10 Best Tight Ends In NFL History

Mon, Sep 5, 2022
by CapperTek

The tight end is a position that has changed quite a fair bit over the last few years. It was once mainly a 6th offensive lineman position. They’d catch a pass here and there, but now, they are an important part of the offensive machine.

Now, the skill of the tight ends has the potential to alter the NFL lines and change the game in some cases. Some can be so important to the passing attack of a team that entire packages in the NFL are made to fit their skills.

But, out of all these, who are the best tight ends we have ever seen? Let’s find out! 

#1. Tony Gonzalez

Gonzalez saw 270 games and made 15,127 yards with 1,325 catches and 111 touchdowns. He pioneered the trends where basketball players transitioned to a football tight end. 

He had the frame for it, alongside neat athleticism which made for matchup defense problems. It revolutionized the schemes on both ends of the ball. 

He has one of the best resumes the sport has ever seen.

#2. Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates saw 236 games, in which he made 11,841 yards, 116 touchdowns, and 955 catches. He was a former basketball player, turned football tight end. He is still the leader in touchdown catches made by a tight end. 

However, he is also 6th on the career list for all players ever as well!

#3. Shannon Sharpe

Shannon Sharpe saw 204 games, with 10,060 yards, 62 touchdowns, and 815 catches. He was immeasurable when it came to how he worked with Elway in passing games of 3 teams. 

He was set apart from others in his position. He was well oversized for natural wide receivers, but he was the first, and he changed things. 

#4. Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski saw 143 games, making 9,286 yards, 92 touchdowns, and 621 catches. He wasn’t the greatest ever, but he was astounding, he was on the NFL 100 All-Time Team for one! 

However, injuries did hold him back a bit, and he retired not long after the Super Bowl LIII. Yet, later he joined Brady in Tampa, and he led the Buccaneers to win over the Chiefs. He was a legend in his own right, and would’ve been better if the injuries weren’t holding him back.

#5. Kellen Winslow

Winslow played 109 games, making 6,741 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 541 catches. He is the person most think of when you hear ‘tight end’. He was the first true threat in this position. 

Many people will go beyond his stats, but few will replicate the image we all have of his teammates carrying him off of the field after he exhausted himself in a playoff game at the Orange bowl in ‘82.

#6. Mike Ditka

Ditka played 158 games, made 5,812 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 427 catches, before he was ‘Da Coach’ in Chicago and the subject of SNL skits, he was the focus of the Bears’ attack in the 60s. 

He brought a certain kind of toughness, similar to what Butkus brought to the defense. He made Chicago a feared but respected franchise in the NFL while he was in it. 

#7. John Mackey

Mackey played 139 games, making 5,236 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 331 catches. 

The John Mackey Award is something that is given to the most talented tight end in college football. This is a testament to how good he was when he was on the field. 

He was a premiere offensive weapon in his heyday, what is even better though, he only missed a single game in 10 years! 

#8. Jason Witten

Witten played 239 games, made 13,046 yards, 74 touchdowns, and 1,228 catches.

Witten was probably the last of old school tight ends, he was a big-bodied dude when ran blocks and routes, and caught any pass. He was the cornerstone of the Cowboys for 15 years, retiring after the 2017 season. 

He did work on Monday Night Football for a year, but eventually he returned to the Cowboys, he returned, put up one season, and then spent the last year of his career with the Raiders in 2020. 

He just couldn’t get enough! 

#9. Jackie Smith

Smith played 210 games, made 7,918 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 480 catches. Sadly, he is remembered best for his dropped pass in Super Bowl XIII. However, that was only one missed opportunity from a solid career, and his Hall of Fame status! 

#10.  Ozzie Newsome

Newsome played 198 games, made 7.980 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 662 catches. He was a premier tight end in the 80s. He was infamous for his football IQ, it was what made him one of the most elite general managers the game has ever seen to this day!