What are Tight Ends in Football? Best NFL Tight Ends All Time and 2022

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles

The tight end is very important to any football team’s offense and is a jack of all trades position. From being a blocker for the QB to catching touchdowns and even running the ball on rare occasions, the tight end is very versatile. It has evolved over the years and with players like Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez and Travis Kelce changing the way it’s played, and now there’s a new generation of players at the tight end position.

What is a Tight End?

Tight end’s are one of football’s only hybrid positions. They line up on the end of the offensive line and can either block for the offense or can catch receptions as a downfield receiver. The role in which they are used usually depends on the head coach or how skilled the player is. Offensive formations can also have multiple tight ends, either for more blocking or an all-out passing attack.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What is the body type of a Tight End?

Depending on his role, the tight end can be a jumbo wide receiver or a small offensive lineman. The average NFL tight end weighs 248 pounds, which is 50 pounds more than the average wide receiver but 50 pounds less than the average offensive linemen. Tight ends are agile but bulky, making the best ones near impossible to take down.

How has the Tight End position evolved?

Tight end is a position that has gone through multiple evolutions and is still evolving. In the 1950’s they existed as a niche position for players too big to be a wide receiver and too small to be a lineman. Browns coach Paul Brown helped to create plays for the new position and stars like Mike Ditka and John Mackey helped to popularize it.

In 1980, Kellen Winslow brought wide receiver-like prowess to the position, changing the way routes were drawn up for the position. Then players like Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, and Antonio Gates pushed the boundaries of speed and precision creating the modern Tight End.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

What Tight Ends were drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Like every position, the NFL Draft offered an opportunity for NFL teams to get a look at and become new homes for the next generation of tight ends. With names like George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, and Kyle Pitts being taken over the last few years, any of the players below can become one of the greats. Here’s the best tight ends taken in the 2022 NFL Draft:

  • Round 2 Pick 55: Arizona Cardinals select Trey McBride, Colorado State
  • Round 3 Pick 73: Indianapolis Colts select Jelani Woods, Virginia
  • Round 3 Pick 80: Denver Broncos select Greg Dulcich, UCLA
  • Round 3 Pick 101: New York Jets select Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
  • Round 4 Pick 106: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Cade Otton, Washington
  • Round 5 Pick 177: Detroit Lions select James Mitchell, Virginia Tech
  • Round 7 Pick 227: Minnesota Vikings select Nick Muse, South Carolina

Who were the best Tight Ends in the NFL in 2022?

NFL Tight End Leaders 2022






1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs





2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers





3. T.J. Hockenson, MinnesotaVikings





4. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens





5. Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars





6. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears





7. Pat Freiermuth, PittsburghSteelers





8. Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills





9. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles





Who are the best Tight Ends of all time?

The best tight ends of all time span many eras and play styles. That’s why it's so hard to pick the best considering the generational differences between them. With that being said, after accounting for stats, talent, and the era they played, here are the top six tight ends of all time.

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals

1. Travis Kelce

  • Kansas City Chiefs (2013-present)
  • Career Highlights: 2X Super Bowl Champion, 4X First Team All-Pro, 3X Second Team All-Pro, 8X Pro Bowl, NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
  • NFL Records: Seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards by a tight end (7), consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons by a tight end (7), receiving yards in a season by a tight end (1,416), seasons with 100+ receptions by a tight end (3), games with 100+ yards receiving by a tight end

Since being a third round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 NFL Draft, Travis Kelce has quickly cemented himself as not only the best tight end in the game today, but the greatest tight end in NFL history. Together with Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has put together some of the most impressive receiving stats of all time in both the regular season and the playoffs, oftentimes accumulating more yards than the best wide receivers in the NFL.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2. Rob Gronkowski

  • New England Patriots (2010-2018), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-2021)
  • Career Highlights: 4X Super Bowl Champion, 4X First Team All-Pro, 5X Pro Bowl, NFL receiving touchdowns leader (2011), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team
  • NFL Records: Most total touchdowns in a season by a tight end (18), most receiving touchdowns in a season by a tight end (17)

A pivotal piece of the New England Patriots dynasty with Tom Brady, Gronk is perhaps the most impressive physical specimen ever seen in the NFL. At 6’6” 265LBS, the future Hall of Famer was deadly in the red zone (92 TDs) and a complete nightmare matchup for opposing defenses in each of his 11 NFL seasons.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons

3. Tony Gonzalez

  • Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2008), Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013)
  • Career Highlights: Pro Football Hall of Fame, 6X First Team All-Pro, 4X Second Team All-Pro, 14X Pro Bowl, 2004 NFL Receptions Leader, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time team
  • NFL Record: Most career receiving yards for a tight end (15,127), most career receptions for a tight end (1,325)

One of the greatest players to ever play the game of football, Tony Gonzalez played a huge role in the making of the modern tight end that was heavily involved in the passing game. His records for most career receiving yards and most career receptions for a tight end will likely never be broken.

AFC Wild Card Game - Denver Broncos v Baltimore Ravens

4. Shannon Sharpe

  • Denver Broncos (1990-1999), Baltimore Ravens (2000-2001), Denver Broncos (2002-2003)
  • Career Highlights: 3X Super Bowl Champion, 4X First Team All-Pro, 8X Pro Bowl, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
  • NFL Records: Most receiving yards by a tight end (214)

The first tight end in NFL history to surpass the 10,000-yard mark, he ranks third in tight end receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Sharpe is regarded as one of the greatest players in NFL history, regardless of position.

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders

5. Antonio Gates

  • Los Angeles Chargers (2003-2018)
  • Career Highlights: 3X First Team All-Pro, 2X Second Team All-Pro, 8X Pro Bowl, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team

Antonio Gates’ career is even more incredible when you consider the fact that he was an undrafted free agent at one point in time. Over the course of his 15-year run with the Chargers, he climbed up to the No. 7 spot in career touchdown receptions, being the highest ranking tight end on the list.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys

6. Jason Witten

  • Dallas Cowboys (2003-2017, 2019), Las Vegas Raiders (2020)
  • Career Highlights: 2X First Team All-Pro, 2X Second Team All-Pro, 11X Pro Bowl
  • NFL Records: Most career NFL games by a tight end (271)

Witten ranks second in all-time career receptions and receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history, supporting his case as one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. Over the course of his 17-year career, he became a staple of America’s team and holds nearly all of the team’s tight end records.