Often times the role of the tight end in the NFL is greatly overlooked. In reality, tight ends may be the greatest athletes on the field. Tight ends must take on two separate roles and be able to succeed at both. They must be able to block and receive. The new breed of tight ends in the NFL are fast, explosive tight ends with minimal blocking skills. Although these tight ends may not be as two dimensional as some of the past greats, today’s tight ends are better overall athletes.
No. 1: Antonio Gates
Gates is the most talented tight end of all time. Gates was a great basketball player growing up and uses his basketball-like skills when going up to catch passes. He is fast, agile, has great hands, and is a great blocker too. There has never been a better tight end than Antonio Gates. The future Hall-of-Famer still has quite a few years left of playing also, so his stats will only grow.
No. 2 : Shannon Sharpe
Sharpe was not only a great tight end, but a great success story. Sharpe came into the league as a wide receiver, but did not impress. While on the verge of being cut, the coaches decided to give Sharpe a chance to switch to tight end. Shannon immediately became a valued weapon in Mike Shanahan’s offense and went on to play a vital role in Super Bowl’s with both the Broncos and Ravens.
No. 3 : Tony Gonzalez
Gonzalez may be the best tight end of all time but he is third on this list because I believe Gates will eventually pass him on the stat sheets and Sharpe’s Super Bowl rings are more valuable than Tony’s stats. Gonzalez is a sure Hall-of Famer. Like Gates, Tony was a great basketball player and his basketball skills have been a main reason why Tony has excelled in the NFL. Often when Tony squares his body and goes up for a catch, announcers refer to his basketball playing days.
No. 4 : Kellen Winslow Sr.
Winslow was a great tight who was slowed down by injuries. He wasn’t a great blocker, but he didn’t need to be in the offense he was in. His receiving skills were phenomenal and Kellen may have been the most prolific pass catching tight end in NFL history by the time he retires if injuries didn’t plague him throughout his career. Winslow is also unique because he was one of the first tight ends to become a deep “down the field” receiving tight end.
No. 5 : Mike Ditka
Ditka WAS the first real pass catching tight end. He was an all pro tight end who excelled at both blocking and receiving. Ditka had the pleasure of playing on several great Chicago Bears teams. Ditka started for the Bears his rookie season and has several wonderful years with the Bears before moving on to play for the Eagles and then Cowboys, with whom he won a Super Bowl.