A top-tier receiving tight end can transform any NFL offense for the better, but those talents are hard to come by. The gap between the top and average at the position is pretty significant, and PFF’s ranking of the top 15 tight ends entering the 2022 NFL season will show it. Ratings are divided into three tiers based on a variety of factors, including the pff play-by-play rating system, pff wins over replacement (war), and more.
level 1: elite
1. travis kelce, kansas city chiefs
Kelce has been the NFL’s most valuable tight end in each of the past four seasons, according to PFF War, largely due to his pass-catching abilities. he has an innate ability to open up, whether in one-on-one situations, against zone coverage or trying to find space on broken plays. he has been on the receiving end of 274 first downs or touchdowns in the past four years, 86 more than any other tight end. Ninety-six of those were against simple coverage, a position-leading mark of 26.
2. george kittle, san francisco 49ers
if kittle keeps up his current pace, he’ll be right up there with kelce as one of the best tight ends pff has ever seen. the 49ers star has a complete game between his ability to create plays in space and his ability to block runs. his ability after the catch is unmatched, and he leads all tight ends since 2018 in receiving yards after contact (1,171), broken tackles after the catch (58) and yards after the catch per catch (7.7). . During that same time span, Kittle ranks third in the position in the degree of block runs.
— anthony treash (@pff_anthony) May 23, 2022
3. darren waller, las vegas raiders
waller battled multiple ailments in 2021 which hampered his ability to perform at his elite level. in 2019 and 2020 collectively, the Raiders tight end ranked second in position at war (0.90), third in receiving grade (91.2) and second in explosive receptions of 15+ yards (55). . Waller’s receiving rating then dropped to 73.9 for the 2021 season as he battled back and knee injuries. there’s no denying he’s a dynamic weapon in the passing game when he’s healthy. he may not have the ability to block, but the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder is a super athlete and can slide like a big receiver when needed. Waller’s receiving ability is extremely valuable to raiders and, with a clean bill of health, he will form a dangerous pass-catching tandem alongside newly acquired Davante Adams.
4. mark andrews, baltimore ravens
andrews took his game to another level in 2021 and became even more of a choice for quarterback lamar jackson. he posted a career-high 91.5 pff rating of his in 2021, the highest among tight ends. The 6-foot-5, 256-pound tight end boasts top-tier ball skills, provides a physical element as a receiver and makes tough grabs up the middle in traffic look like a grind. Andrews ranked in the top five at the position in turnover rate (2.6%) and contested reception rate (60%, 18 of 30) while producing more receptions of 15+ yards than any other tight end in the NFL (33 ). he’s essentially a great spot in the Ravens’ offense, as he played over 50% of his snaps on the interior. And Andrews is no slouch when he blocks online either, ranking third among tight ends in career blocking grade for 2021.
5. kyle pitts, atlanta falcons
what pits accomplished as a rookie catcher in 2021 was extraordinary. He posted an 82.3 receiving rating for the season that ranked sixth among 2021-qualified tight ends and third among all rookies at the position in the PFF era. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound specimen also racked up 29 explosive receptions of 15-plus yards, the most by a rookie in the PFF era by 11. He didn’t get to that mark just by shredding linebackers and safeties, or. Facing outside cornerbacks as a rookie, the former Florida Gator had 14 receptions for 290 yards and six explosive receptions of 15+ yards.
pitts’ provides rare movement abilities at his size for the hawks’ offense. His blocking doesn’t live up to the hype, but his pass-catching skills more than make up for it. pits finishing as the sixth most valuable tight end last season backs that up.
6. dallas goedert, philadelphia eagles
goedert was quietly one of the best tight ends in the nfl last season. His 90.7 pff rating not only topped his previous career best by eight rating points, but tied for second-highest among tight ends in 2021. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder led the pack in yards per road rush (2.33), more than six-tenths of a yard better than his previous career record. Unlike the players that precede him on this list, Goedert is an online gamer. he generated more than twice as many road rush yards when he was on the line than when he was in the slot or out in 2021. while goedert took his receiving game to another level in 2021, his run blocking has always been a fortress. he leads all tight ends in career blocking since 2018.
Level 2: Level 1 capabilities, but lack consistency or have slipped
7. rob gronkowski, free agent
gronk in his prime had seven consecutive elite pff ratings above 90.0 from 2011 to 2017, but he’s not at that level anymore. But that’s not to say he’s still not one of the best tight ends in the game. Despite mounting injuries and time off the field, Gronkowski has finished as the NFL’s fifth and seventh most valuable tight end in his two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His blocking ability may not be what he once was, but Gronk has still been threatening the seam with Tom Brady and rumbling and tripping after the catch. he led tight ends with 10 seam receptions while ranking third in broken tackles (16) last season.
8. dalton schultz, dallas cowboys
Schultz was a bit of a surprise in 2021, considering the Cowboys used him solely as a blocker in his first two NFL seasons and was disappointing when he was integrated into the passing game in 2020. The 2018 fourth-round pick took his receiving rating from 63.8 in 2020 to 77.4 in 2021, and while he’s not going to shred individual coverage like some of the tier 1 guys, he can work weak spots against zone coverage and possesses strong hands. he finished in the top six last year in both abandon rate (3.4%) and contested catch rate (63.2%, 12 of 19).
level 3: the best of the rest
9. tj hockenson, detroit lions
hockenson was one of the most reliable tight ends in the nfl before a hand injury ended his season prematurely. 2019 top-10 pick possesses high-level ball skills that helped him post the second-lowest quit rate among qualifying tight ends (1.6%, tied) and lead the pack in contested catch rate (78.6%). Hockenson has been excellent working in the middle of the field from a line position for the past two years: he has the fifth-best receiving grade in the NFL from a line position. Hockenson’s lock, however, is a work in progress. he will look to improve on his 45.1 run block rating starting in 2021.
10. hunter henry, new england patriots
Henry may never return to his 2016 and 2017 form, with serious injuries since he set it back. but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to be one of the top 10 tight ends in the league. last year in new england, his first season with the team, henry managed to play a full 17-game schedule and earned the ninth-highest pff grade at the position. he is adept at fighting through contact, tracking the ball downfield and working like a road runner. the 27-year-old still has a lot of high-quality football ahead of him.
11. pat freiermuth, pittsburgh steelers
freiermuth was known for his playing strength at penn state, and that continued into his first season in the nfl. The Steelers’ tight end kept up with the NFL’s physique and finished the regular season tied for sixth in both contested catches (10) and broken tackles after the catch (11). That helped him post a top-10 receiving rating at the position in 2021. Freiermuth’s tools don’t match up to some of the elite pass-catching tight ends, but that’s not to say he can’t get close to Tier 1 at the end of the line.
12. dawson knox, buffalo bills
No quarterback had more success targeting a tight end than Josh Allen with Dawson Knox in 2021. That connection earned a 130.5 passer rating last season, the highest of any QB-TE duo for the year. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Knox thrived downfield with six touchdowns on 10 yards downfield in regular-season action (second-most among tight ends). And Knox did it despite suffering a broken hand midway through the season, an injury that kept him out of a handful of games. While his ceiling is in question and there’s reason to believe some of his 2021 production numbers could roll back in 2022, Knox brings a well-rounded athletic profile and familiar floor to the table.
13. mike gesicki, miami dolphins
It almost seems wrong to place gesicki with the tight ends, considering that more than 85% of his receptions come from the slot or outside, but his franchise salary and roster position indicate he’s a tight end, so oh, here we are. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound pass catcher is one of the best “big-space” receivers in the league. Gesicki ranks seventh among tight ends in slot receiving grade as of 2020. He has been very effective against individual coverage thanks to his massive frame. Over the past two years, Gesicki has amassed the third-most receiving yards against individual coverage among tight ends and leads the pack in contested receptions on such plays.
14. tyler higbee, rams of the angels
higbee is one of the best players on this list. he ranked 28th in pff grade from week 1 to 12 (59.2) in 2021 before jumping to fifth (81.4) from week 13 onwards. That’s not the first time this has happened, either: Higbee closed out 2019 with a stretch of elite play in the final five games of the season, improving his rating by more than 20 rating points from the previous 12 weeks. he is used a lot as a player online, below, which explains some of the inconsistencies. higbee’s 66 receptions in underlying concepts since 2019 is the third highest in the ranking.
15. zach ertz, arizona cardinals
ertz’s production fell off a cliff in 2020. after finishing as one of the 10 most valuable tight ends in the nfl in every season from 2014 to 2019, the former philadelphia eagle earned a 57.3 pff rating for his 2020 campaign. was the lowest of his career by more than 13 qualifying points. Troubles continued into 2021 with Philly, culminating in his trade to Arizona after Week 6. Fortunately for Ertz, he bounced back with a change of scenery. While far from his best form, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound player produced the 11th-best receiving rating at the position from Week 11 onward (70.1).