All-time NFL tight finish rankings: How Patriots, Buccaneers nice Rob Gronkowski stacks up after retiring

Rob Gronkowski known as it an NFL profession (once more) on Tuesday, saying farewell not solely to the Buccaneers however to soccer. Tom Brady will undoubtedly miss the tight finish in 2022, however so will followers who’ve seen Gronk steals headlines on and off the sector over the course of his profession. The place, precisely, does Gronkowski rank amongst all-time gamers at his place?

Let’s rank the ten finest TEs to ever play the sport and see the place he matches in:

10. Mike Ditka

Groups: Chicago Bears (1961-1966), Philadelphia Eagles (1967-1968), Dallas Cowboys (1969-1972)

Earlier than he made historical past as coach of the Bears, Ditka showcased his toughness on the sector. He by no means topped his explosive Rookie of the 12 months marketing campaign, wherein he burst onto the scene with 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1961, however he got here to resemble Chicago’s trademark perspective over the course of six years with the staff. He additionally averaged extra yards per catch than a lot of the different nice TEs in NFL historical past, racking up an environment friendly 5,812 profession receiving yards.

Jason Witten

Groups: Dallas Cowboys (2003-2017, 2019), Las Vegas Raiders (2020)


Whereas he was by no means the quickest or most dynamic at his place, Witten quietly and steadily rewrote the NFL document books as maybe essentially the most dependable offensive participant in Cowboys historical past. A mannequin of sturdiness, his impression pale a bit late in his profession, however few gamers have ever been as constant. A lock for the Corridor of Fame, he was the quickest TE to achieve 600 profession catches and owns the document for many consecutive video games performed by a good finish, with 235+ below his belt.

8. Ozzie Newsome

Groups: Cleveland Browns (1978-1990)

Earlier than taking his soccer IQ to NFL entrance places of work, the place he led the Baltimore Ravens to 2 Tremendous Bowl wins, Newsome was the entire bundle at TE, each on and off the sector. Discounting his Man of the 12 months efforts and team-first mentality, he was nonetheless one of many Eighties’ premier targets at his place. Holder of a number of Browns receiving data, he logged a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and completed his profession with 47 TD catches, the fifth most in franchise historical past, all whereas modeling sturdiness alongside the best way.

7. John Mackey

Groups: Baltimore Colts (1963-1971), San Diego Chargers (1972)

Mackey’s numbers will proceed to get surpassed on the all-time charts as extra TEs emerge as receiving threats, however in the case of all-time influences on the place, he is up there with the very best of them. A size-and-speed phenom throughout his day, Mackey not solely missed only one sport over his 10-year profession however turned simply the second pure TE to enter the Corridor of Fame. In an period that predated at present’s pass-heavy offenses, he had eight-straight seasons with at the very least 400 receiving yards and owns 38 profession TD catches.

6. Travis Kelce

Groups: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs (2013 Current)

He is had the good thing about taking part in in a pass-happy NFL, and never solely that, however for one of many league’s pass-happiest groups and coaches. However he is additionally delivered again and again as essentially the most trusted outlet for MVP QB Patrick Mahomes. A mannequin of each sturdiness and manufacturing, he enters 2022 having topped 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in six straight seasons, and his profession 70.8 catch share proves how dependable his fingers have been for an annual Tremendous Bowl contender.

5. Shannon Sharpe

Groups: Denver Broncos (1990-1999, 2002-2003), Baltimore Ravens (2000-2001)

Like a large receiver taking part in tight finish, Sharpe turned the primary participant at his place to publish greater than 10,000 profession receiving yards. He may additionally have the closest factor to Gronkowski’s postseason resume thanks to 3 Tremendous Bowl rings and a pivotal function in every of these championship runs. Sharpe was productive till his retirement, recording at the very least 60 catches in 9 of his remaining 10 NFL seasons, and he ranked among the many league’s prime cross catchers in his prime with three 1,000-yard campaigns.

4. Antonio Gates

Groups: San Diego / Los Angeles Chargers (2003-2018)


You may make the case that he needs to be greater. Whereas the eight-time Professional Bowler didn’t essentially revolutionize the place or function an absolute matchup nightmare a la Gronk, he was about as constant as they arrive. Absent for simply 20 video games in 16 years, the previous basketball participant was the security valve within the Chargers’ offense for nearly the whole lot of his profession, hauling in at the very least 60 passes 9 completely different instances and main all NFL tight ends with 116 profession landing catches .

Kellen Winslow

Groups: San Diego Chargers (1979-1987)

If Gronk redefined the TE place for his technology, then Winslow outlined it for his. Whereas most gamers at his place have been used as further blockers, he exploded as a real deep menace to Chargers Corridor of Famer Dan Fouts and produced numbers that, on the time, have been unprecedented for TEs. As soon as known as a “vast receiver in an offensive lineman’s physique,” he performed even fewer video games than Gronk however began 94 of his 109 outings, logging three 1,000-yard seasons in a time when passing was removed from what it’s at present.

2. Rob Gronkowski

Groups: New England Patriots (2010-2018), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-2021)


This isn’t recency bias. Actually, at his peak, Gronkowski might have been essentially the most fearsome TE to ever take the sector. Not solely was he 6-foot-6 and virtually 270 kilos, however he performed with extra physicality spirit pace than that body would recommend, additional reinventing the place as a receiving menace within the 2010s, taking part in his finest when it mattered most and producing a Corridor of Fame resume in half as many video games as a few of his fellow all-time greats. Sturdiness has at all times been the most important knock in opposition to Gronk. However even in 9 injury-riddled years, he turned considered one of his technology’s finest all-around gamers, with the very best playoff stats of any TE and maybe essentially the most environment friendly stats general, averaging a TD each 6.6 catches. His run might have been shorter, however it was at all times a deal with, and his seamless reunion with Brady in Tampa helped deliver the Bucs a Lombardi Trophy.

1. Tony Gonzalez

Groups: Kansas Metropolis Chiefs (1997-2008), Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013)


Nobody did it in addition to Tony for as lengthy as Tony. Numbers alone don’t inform the story, however you additionally don’t rack up 1,300 catches and 15,000 yards by chance. Gonzalez might not have been fairly as a lot of a bodily freak as Gronkowski so far as matchups go, however he was the definition of reliable – each when it comes to sturdiness and manufacturing. In 17 seasons, he missed a grand whole of two video games, and it is not as if he was simply serviceable along with being out there. His 4 1,000-yard seasons, 11 straight seasons of at the very least 70 catches, 16 straight seasons with at the very least 600 whole yards and 14 Professional Bowl picks are all proof of his sustained dominance. A real landing menace into his late 30s, Gonzalez stays the gold commonplace for his place.

Honorable Point out

To be honest, a prime 10 record simply doesn’t do justice to among the best tight ends of all time. For those who’re itemizing the very best to ever play the place, these guys deserve their shout-outs as nicely:

  • Dave Casper: Oakland Raiders (1974-1980), Houston Oilers (1980-1983), Minnesota Vikings (1983), Los Angeles Raiders (1984)
  • Jackie Smith: St. Louis Cardinals (1963-1977), Dallas Cowboys (1978)
  • Charlie Sanders: Detroit Lions (1968-1977)
  • Greg Olsen: Chicago Bears (2007-2010), Carolina Panthers (2011-2019), Seahawks (2020)
  • Todd Christensen: Dallas Cowboys (1978), New York Giants (1979), Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders (1979-1988)
  • Ben Coates: New England Patriots (1991-1999), Baltimore Ravens (2000)
  • Jerry Smith: Washington Redskins (1965-1977)
  • Keith Jackson: Philadelphia Eagles (1988-1991), Miami Dolphins (1992-1994), Inexperienced Bay Packers (1995-1996)
  • Dallas Clark: Indianapolis Colts (2003-2011), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012), Baltimore Ravens (2013)
  • Jimmy Graham: New Orleans Saints (2010-2014), Seattle Seahawks (2015-2017), Inexperienced Bay Packers (2018-2019), Chicago Bears (2020-2021)
  • Riley Odoms: Denver Broncos (1972-1983)

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