NFL Position Rankings: Evaluating League’s Best Tight End Groups

NESN.com is breaking down the NFL’s best positional groupings on both sides of the football, ranking teams in order of worst to first.

Today, we rank the best tight end groups in the NFL.

Of note, this is not a ranking of the best individual tight ends, as teams were evaluated on the overall position. The top four tight ends on each team’s depth chart, courtesy of ESPN, were used.

32. Arizona Cardinals (Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels, Ryan Becker)
Williams has yet to surpass his career-high 32 receptions set during his rookie year. He is experienced (58 games) but certainly not a threat defenses need to worry about in the passing game.

31. Green Bay Packers (Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan)
The 2019 third-round pick Sternberger played just six games (one start) last season, which prompted the Packers to spend a third-rounder on Josiah Deguara this offseason. Between the two newcomers and the 36-year-old Lewis, the Packers have a lot of question marks at the position.

30. Carolina Panthers (Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway, Cam Sutton)
Thomas, a fourth-rounder in 2018, was behind Greg Olsen and now moves to the front. He took a step back during his sophomore season (16 catches, 136 receiving yards) while Manhertz, who’s played five seasons, has six career receptions.

29. Washington Redskins (Jeremy Sprinkle, Logan Thomas, Richard Rodgers, Thaddeus Moss)
The fourth-year Sprinkle started 13 games last year while catching 26 passes for 241 yards. Thomas and Rodgers will each play their first year in Washington.

28. Buffalo Bills (Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney)
A 2019 third-rounder, Knox played 15 games (11 starts) in 2019, recording 28 receptions for 388 yards. Kroft has a bit more experience (62 games) but has regressed each of the last two seasons after a strong 2017 in Cincinnati.

27. Cincinnati Bengals (C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck)
Uzomah started all 16 games for the Bengals in 2019 (27 receptions, 242 yards) after a strong 2018 campaign. He’ll look to build a rapport with rookie QB Joe Burrow, while Sample is entering his second season.

26. Tennessee Titans (Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Cole Herdman)
Smith put together a strong third season in Tennessee, compiling 35 receptions for 439 yards. The 2017 third-round pick played all 16 games (14 starts) and leads an otherwise unimpressive group.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, James O’Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis)
Eifert played the first 16-game season of his seven-year career in 2019, catching 43 passes for 436 yards in Cincinnati. The 2013 first-round pick is likely hoping new surroundings will help as he leads a new group.

24. New England Patriots (Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo)
The Patriots addressed their most glaring need in the 2020 draft with a pair of third-round picks in Asiasi and Keene. While LaCosse (13 receptions for 131 yards in 2019) currently is atop the depth chart, it’s not unlikely that Asiasi could find a role quickly.

More NFL: How Will Dalton Keene, Devin Asiasi Fit Into Patriots’ Offense

23. Dallas Cowboys (Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Cole Hikutini)
Jarwin enters his fourth season and will be the starter for the first time after Jason Witten left Dallas in free agency. Jarwin (career-high 31 receptions for 365 yards in 2019) has shown glimpses that he has the skill set. Schultz played all 16 games in 2019, but his role will change now, as well.

22. Miami Dolphins (Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Chandler Cox, Michael Roberts)
Gesicki impressed during his sophomore season, recording 51 receptions for 570 yards and five TDs in 16 games (five starts) — more than doubling his production from his rookie year.

21. Detroit Lions (T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, Hunter Bryant)
The No. 8 overall pick in 2019, Hockenson didn’t put together as strong a rookie campaign (32 receptions for 367 yards) as some would’ve thought. But we’re willing to say he’ll have a much better sophomore stint.

20. Denver Broncos (Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman, Albert Okwuegbunam)
A first-round pick in 2019, Fant put together the better season of the former Iowa teammates (T.J. Hockenson). Fant tallied 40 receptions for 562 yards while playing 16 games (11 starts). The 2016 third-rounder Vannett is entering his first year in Denver.

19. New York Jets (Ryan Griffin, Chris Herndon, Daniel Brown, Ross Travis)
Griffin made 13 starts in 2019 (34 receptions for 320 yards and five TDs) while Herndon could prove to be a nice depth piece after an impressive rookie season in 2018 in which he hauled in 39 receptions for 502 yards.

18. Seattle Seahawks (Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Colby Parkinson)
Olsen enters his first year in Seattle, and while he’s no longer the same tight end in his age-35 season, he’s certainly still a good player at the position. Dissly (23 receptions for 262 yards in 2019) and Hollister (41 receptions for 349 yards) each could see an increase in snaps, too.

17. New York Giants (Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith, Garrett Dickerson)
Engram, a 2017 first-round pick, has yet to live up to expectations due to injuries not allowing him to finish a 16-game season. Toilolo, while experienced with 67 starts, isn’t a game-changer as a backup.

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16. Atlanta Falcons (Hayden Hurst, Khari Lee, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier)
A 2018 first-round pick, Hurst enters his first year in Atlanta after being traded from Baltimore, where he played 16 games last season. Hurst (30 receptions for 349 yards in 2019) is deserving of a chance to be a No. 1 in the league, but the Falcons lack depth behind him.

15. Indianapolis Colts (Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Matt Lengel)
An eight-year Colt, Doyle started all 16 games (43 receptions for 448 yards) in 2019. Burton, who’s showed signs of production with 54 receptions for 569 yards in 2018, could give Indy a nice 1-2 combination.

14. Houston Texans (Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Kahale Warring)
The 34-year-old Fells was a prolific red-zone threat last season with seven touchdowns in 16 starts. Akins played all 16 games (nine starts) and also enters his third year with QB Deshaun Watson.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader)
Ebron joined the Steelers this offseason after a down year with the Colts in which he recorded the second-fewest receptions (31) and yards (375) of his career. The 2018 Pro Bowl pick will look to bounce back with McDonald (38 receptions for 273 yards in 14 games) filling the backup role.

12. Los Angeles Rams (Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt)
Higbee is coming off a breakout year (69 receptions for 734 yards in 15 starts). And Everett, a 2017 second-round pick, made his snaps count, as well, recording 37 receptions for 408 yards in 13 games.

11. Chicago Bears (Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, Adam Shaheen)
Graham might be far removed from his 85-reception seasons, but he is a good player at the position. And the selection of Kmet, widely thought of as the No. 1 tight end in the 2020 draft, gives the Bears a good veteran-rookie tandem.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Vollert)
Henry will be the highest-paid tight end in 2020 after recording a career-high 55 catches for 652 yards last year. When healthy, he is among the best at the position. Green has plenty of NFL experience, having played 131 games in his nine-year career.

9. Las Vegas Raiders (Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier)
Waller, an exceptional pass-catching tight end, hauled in 90 receptions for 1,145 yards in 2019. Bringing in a veteran backup in Witten during free agency gives the Raiders a nice combination.

8. New Orleans Saints (Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman, Garrett Griffin)
The veteran Cook (43 receptions for 705 yards with nine TDs in 2019) developed into a dependable option for QB Drew Brees. The 2020 third-rounder Trautman, from Dayton, comes with some high expectations, as well.

7. Minnesota Vikings (Kyle Rudolph, Irving Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon)
Rudolph has started all 16 games in each of the past five seasons. Smith, a 2019 second-round pick, will look to improve from a rookie season that saw him total 311 yards on 36 catches.

6. Baltimore Ravens (Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Charles Scarff, Eli Wolf)
The Ravens were among the deepest at the position in 2019, making Hayden Hurst expendable. They keep a perfect 1-2 punch with Andrews (64 receptions for 852 yards with 10 TDs in 15 games in 2019) and Boyle, who really helps Baltimore’s strong ground game.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Alex Ellis)
Ertz, a three-time Pro Bowler, is coming off a 2019 season in which he registered 88 receptions for 916 yards and six TDs. The third-year Goedert has begun making his impact felt, too, with 17 starts in 31 games.

4. San Francisco 49ers (George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm)
Kittle, a First-Team All-Pro, is arguably the best all-around tight end in the NFL. Dwelley is a good backup, as well, playing 27 games in San Francisco during his first two seasons.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (Travis Kelce, Ricky Seals-Jones, Deon Yelder, John Lovett)
Kelce, a Second-Team All-Pro in 2019, is just a matchup nightmare in the passing game. And the Chiefs adding Seals-Jones, who played 14 games in Cleveland last season, provides Kansas City with an above-average backup.

2. Cleveland Browns (Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Pharaoh Brown)
A Pro Bowler each of the last two years, Hooper is not only among the best at the position. His arrival also gives the Browns an exceptional 1-2 pair with 2017 first-round pick Njoku.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Anthony Auclair)
The Buccaneers made a splash by adding both Tom Brady and previously-retired Rob Gronkowski this offseason. And instead of shopping one of their three starting-caliber tight ends — Gronkowski, Howard and Brate — they decided to hold onto all three, making for an incredibly deep group.

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Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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