As many fans know, NFL Network is currently processing its second Top 100 Players List, a list voted on by NFL players to decide who the best football players in the world truly are. Only five tight ends are on the list, which to me, isn't enough. As the position becomes more and more important in a passing league, I believe there should have been more. This prompted me to create my own list of the Top 10 tight ends in the NFL. The list is based on current performance, as well as career retrospectives. These are my own opinions.
Heath Miller is still going despite his age, and still going strong. He's been the constant in Pittsburgh's offense the past decade. A fan favorite and a prototypical Pittsburgh Steelers tight end, Miller provides both "security blanket" throws for Ben Roethlisberger as well as the ability to go deep. He's also a solid blocker.
Owen Daniels is the forgotten link in a highly productive chain of offensive skill players for the Texans. In a line that involves Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Matt Schaub, it's easy to underestimate what Daniels brings to the table. Daniels is a very underrated athlete, because what many notice about him first is his size.
I have a hunch that in a few years time, two-tight end sets are going to be the norm in the NFL. Hernandez is an important part of the potential change. Despite being the No. 2 tight end on his own team, he still provides a change of pace at the position. He's quicker than he looks, stronger than he looks, and is a great red zone target, not to mention his insane versatility.
Finley has battled injuries his first few years in the league, but he should be entering his prime right about now. What's scary about Finley isn't necessarily what he's done, but what he potentially could do. He's a freak athlete. Too fast for linebackers, too big for defensive backs. The classic mismatch. Now all he needs to do is, well, do it.
Before his injury riddled 2011 campaign, Gates was widely considered the best tight end in the game. Much like Finley, Gates is a huge mismatch because of his athleticism. He has incredibly soft hands to go along with a workhorse mentality. He never takes his foot off the gas and is basically a wide receiver in a tackles body.
5. Tony Gonzalez - Atlanta Falcons
By far, Gonzalez is the best tight end to ever play the position. He's wrapped up every significant record and is almost a sure-fire hall of famer. He's slowed down just a bit due to aging, but he's still a huge threat to any defense that takes him lightly. He's an all-around football player. He can block, receive, and is also a great leader with a high football IQ.
Eagles fans know all too well how good Jason Witten is, and has been for some time now. He plays with a motor that seems to never die. Hard-nosed, tough, experienced and smart. He almost never seems to drop a pass, and he's been a Top 5 tight end pretty much every year he's been in the league.
It took Davis a few years to get on his feet in the NFL. Everyone knows of the infamous "I want winners" press conference former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary held that was aimed at Davis. In 2009, he went to his first Pro Bowl and things began to turn around. In the 2011 playoffs, on an offensive squad with little firepower, Davis took over and showed just how good he can be. He's as fast as many wide receivers, he's got soft hands, and most importantly, he's got the heart and determination that cannot be coached.
This guy is a freak of nature. At 6'7, Graham cannot be guarded by anyone, at any position. To go along with his beastly height, Graham can run and jump like Calvin Johnson. He's a touchdown machine and he's a great target no matter where he lines up on the field. Graham seemingly came out of nowhere to become a huge part of a record-breaking offensive attack in New Orleans.
1. Rob Gronkowski - New England Patriots
In 2011, Rob Gronkowski had, statistically speaking, the greatest year for a tight end in the history of the NFL. He not only break the tight end single season touchdown record, but he led the entire NFL (at all non-QB positions) in receiving touchdowns. "Gronk" as he is often referred to as, is quite simply a monster. It takes more than one, and usually two, defenders to take him down. He can block with the best of them, and he's deceptively fast. Gronkowski rarely drops passes and he always leaves everything he has on the field. He is the best tight end in the NFL.