Gronkowski scored three touchdowns in the win, which means he now holds the NFL's single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end. It's amazing to think that Gronkowski is just 22 years old. In watching the second-year pro dominate this season, it's obvious he's become one of the game's elite. He just may be the most valuable weapon that Tom Brady has to work with.
Gronkowski has 65 catches for 928 yards and 14 total touchdowns. He's recorded a touchdown in each of his last five games, and he's had at least two touchdowns in three of those games. He's also had 86 or more receiving yards in seven of his 12 games, and his blocking ability is equally as impressive.
Simply put, Gronkowski's been incredible since entering the league last season. But there's also a number of other talented tight ends who can make a case to be considered the NFL's best.
Jimmy Graham, for example, is to New Orleans what Gronkowski has been to New England. Entering Sunday night's tilt with the Lions, Graham has 67 catches for 957 yards and eight touchdowns. At 6-foot-6 (the same height as Gronkowski), Graham is a physical specimen and a huge target for quarterback Drew Brees. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark four times this season, and he's recorded a touchdown in six of his 11 games.
Then, of course, there's a trio of tight ends who have done it for years and whose production continues to be there.
Antonio Gates has battled injuries this season and last, but he's still a dynamic tight end and Philip Rivers' favorite target. Gates has averaged over nine touchdowns a season since 2004, while reaching the 1,000-yard mark twice and the 900-yard mark five times. He racked up a career-high 1,157 receiving yards in 2009, and he just may be the most athletic tight end the game has ever seen.
Jason Witten, meanwhile, has been a staple in the Cowboys' offensive attack. He entered this season with at least 1,000 yards in three of the last four seasons, and he appears well on his way to hitting that number again this year. He's also caught at least 94 passes three times and hasn't missed a game since 2003.
And who could forget Tony Gonzalez? At 35 years old, Gonzalez's most productive days might be behind him, which is really saying something considering the level he's still playing at.
Gonzalez continues to move his way up the all-time ranks. He entered Sunday 12th on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list with 13,093 and second on the all-time receptions list. His 1,128 receptions trails only Jerry Rice. Both marks are far and away the most by a tight end in league history.
In other words, Gonzalez has been the model of consistency and the most recognizable tight end since he entered the league with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997.
But when it comes to right here and right now, who is the NFL's best?