A Complete Rankings On The Best Tight Ends Of All Time

No position in NFL history has seen as many changes as the tight end position. From being the sixth attacking leader and catching the pass occasionally, tight ends have become a key position in attack.

Some NFL tight ends are essential to a passing attack by an existing NFL team. They have entire packages designed to fit an individual skill set.

Today’s emphasis on location has sparked a thirst for discovery about the greatest tight ends of all time. The way they play, their achievements are all exciting information.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Scott Fujita‘s top tight ends ever in the NFL.

Top 10 Of The Best Tight Ends Of All Time

The tight end is the most comprehensive attacking position in the match, after the quarterback. The best TE of all time is the player who can pass and run the block from the three-point position. They have to run routes from inline and can split into slots or out wide.

The complexity of the tight end is higher than we usually think. The transition from college to the NFL often falls short of expectations and sometimes derails their careers.

The names on the list are all monuments with massive castles. Let’s start with 10th place.

10. Ozzie Newsome 

  • Cleveland 1978-90
  • First-team All-Pro (1984), 3-time Pro Bowler
  • 198 games – 7,980 yards (12.1 ypc), 662 catches, 47 touchdowns
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1999)

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Ozzie Newsome 

Newsome was one of the best NFL tight ends of all time in the 1980s alongside Kellen Winslow.

A longtime offensive captain for the Browns, Newsome made it to the playoffs seven times between 1980 and 1989. Fortune wasn’t on his side as his three conference title races were all defeated by the Denver Broncos.

In the 198 games Newsome played in, he caught at least one pass in 150 consecutive games. This record streak ended only a year before he retired.

In addition to its success with the Browns, “Wizard of Oz” also won two Super Bowl awards with the Baltimore Ravens as general manager.

9. Charlie Sanders

  • Detroit 1968-77
  • 3-time first-team All-Pro, 7-time Pro Bowl
  • 128 games – 4,817 yards (14.3 ypc), 336 catches, 31 touchdowns
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (2007)

Charlie Sanders has the talents of a front-runner, and that’s why he’s in the top 10 tight ends of all time. Starting as a college basketball player, Sanders has proven his athletic prowess. That remarkable transformation is still an impressive one to this day.

If we had to describe Sanders, we would use three words: “elusive,” “strong,” and “sporty.” Despite having a long and thin body, he still did an excellent job of blocking.

The numbers surrounding Sanders may not be as ecstatic as others, but his contribution to the team is undisputed.

8. Antonio Gates

  • San Diego 2003-18
  • 3-time first-team All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler
  • 236 games – 11,841 yards (12.4 ypc), 955 catches, 116 touchdowns

Gates also started as a college basketball player. This tight end’s strength comes from its rare athletic ability to create problems for opposing defenses.

Not only is he the all-time leading tight end in touchdowns catches with 116, but he’s also sixth on the career list of all players.

7. Mike Ditka

  • Chicago Bears 1961-66; Philadelphia Eagles 1967-68; Dallas Cowboys 1969-72
  • 2-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowls
  • Super Bowl VI champion (Cowboys)
  • 158 games – 5,812 yards (13.6 ypc), 427 catches, 43 touchdowns
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1988)
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team, class of 2019

Using Super Bowl era stats as a yardstick for the list, Mike Ditka’s place probably wouldn’t be in the top 10. His best season in the modern era came in at 32, 4 yards per game average. The danger and damage of this tight end were centered four years before the Super Bowl era.

Even so, the star’s 12 touchdowns since the rookie tight end are still the highest total ever. It made Ditka one of the most famous tight ends in his era. The only player to also hit double-digit touchdown seasons was Rob Gronkowski, the 6th place in this list.

6. Rob Gronkowski

  • New England Patriots 2010-18, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020-Present
  • 4-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowls
  • Super Bowl XLIX, LI, LIII, LV champion
  • AP & PFWA Comeback Player of the Year (2014)
  • 115 games – 566 catches, 8,484 yards (15.1 ypc), 86 touchdowns
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)

One of the most dominant tight ends that we can see today is Gronkowski. With his stellar performances and synergies with Tom Brady, he made the Patriots one of the most dominant franchises of the season since 2010.

Now, he’s with Brady on the path to turning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into another dynasty. At 6’6″ tall and weighing 288 pounds, this powerful tight end won three Super Bowl rings with the Pats. In 2020, he went on to win another title with the Bucs.

During the nine seasons of his entire career, Gronkowski earned five Pro Bowl nominations and set countless records.

5. Dave Casper

  • Oakland 1974-80, ’84, Houston Oilers 1981-83; Minnesota 1983
  • 4-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowls
  • Super Bowl XI, XV champion (Raiders)
  • 147 games – 378 catches, 5,216 yards (13.8 ypc), 52 TDs
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (2002)

Four years on the All-Pro lineup and 2x Super Bowls speaks volumes about the power of this traditional tight end. At 250 pounds, Casper was a prominent player with solid physical abilities. His long arms, large hands, and ability to ignore contact to the point of catching up are the most profound impressions of him.

4. Jason Witten

  • Dallas 2003-17, ’19, Las Vegas 2020
  • 2-time first-team All-Pro, 11-time Pro Bowls
  • 239 games – 1,228 catches, 13,046 yards (10.6 ypc), 74 TDs

Witten’s impression is that of a tall guy who blocks and catches passes with force – an old-school tight end. For 15 seasons, he served as the foundation of the Dallas Cowboys. The player also tried his hand at a broadcast career on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” team.

In 2019, Witten returned to the Cowboys and went on to have a good season. 2020 marks the end of his already Hall of Fame career with the Las Vegas Raiders.

3. John Mackey

  • Baltimore Colts 1963-71; San Diego Chargers 1972
  • 3-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowler
  • 139 games – 331 catches, 5,236 yards (15.8 ypc), 38 TDs, 19 rushes, 127 yards (6.7 ypc)
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1992
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)

The best tight end in college football will each year receive the John Mackey Award. With this alone, you know the greatness of one of these best tight ends in the NFL

During the peak of his career, Mackey was one of the top offensive weapons. More impressively, he missed just one game during the ten straight seasons.

2. Kellen Winslow

  • San Diego 1979-87
  • 3-time first-team All-Pro, 5-time Pro Bowler
  • 109 games – 541 catches, 6,741 yards (12.5 ypc), 45 TDs
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1995)
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)

Winslow is one of the icons of tight ends in NFL history. He’s the first real worm threat in this position. Along with Dan Fouts, Winslow makes the passing attack more dangerous than ever. In a significant way, he set the bar for the modern-day tight end.

1. Tony Gonzalez

  • Kansas City 1997-2008; Atlanta 2009-13
  • 6-time first-team All-Pro, 14-time Pro Bowls
  • 270 games – 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards (11.4 ypc), 111 touchdowns
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (2019)
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)

best tight ends of all time

Tony Gonzalez 

No one can usurp Tony Gonzalez as the best TE in NFL history. Just numbers won’t say anything. But with 15,000 receiving yards and over 1,300 catches, you can’t say this was a coincidence.

Gonzalez is the only tight end that has a smooth combination of durability and output. In 17 seasons, he missed just two games. A real threat in his late 30s, Gonzalez remains the gold standard for his position.

Final Thoughts

We hope our list of NFL’s all-time leaders in tight end position has given you some insight into the legends.

While the position of the best tight end of all time is undisputed, there is still controversy surrounding the ranking of the remaining players. Even so, their dedication and achievements prove why they deserve to be on the list.

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