Blog Entry

Position rankings: tight ends

Posted on: July 15, 2010 12:26 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2010 3:29 pm
A. Gates makes a TD catch against Cincinnati last year (Getty). Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on tight ends.

Josh Katzowitz's top five

5. Vernon Davis, 49ers

4. Dallas Clark, Colts

3. Jason Witten, Cowboys

2. Antonio Gates, Chargers

1. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

To pick a top-five list of tight ends, you can go the easy route or you can get it right. It’d be easy to sit back, click on last year’s receiving stats and pick the tight ends who had the most catches and/or touchdowns. But it’s not just about pass-catching ability. You also have to block the defensive end, linebacker or blitzing safety. Duality is important. You can make a lot of money catching passes as a TE, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily top-five in my eyes.

Gonzalez isn’t only top-five currently; he’s top-five all time. Heck, he might be No. 1 all-time, and even though he’s 34, he’s found new life with the Falcons. He’s been catching and blocking well since 1997.

Gates has grown into his TE role. He’s 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds – who can defend him? Not a linebacker – he’s too fast for him. Not a safety – he’s too big for him. Who then? Defenders have to hope that maybe the plantar fasciitis from which Gates is suffering will slow him.

I really like Witten. He blocks well in the run game, he catches a higher percentage of the passes that are thrown to him than just about any other tight end and he’s made the Pro Bowl six years running.  Dallas Clark had 100 receptions last year. That’s just impressive. Vernon Davis has great blocking skills to go with his ’09 78-catch, 13-touchdown season. The No. 5 spot was between him and Kellen Winslow, but ultimately, I like Davis’ consistency just a little more.

Andy Benoit's top five

5. Dallas Clark, Colts

4. Owen Daniels, Texans

3. Vernon Davis, 49ers

2. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

1. Antonio Gates, Chargers

Tight end is one of the most difficult positions to rank. We’re basically in agreement on Gates and Gonzalez. Gates might be the greatest mismatch exploiter in the NFL. And you’re right about Gonzalez’s blocking. Vernon Davis is a monster athlete. He’s not the most natural all-around receiver – changing direction as a route runner and tracking off-target passes can challenge him at times – but he is far and away the best seams weapon in the sport. Mike Singletary has called Davis the best blocking tight end he’s seen. That’s a little hyperbolized, but only a little.

Most people will think I’m a joke for leaving Witten off. To be honest, I feel like a joke. But Clark is a lynchpin in arguably the best offense in football, and I can’t have a top five list without Daniels. He has become the best pass-catching tight end in football. Privately, I’ve heard a few well-known, universally-respected NFL analysts say he is THE best tight end – period. He is coming off major knee surgery, though.

I’m going to give you a prediction: by this time next year, every intelligent football observer will have Packers tight end Jermichael Finley No. 1 on their list. Finley is Gates with more size and athleticism.

Josh’s rebuttal

So, you’ll see my Bobbie Williams, my Jon Stinchcomb and my Manny Lawson, and you’ll raise me a Jason Witten. A bold move, my friend. Obviously, I don’t agree with you excluding Witten – at the very, very least, I’d pick him over Clark – but I don’t think you’re a joke. Maybe a pun that isn’t very funny, but not a joke. Honestly, I think Daniels is a sturdy pass-catcher, but his blocking is too much of a factor (or a non-factor) for me to consider him a top-five guy.

Andy’s final word

I’m fine with criticism of Daniels’s blocking, but in Houston’s system, it really doesn’t matter. Since we’re on the topic, I’ll take this opportunity to give props to Broncos veteran Daniel Graham, who is far and away the best blocking tight end in the NFL. And Kellen Winslow, who Josh mentioned earlier, is the league’s best route-running tight end.

To anyone out there who feels the urge to say “Hey! What about Brent Celek?!” or “Hey! Aren’t you forgetting Visanthe Shiancoe!?”, save it. Both players are classic examples of guys who benefit from having stars around them. Celek gets to operate against linebackers on just about every snap, and Shiancoe is primarily Brett Favre’s dumpoff option.

I’ve also noticed that Steeler fans are particularly sensitive about Heath Miller. Yes, Miller has soft hands and he’s incredibly sound fundamentally, but he’s also the fourth option in Pittsburgh’s offense. Just to finish things off, don’t try to sell Chris Cooley, either. Josh and I both put a better version of Cooley on our list, called Dallas Clark.

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: February 2, 2012 3:07 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: February 1, 2012 1:23 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 3, 2012 8:36 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 11:17 am

Position rankings: tight ends

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Since: May 20, 2010
Posted on: July 20, 2010 5:29 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

Personally, I think Gonzo's best years are behind him. While the future is now in Green Bay with Jermichael Finley, I totally agree with another poster that Finley is going to tear this league apart. The guy is a monster, the only thing that is going to possibly hold him back is going to be the coaching staff if they don't get creative with this guy.

I see him breaking every T.E. record for the Packers, and possibly the league too seeing as he's only turned 23 and he's barely in his 3rd. season. The kid is big 6'5 247 and runs like a receiver too. If the Packers didn't have so many pass catchers I could easily see him going for a thousand yards in a season..Yes, expect big thangs from Jermichael.

Since: Oct 31, 2007
Posted on: July 20, 2010 7:31 am

Position rankings: tight ends

Jermichael Finley???? hello?  Everyone knows he's going to blow up this year.

Since: Jul 12, 2010
Posted on: July 16, 2010 2:40 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Dec 17, 2009
Posted on: July 16, 2010 2:37 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

Dallas Clark is better than both Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The guy is consistantly reliable when called upon, finds ways to create space, has the hands of a WR and blocks like a lineman. His performance is a key reason why the Colts consistantly have a high powered offense while Gonzalez is part of an inconsistant passing system and Gates is a major player in an offense that can be relied upon to choke every year. Hell, the argument could be made that Owen Daniels is better than one, if not both of them. Bad call guys, bad call.

Since: Aug 27, 2006
Posted on: July 16, 2010 1:12 pm

Position rankings: tight ends

Gonzales, Gates and Witten are equal. Gonzo gets the nod because he is superhumanly consistent and durable, do not like him in Atlanta though, they did not utilize him enough in that offense. Gonzo is the all time statistical leader in every category so he is the greatest ever. He gets the 1a. Gates is 1b and Witten is 1c.

Clark and then Owens in my opinion but Finely is on the verge of stardom, the sky seems the limit with this guy. Vernon Davis is improving and young, one more great year from him and he lands the 5 spot.

There are many other talented guys out there like Miller, Cooley, and Brent Celek! Cooley and Celek could both produce career years this year. Celek is an unstoppable beast! and Cooleys multidimensional talents and clever heady play is likely going to mesh well with DNabb, definitely a 90 catch season coming if DNabb stays healthy.

A couple more steady Gonzo years though and I dont see anybody ever catching up with his stats due to his consistency, durability and longevity.

Since: Sep 15, 2009
Posted on: July 15, 2010 10:55 pm

Shiancoe was good before ya paid attention to him

I'm not at all arguing that Shiancoe should be top 5, but in regards to the "rebuttal" section where you said:

“Hey! Aren’t you forgetting !?”, save it. Both players are classic examples of guys who benefit from having stars around them. ...and Shiancoe is primarily ’s dumpoff option.

Check the stats or watch old footage, Shiancoe has been a good TE for many years. Maybe you only PAY ATTENTION TO HIM now that he is "primarily Brett Favre's dumpoff option," as you so eloquently put it.

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