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Best Tight Ends of the 2017-18 NFL Football Season
1. Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
To no one’s surprise, Rob Gronkowski maintains his status as the top tight end in the NFL this season. When healthy, there’s no better player in that position than Gronk. Since entering the league, Gronk leads the NFL in touchdown receptions with 68. Unfortunately for the former Arizona Wildcat, injuries have plagued his seven-year existence in the NFL. Gronkowski, who’s coming off yet another back surgery, hasn’t completed an entire 16-game season since 2011.
The Pats surely hope that Gronk has finally escaped the injury curse this year. The 28-year-old’s rare combination of size and athletic ability makes him a demon for opposing defenders in coverage. Five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady can attest to that fact. In the 86 games that he has played with Gronkowski, Brady has accumulated a 104.5 passer rating with a 65.5 completion percentage.
2. Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)
Greg Olsen has been the model of consistency not only for the Carolina Panthers, but also for tight ends in the NFL. Olsen’s 80 consecutive starts are the third longest in Carolina history – for any position. Olsen has played in 158 consecutive regular-season games as well, the second-longest streak among NFL tight ends behind Jason Witten’s 219 at Dallas. That record is something to behold considering Gronkowski, the no. 1 tight end on our list, has already missed 18 games (not including playoffs) in his career due to injury. Olsen has also been consistent with his great production. He ranks in the top 10 all-time in catches (622) and receiving yards (7,365) among tight ends. Last year, Olsen became the first TE in NFL history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
3. Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)
Travis Kelce just keeps getting better and better. The 27-year-old unleashed his true potential last season, leading all NFL tight ends in receiving yards with 1,125 and finishing second in receptions with 85. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, though, for Kelce who had a career-low four touchdowns last year after scoring five times in each of his first two full NFL seasons. To address this unexpected drop in scores, Kansas City coach Andy Reid has decided to use Kelce more inside the 20 in the upcoming campaign. Kelce caught a pass on fewer than 11 percent of the routes he ran when the Chiefs were inside the 20 last season.
4. Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks)
Entering the final year of his deal, Jimmy Graham feels primed for an even better season with the Seattle Seahawks. He overcame a career-threatening knee injury last campaign, finishing the year with 923 receiving yards, third-most among tight ends. The 2016 season saw Graham become the first tight end in Seattle history to record 100-plus receiving yards in back-to-back games. Graham’s in even much better shape this year as he has lost a whopping 20 pounds this past offseason. According to Graham, he already feels a hundred times better than last year. A speedy and healthy Graham will definitely bring shivers down opposing defenders’ spines this season.
5. Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys)
Jason Witten may be 35 years old but he’s still an asset to the Dallas offense as both a blocker and a reliable outlet for young quarterback Dak Prescott. That’s why Jerry Jones deemed it necessary to sign Witten to a lucrative four-year deal this past offseason. Witten’s 1,089 receptions are the most in Dallas history, and his 11,888 receiving yards are second only to Michael Irvin’s 11,904. He enters the 2017 season ready to extend incredible records for most consecutive games played (219) and started (163) in Cowboys history. And before you think he’s past his prime, Witten still posted 673 receiving yards last year on a Dallas team that ran the ball 499 times and threw it just 483 times.
6. Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins)
Head coach Jay Gruden has said it himself. Kirk Cousins may be the star quarterback but the Redskins’ offense runs through Jordan Reed. He caught 66 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. Reed’s per-game average of 5.5 catches ranked second among all NFL tight ends last year. The Redskins can ill afford those same numbers, though, with receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon now gone.
Gruden’s target for Reed this season is for him to replicate his 2015 numbers. He was dazzling that season, recording 952 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Quite concerning for Gruden, though, is Reed’s nagging foot injury. He has been on the physically unable to perform list with a big toe injury since the start of training camp.
7. Martellus Bennett (Green Bay Packers)
Martellus Bennett cashed in on his Super Bowl victory last season, signing a lucrative three-year, $20.25 million deal with the Green Bay Packers. Bennett definitely showed his worth during his lone season in New England, catching 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns. He stepped up big time in the absence of Rob Gronkowski who missed the final five games of the regular season and the whole playoffs with a back injury. Bennett has been a productive tight end throughout his career and we expect that to continue in Green Bay, where he will be playing alongside the great Aaron Rodgers.
8. Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans)
Even with the arrivals of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, tight end Delanie Walker still has an integral role to play for the Tennessee offense this coming season. The 32-year-old has seen at least 100 targets in each of the last three seasons and has collected a combined 17 receiving touchdowns during that span. Walker delivered his best season yet in 2016, recording a career-high seven scores last year. That’s quite astonishing considering the Titans finished sixth-worst in the NFL in passing yards per game (221.3) last season.
9. Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals)
Tyler Eifert is fit and ready to go for the 2017 season and Bengals fans are keeping their fingers crossed that his body will finally hold up for the entire 16-game schedule. Eifert has suffered an injury in each of his first four NFL pro seasons, missing a whopping 27 regular season games in the process. Can his luck finally turn around this year? Head coach Marvin Lewis certainly hopes so because Eifert’s one hell of a weapon when totally healthy. In 37 career regular-season games, he has caught 123 passes for 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns. Just two years ago in his most recent, healthiest season (2015), Eifert caught 13 touchdown passes in 13 games.
10. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)
Zach Ertz’s stock rose last season as he developed quite a partnership with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. He led the Eagles in receptions for the first time with a career-high 78 catches, falling just three short of tying Keith Jackson’s single-season franchise record for tight ends. 63 of Ertz’s 78 receptions came in Philadelphia’s final nine games as Wentz became more comfortable running the Eagles’ offense. We expect big things once again from Ertz who recorded 816 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season.
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