In today's NFL, where passing often reigns supreme, tight ends are arguably just as important as wide receivers. (And not only because at least one of the game's top TEs is eager to "destroy" his position's market with a lucrative contract.) So many recent Super Bowl winners have boasted top-flight production from their big-bodied targets, from the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles to the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs.
With that in mind, we decided to rank all eight NFL divisions according to their TE power. This is an assessment of each division's collective TE group, meaning every single player at the position was factored into the pecking order. As you might expect, the projected starters -- some of whom cracked our list of top 10 TEs entering 2020 -- carried the most weight in these rankings. In fact, only definitive starters are listed for each team below, unless they have split workloads recently or are in an open competition for a starting spot entering the season.
Which division is loaded at TE? It turns out just about every one has a little bit of juice. But here's how we'd stack them for 2020:
8. AFC East
Mike Gesicki (Dolphins), Chris Herndon (Jets), Dawson Knox (Bills), Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Matt LaCosse (Patriots)
There's a lot of "what-if" here. Gesicki came on strong in 2019 with 50 catches and five scores, but he still needs another step forward to be considered top-10 material. Herndon flashed as a rookie and is probably underrated entering a big year for Sam Darnold, but he's coming off a season in which he missed all but one game due to injuries and an early suspension. Knox, meanwhile, is a decent prospect who averaged almost 14 yards per catch as a rookie but should trail at least three others in targets. The Patriots, meanwhile, are taking multiple swings after granting Rob Gronkowski's Tampa relocation, but they've got no surefire play-maker.
7. NFC North
Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr. (Vikings), T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James (Lions), Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet (Bears), Jace Sternberger (Packers)
If this were 2016, the North might be near the top of the list, but Rudolph and Graham -- once among the league's best -- are both at different stages in their careers. Graham still has the body to be an impact red-zone target but really fell off in Green Bay, while Rudolph remains trusty but is unlikely to regularly eclipse 500 yards if Smith Jr. and new WR Justin Jefferson step up. In Detroit, Hockenson and James should be a solid duo if healthy. But Chicago is a grab-bag of middling or unproven talent, and the Packers are putting a lot of stock in Sternberger, who missed all of 2019, or a 36-year-old Marcedes Lewis to replace Graham.
6. AFC South
Jack Doyle (Colts), Jonnu Smith (Titans), Tyler Eifert (Jaguars), Darren Fells (Texans)
Make no mistake: This is a solid No. 6 on the list, and our first real sign of evidence that TE groups across the NFL are pretty promising. Doyle has never posted gaudy numbers but is as reliable as they come when healthy, and he's got a motivated Trey Burton reunited with Frank Reich backing him up. Smith, 24, is a safe bet to break out in 2020 as an emerging target in a run-first Titans offense. Eifert is obviously an injury concern but played all 16 games in 2019, finally has fresh scenery and should benefit from working with Gardner Minshew. Fells, meanwhile, is older and won't ever be a big-play machine but is a solid red-zone matchup.
5. NFC South
Rob Gronkowski (Buccaneers), Jared Cook (Saints), Hayden Hurst (Falcons), Ian Thomas (Panthers)
This division's TE ranking is pretty much make-or-break because of Gronk. The ex-Pats star hasn't played a full season since 2011 and sat out a full year of football, but with Tom Brady throwing passes, he's bound to get opportunities in an already talented offense; it's safe to bet on big touchdown marks here. Cook isn't getting younger, either, but in a loaded Saints attack, he's been productive -- a longtime trend for his career. Hurst couldn't seize starting chances in Baltimore, but at least he'll get plenty of targets in Atlanta. The rebuilding Panthers don't really contribute much to this spot, but that speaks to the swaying power of the other starters.
4. NFC East
Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert (Eagles), Evan Engram (Giants), Blake Jarwin (Cowboys), Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle (Washington)
The Eagles offer one top-five TE in Ertz and a borderline top-10 talent in Goedert, with both veterans a sure bet to combine for more than 1,000 yards and something like 10 scores. Their integral role in Philly's offense really lifts this group, which gets pretty dicey starting with Engram. The Giants' 25-year-old starter has been boggled by injuries and seen his numbers decline each season, but the talent and upside are still there. If things click, we're talking about three top-10 TEs between just the Eagles and Giants. Both Dallas and Washington have a collection of mid-tier, secondary targets, though Ron Rivera could try to force-feed Thomas.
3. AFC North
Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle (Ravens), Austin Hooper, David Njoku (Browns), Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald (Steelers), Drew Sample, C.J. Uzomah (Bengals)
This division is chock-full of either quasi-starters or open competitions, with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincy all likely to rotate between TEs. The collective floor of this group is higher than all but our top-ranked division, though. Andrews may benefit from Lamar Jackson's MVP passing, but so what? He was both reliable and a big-play threat in 2019, when he only started four games. Hooper is probably underrated after ascending each year in Atlanta, and even if Njoku leaves, the Steelers have their own duo of quality starters, with Ebron due for a rebound as a Ben Roethlisberger red-zone target.
2. NFC West
George Kittle (49ers), Tyler Higbee (Rams), Greg Olsen (Seahawks), Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold (Cardinals)
For as exciting as the Kyler Murray-Kliff Kingsbury show should be in Arizona, the Cardinals don't have a whole lot at TE. Thankfully, the rest of the division delivers: Kittle is the closest thing to a No. 1 WR playing TE, and the combination of his athleticism and role in San Francisco's run-heavy offense ensure he'll remain one of the most dangerous play-makers in the league. Higbee isn't necessarily a special talent, but no one can deny his chemistry with Jared Goff down the stretch in 2019. Olsen, meanwhile, couldn't have landed in a better spot teaming up with Russell Wilson in Seattle, where, even at 35, he should produce.
1. AFC West
Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Darren Waller (Raiders), Hunter Henry (Chargers), Noah Fant (Broncos)
They could rename this division the AFC TE, because it's far and away the top dog here. You could cut away all the backups, and the four-team starting lineup alone is enough to justify their spot. If Kelce isn't the best in the game, he's a hair behind Kittle, boasting four straight 80-catch, 1,000-yard seasons as Patrick Mahomes' favorite target. Waller could be due for regression after a monster breakout, but you also don't catch 90 balls and 80 percent of your targets by accident. Henry has an infamous injury history but is bona fide Pro Bowl material when he's on the field. And Fant, 22, had a promising 2019 with an even brighter future ahead.