The NFL tight end landscape welcomes back Rob Gronkowski in 2020. “Gronk” returns for his age 31 season with a new team, the Buccaneers, after taking a year off from the end of his Patriots tenure.
Reunited with Tom Brady in a loaded passing offseason, Gronkowski can be a refreshed, highly impactful player. But while he was gone, a younger wave of tight ends started to flex more in 2020. In the same blocking, receiving and fun-loving spirit is George Kittle, catching passes and making big plays for Gronk’s former teammate, Jimmy Garoppolo.
As a future Hall of Famer, Gronk is worthy of going right back into the top 10. But with the position in a state of more promising transition, he doesn’t land back near the top with both some established and emerging younger options.
Here’s ranking the best tight ends in the league, from Kittle to a potenital comeback player of the year:
NFL tight end rankings 2020
1. George Kittle, 49ers
Kittle being on the losing side of Super Bowl 54 doesn’t change the fact he’s the game’s best all-around tight end, better than the victorious Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. After setting the receiving yardage record (1,377) for the position in 2018, Kittle, 26, remained a dominant force in both stretching the field and dominating as a blocker for the 49ers’ elite running game. He is natural athletic freak and also carries an intimidating streak at 6-4, 250 pounds. That’s a good complement to the hardworking fun he has playing the game.
2019 stats: 85 catches on 107 targets, 1,053 yards, 5 TDs in 14 games
2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
The 30-year-old hasn’t slowed down much as the Chiefs’ go-to intermediate receiver. Kelce (6-5, 260 pounds) has rolled into a new level of big-play production with Patrick Mahomes, even if there was some scoring regression in Year 2 with the QB. Kelce has great hands and uses his quickness well to consistently win on his routes. Like Gronk and Kittle, he plays the game with fiery exuberance.
2019 stats: 97 catches on 136 targets, 1,229 yards, 5 TDs in 16 games
3. Hunter Henry, Chargers
Henry has major promise for his age 25 season as he gets further away from the offseason knee injury that wiped out all of what could have been a special 2018 third NFL season. He is another physical receiving presence with simliar stature (6-5, 250 pounds) to the guys right in front of him. He has been a strong possession receiver, but he should become a better downfield threat in 2020 on top of his sturdy blocking.
2019 stats: 55 catches on 76 targets, 652 yards, 5 TDs in 12 games
4. Zach Ertz, Eagles
File Ertz as another established statesman in the 6-5, 250-pound club. The 29-year-old played well through injuries last year with more of a burden on him, given the depleted state of the Eagles’ wide receiver corps. Ertz falls behind Kittle, Kelce and Henry because the blocking and big-play flair aren’t as impactful, but he continues to be the most trusted force all over the field for Carson Wentz.
2019 stats: 88 catches on 135 targets, 916 yards, 6 TDs in 15 games
5. Mark Andrews, Ravens
Andrews has emerged so well in the Lamar Jackson-led passing offense that he made Hayden Hurst, who went in the first round of the 2018 draft, expendable. Andrews, the third-rounder from ’18, has delivered as the athletic “move” option from that class, showing toughness to go with his wide receiver-like athleticism at 6-5, 256 pounds. Andrews has a monster future ahead, given he will turn only 24 in September
2019 stats: 64 catches on 98 targets, 852 yards, 10 TDs in 15 games
6. Darren Waller, Raiders
Waller, going back to his Ravens’ days, has worked hard to make s successful conversion from wide receiver, even overcoming some off-field obstacles along the way. At 6-6, 256 pounds, Waller was a late bloomer during his age 27 season, stepping up as the team’s top target in the wake of the Antonio Brown mess. He can still become better as a blocker, but some of that pressure will be off Waller with the team expected to use more two tight end sets with Jason Witten in 2020.
2019 stats: 90 catches on 117 targets, 1,145 yards, 3 TDs in 16 games
7. Tyler Higbee, Rams
Higbee (6-6, 255 pounds) got his chance to make a bigger impact as a receiver last season because of Brandin Cooks’ injury woes, and he didn’t disappoint as a key intermediate target for Jared Goff. The 27-year-old has been rock-solid blocking and proved he’s more reliable than Gerald Everett in the passing game. He immedaitly rewarded the Rams for giving him a four-year, $31 million extension.
2019 stats: 69 catches on 89 targets, 734 yards, 3 TDs in 15 games
8. Austin Hooper, Browns
Hooper (6-4, 254 pounds) is coming off a strong age 25 season in Atlanta. That turned out be his last as a Falcon, as he cashed in wtth a tight end-best four-year, $42 million deal with Cleveland in free agency. Hooper, like fellow former Stanford star Ertz, is more natural at receiving than blocking. As the Falcons try to replace him with Hurst, Hooper will step into frequent two-tight end sets with David Njoku to help settle Baker Mayfield on intermediate routes through the red zone.
2019 stats: 75 caches on 97 targets, 787 yards, 6 TDs in 13 games
9. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers
Keeping in mind age and durability, it seemed fair to keep Gronkowski down here as he starts over as a 31-year-old working back into his mighty best playing shape at 6-6, 268 pounds. Gronkowski might be more of a complementary target to the Bucs’ elite wideouts in his reunion with Tom Brady, but he has the mental and physical skills to be refreshed as a dangerous target everywhere in Tampa Bay’s new base two-tight end sets.
IYER: Why Bucs opponents have it wrong to doubt Gronk
2019 stats: Did not play
10. Evan Engram, Giants
The only question with Engram — and it’s not insignicant — is whether he can stay healthy to have consistent impact as the go-to guy for Daniel Jones after booming early with Eli Manning. Engram has massive upside as a receiver, enough to offset his serious limitations as a blocker. At 6-3, 240 pounds, this feels like a boom-or-bust age 26 season for the 2017 first-rounder. If Engram is good to go early in the season in recovering from his troubling foot injury (Lisfranc), he can have a season much bigger than his fine rookie campaign.
2019 stats: 48 catches on 68 targets, 467 yards, 3 TDs in 8 games
Source: Read Full Article