’s really flourished in Carolina. Ever since arriving in Carolina in 2011, Olsen has established himself as an elite tight end, producing 271 receptions, 3,207 yards, and 22 touchdowns in four years. He has 465 receptions, 5,188 yards, and 42 touchdowns in his career. Olsen made the Pro Bowl last season for the first time in his career. The Pro Football Writers of America named him on the All-NFC team last year, and Pro Football Focus named him All-Pro too.

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

2014 stats: 64 receptions, 703 yards, and five touchdowns

There was a time when Witten was the best in the NFL; he’s going to be in Canton one day. That day is coming soon since Witten is 33 years old, but that’s not slowing down his production. Witten is a 10x Pro Bowler (2004-2010, and 2012-2014), 2x First-team All-Pro (2007 and 2010), and 2x Second-team All-Pro (2008 and 2012). He has 943 receptions, 10,502 yards, and 57 touchdowns in his career. The only reason he’s not number one is because of age.

Graham

2. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks

2014 stats: 85 receptions, 889 yards, and 10 touchdowns

Graham is an absolute monster in the red zone, good luck covering him. Sean Payton did a fantastic job of using him in his offense in New Orleans. I used to consider him the best tight end in the NFL, but I realized that he’s just a pass catcher. He won’t block to save his life, I hope Seattle knew that when they traded for him in March. Graham is a 3x Pro Bowler (2011, 2013, and 2014), First-team All-Pro (2013), and Second-team All-Pro (2011). Graham has 386 receptions, 4,752 yards, and 51 touchdowns in his five NFL seasons.

Gronkowski

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

2014 stats: 82 receptions, 1,124 yards, and 12 touchdowns

Gronkowski was healthy for almost all of the 2014 and it was best season since 2011. Gronkowski won the Comeback Player of the Year award after tearing his ACL and MCL in 2013. Gronkowski is a 3x Pro Bowler (2011, 2012, and 2014) and a 2x First-team All-Pro (2011 and 2014). He has 308 receptions, 4,379 yards, and 54 touchdowns in his five NFL seasons. Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL because he’s the most complete tight end. He can block and is a threat in the red zone and on third downs.

All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: Strong Safeties

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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