Endzone Giants: Ranking the All-Time Best Tight Ends in NFL History

by | Feb 18, 2024 | Sports | 0 comments

Endzone Giants: Ranking the All-Time Best Tight Ends in NFL History

Data Updated as of February 18, 2024.

Huddle up football fans! Today, we’re talking about the big men who rumble down the field, breaking tackles, throwing blocks, and snatching impossible catches like the last candy bar in the candy shop – the tight ends! You might have your quarterback favorites or your standout receivers, but we’re here to appreciate the sometimes-unsung heroes of the gridiron. From Rob Gronkowski’s and Travis Kelce’s recent reigns of supremacy to the foundational excellence of Iron Mike Ditka, we’re covering the whole field.

This formula/ranking system uses stats including touchdowns, receiving yards, and championship titles. Our data is as solid as a well-executed block – these are the players who transformed a position and left an indelible mark on the sport.

Let’s get into it!

  • 1. Travis Kelce – TE Score = 14.29 (Era: 2010s) – Active
  • 2. Rob Gronkowski – TE Score = 13.66 (Era: 2010s) – Eligible for HOF in 2027
  • 3. Tony Gonzalez – TE Score = 9.98 (Era: 1995s) – HOF
  • 4. Antonio Gates – TE Score = 5.83 (Era: 2000s) – Eligible for HOF in 2024
  • 5. Jason Witten – TE Score = 3.57 (Era: 2000s) – Eligible for HOF in 2026
  • 6. Shannon Sharpe – TE Score = 3.30 (Era: 1995s) – HOF
  • 7. Ozzie Newsome – TE Score = 2.31 (Era: 1975s) – HOF
  • 8. Kellen Winslow – TE Score = 1.97 (Era: 1980s) – HOF
  • 9. Keith Jackson – TE Score = 1.69 (Era: 1985s)
  • 10. George Kittle – TE Score = 1.69 (Era: 2015s) – Active
  • 11. Jimmy Graham – TE Score = 1.57 (Era: 2010s) – Active
  • 12. Jay Novacek – TE Score = 1.51 (Era: 1985s)
  • 13. Dave Casper – TE Score = 1.47 (Era: 1970s) – HOF
  • 14. Mike Ditka – TE Score = 1.36 (Era: 1960s) – HOF
  • 15. Brent Jones – TE Score = 1.34 (Era: 1985s)

 

Hall of Fame Snubs

Between the line of scrimmage and the hall of fame, there’s a long, tough road. And some players make the journey without receiving the recognition they so clearly deserve. In this section of these all-time ranking articles, we spotlight the incredible talents that are still awaiting their gold jacket. Though this list may increase as the most recent retired tight ends become eligible (Gronk, Gates, Witten), there isn’t really a large pool of candidates from previous eras. To be fair, this is mostly because of how much the position has changed over the past 15 years. Simply, this current era is the golden age for Tight Ends in the NFL. However, based on stats, we do think this non-HOF tight end should be in the HOF:

Keith Jackson – TE Score = 1.69 (Era: 1985s) (Eligible Since 2002)

Jackson played 9 seasons with Philly, Miami, and Favre’s Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers. His numbers weren’t historic, but relative to the Tight Ends of the late 1985s, we have a top performer. Also, he put up a career high 10 TDs in his final Super Bowl winning season, so we’d agree that proves clutch-ness and longevity. Of his 9 seasons, he was selected to an All-Pro lineup 4 times and the Pro Bowl 5 times.

 

Rounding Out The TE Score – Ranking #16 to #30 (plus Other HOFers)

  • 16. Todd Christensen
  • 17. Riley Odoms
  • 18. Greg Olsen
  • 19. Vernon Davis
  • 20. Billy Cannon
  • 21. Ben Coates
  • 22. Jackie Smith (HOF)
  • 23. John Mackey (HOF)
  • 24. Dallas Clark
  • 25. Mark Bavaro
  • 26. Russ Francis
  • 27. Wesley Walls
  • 28. Jerry Smith
  • 29. Pete Retzlaff
  • 30. Charlie Sanders (HOF)

 

Summary: Closing Thoughts

In our journey through the NFL’s archives, the evolution of the tight end position shines. We’ve seen this role shift from the trenches to the spotlight, all thanks to the irreplaceable talent of these tight ends. From Ditka and Newsome’s groundwork in the early days, through Gonzalez, Sharpe, and Gates’ dynamic expansion, to Gronkowski and Kelce’s awe-inspiring reign in the current golden age, these giants have left an indelible stamp on the game.

Each player, whether scoring monster touchdowns like Gronk or showcasing grit like Ditka, embodies football’s spirit and each has earned their place in history. We raise a toast to these endzone giants who’ve made our beloved sport more electrifying, one unforgettable catch at a time.

Thanks for reading, let us know if you think anyone should or shouldn’t be on this list!

Also, check out our other All-Time NFL articles:

Link: UNCATCHABLE, MADE EASY: RANKING THE ALL-TIME BEST NFL WIDE RECEIVERS

Link: THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF RUNNING BACKS: THE ALL-TIME GREATS OF THE NFL

Link: FIELD GENERALS: THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF THE NFL’S GREATEST QUARTERBACKS

Link: ENDZONE GIANTS: RANKING THE ALL-TIME BEST TIGHT ENDS IN NFL HISTORY

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