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NFL Best Tight Ends of All-Time Tier List

Based on Career Stats and Accomplishments

by Riley Baines
Best Tight Ends of All-Time

NFL Best Tight Ends of All-Time Tier List

These are the best Tight Ends of all-time ranked according to tiers. While the tiers are ranked in order, the players in each tier are not ranked in order. Keep that in mind when reading this list.

Throughout this list, I will include their career receiving stats along with career accomplishments to get an idea of their impact.


Keith Jackson –

  • Super Bowl champion (XXXI)
  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1988–1990)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1992)
  • 6× Pro Bowl (1988–1990, 1992, 1994, 1996)

Career receiving stats: 5283 receiving yards, 49 receiving touchdowns, 441 receptions, 41.0 yards per game

While I credit Gronk for being the most complete and dominant blocker plus pass catcher, Keith Jackson is the most slept on. He was a complete player who was nominated as a first-team all-pro for three straight seasons.

Jerry Smith –

  • 2× Pro Bowl (1967, 1969)
  • First-team All-Pro (1969)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1967)

Career receiving stats: 5496 receiving yards, 60 receiving touchdowns, 421 receptions, 32.7 yards per game

This will be a common theme in the bottom tier of this list, but Jerry Smith is one of the most underrated Tight Ends ever. In the 60s it was very rare for a Tight End to put up big pass-catching numbers, but in only his third season he recorded 847 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Jay Novacek –

  • 3× Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
  • First-team All-Pro (1992)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1991)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1991–1995)

Career receiving stats: 4630 receiving yards, 30 receiving touchdowns, 422 receptions, 29.3 yards per game

It was Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith who got most of the love for America’s Team, but Jay Novacek was the perfect compliment to the trio.

Charlie Sanders –

  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1969–1971)
  • 7× Pro Bowl (1968–1971, 1974–1976)

Career receiving stats: 4817 receiving yards, 31 receiving touchdowns, 336 receptions, 37.6 yards per game

Unless your name is Calvin Johnson or Barry Sanders, you really become forgotten as a Lions player. Charlie Sanders earned first team all-pro honors for two straight seasons including his third season when he was tied for 5th in the MVP voting.

Jeremy Shockey –

  • 2× Super Bowl champion (XLII, XLIV)
  • First-team All-Pro (2002)
  • 4× Pro Bowl (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006)
  • Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year (2002)

Career receiving stats: 6143 receiving yards, 37 receiving touchdowns, 547 receptions, 45.2 yards per game

Over the 2000s, any player coming out of Miami U was very exciting and Jeremy Shockey was no exception. He burst onto the scene as a rookie and in only four seasons had 3000 receiving yards.

Riley Odoms –

  • 2× First-team All-Pro (1974, 1975)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1977)
  • 4× Pro Bowl (1973–1975, 1978)

Career receiving stats: 5755 receiving yards, 41 receiving touchdowns, 396 receptions, 37.6 yards per game

Over the 70s, Riley Odoms was arguably the best player for the Broncos. He goes under the radar because of lack of playoff success and the position he played.

Ben Watson –

  • Super Bowl champion (XXXIX)

Career receiving stats: 6058 receiving yards, 44 receiving touchdowns, 547 receptions, 29.6 yards per game

Ben Watson had no quit in him. He was asked to do everything at the Tight End position including chasing down intercepting defensive backs 100 yards at the one yard line of his own endzone.

Jared Cook –

  • 2× Pro Bowl (2018, 2019)

Career receiving stats: 7237 receiving yards, 45 receiving touchdowns, 553 receptions, 37.3 yards per game

Longevity matters and Jared Cook was recording 500+ yard receiving seasons up until he was 34. This bid bodied tight end started as a pass catching specialist until he developed into a dual-threat player later in his career.



Jackie Smith –

  • 5× Pro Bowl (1966–1970)
  • 4× Second-team All-Pro (1966–1969)

Career receiving stats: 7918 receiving yards, 40 receiving touchdowns, 480 receptions, 37.7 yards per game

Way back when Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the endzone as his team only lost by 4 points in the Super Bowl. One play doesn’t define a player and Jackie Smith was one of the original dominant pass catchers in NFL history.

Zach Ertz –

  • Super Bowl champion (LII)
  • 3× Pro Bowl (2017–2019)

Career receiving stats: 6841 receiving yards, 41 receiving touchdowns, 635 receptions, 51.1 yards per game

116 receptions as a Tight End is no joke. While is one of the lesser blockers on this list, Zach Ertz is one of the best pass-catching Tight Ends ever. He is still one of the league leaders in the position at the age of 32.

Heath Miller –

  • 2× Super Bowl champion (XL, XLIII)
  • 2× Pro Bowl (2009, 2012)

Career receiving stats: 6569 receiving yards, 45 receiving touchdowns, 592 receptions, 39.1 yards per game

Heath Miller is another example of consistency over his time with the Steelers. Over his 11-year career, only two seasons he recorded under 500 yards and both of those were his first two seasons in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger loved him and rightfully so.

Vernon Davis –

  • Super Bowl champion (50)
  • Second-team All-Pro (2013)
  • 2× Pro Bowl (2009, 2013)
  • NFL receiving touchdowns leader (2009)

Career receiving stats: 7562 receiving yards, 63 receiving touchdPro Bowl3 receptions, 38.2 yards per game

Vernon Davis was only nominated to the Pro-Bowl twice, but there is no doubt he was one of the best pure athletes to play the position. While a little polarizing for the 49ers, he managed to record 13 touchdowns over his 4th season with the team.

Dallas Clark –

  • Super Bowl champion (XLI)
  • First-team All-Pro (2009)
  • Pro Bowl (2009)
  • NFL Alumni Tight End of the Year (2009)

Career receiving stats: 7562 receiving yards, 63 receiving touchdowns, 583 receptions, 38.2 yards per game

This man was an unsung hero over the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis. Players like Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison made the highlight plays, but Dallas Clark was the ultimate safety valve in key downs.

Mark Bavaro –

  • 2× Super Bowl champion (XXI, XXV)
  • 2× First-team All-Pro (1986, 1987)
  • 2× Pro Bowl (1986, 1987)
  • PFWA All-Rookie Team (1985)
  • George Halas Award (1993)
  • New York Giants Ring of Honor

Career receiving stats: 4733 receiving yards, 39 receiving touchdowns, 351 receptions, 37.6 yards per game

Usually, it’s defensive players known for their toughness, especially in the 80s, but Mark Bavaro was as tough as they come. He became the first Giants tight end to record over 1000 receiving yards and did shall-of-famersa Super Bowl victory.

Todd Christensen –

  • 2× Suthree-time champion (XV, XVIII)
  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1983, 1985, 1986)
  • 2× Second-team All-Pro (1984, 1986)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1983–1987)
  • 2× NFL receptions leader (1983, 1986)

Career receiving stats: 5872 receiving yards, 41 receiving touchdowns, 461 receptions, 42.9 yards per game

Players like Todd Christensen fly under the radar when there they play with hall of famers around them. Even still, Todd Christensen is a three time first-team all-pro who was very instrumental for the Raider’s two Super Bowl victories over his tenure.

George Kittle –

  • First-team All-Pro (2019)
  • Second-team All-Pro (2018)
  • 3× Pro Bowl (2018, 2019, 2021)

Career receiving stats: 4489 receiving yards, 20 receiving touchdowns, 335 receptions, 67.0 yards per game

While George Kittle has fizzled recently in terms of his receiving production, there is no arguing his ability as a blocker. You can’t expect him to put up Travis Kelce numbers when he has Jimmy Garoppolo throwing to him instead of Patrick Mahomes. Still, you can see his dominance after the catch.


Ozzie Newsome –

  • 2× First-team All-Pro (1979, 1984)
  • 4× Second-team All-Pro (1980, 1981, 1983, 1985)
  • 3× Pro Bowl (1981, 1984, 1985)
  • PFWA All-Rookie Team (1978)
  • NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
  • Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor

Career receiving stats: 7980 receiving yards, 47 receiving touchdowns, 662 receptions, 40.3 yards per game

Ozzie Newsome should have two Super Bowl rings as a player but barely fell short. He was a phenomenal pass catcher with his IQ separating him from the rest. Because of that he became a general manager for the Ravens finally earning his well-deserved ring.

Greg Olsen –

  • 2× Second-team All-Pro (2015, 2016)
  • 3× Pro Bowl (2014–2016)

Career receiving stats: 8683 receiving yards, 60 receiving touchdowns, 742 receptions, 43.6 yards per game

The Bears seemed to ruin some of Greg Olsen’s best years, but once he joined the Panthers he caught steam. He truly helped the growth of Cam Newton. Over that time he became the first Tight End in NFL history to record over 1000 receiving yards over three straight seasons.

Dave Casper –

  • Super Bowl champion (XI)
  • 4× First-team All-Pro (1976–1979)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1976–1980)
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
  • National champion (1973)

Career receiving stats: 5216 receiving yards, 52 receiving touchdowns, 378 receptions, 35.5 yards per game

When the Raiders drafted Dave Casper, they weren’t sure whether they were going to play him at Tight End or Tackle. He was a very physical player, but Tight End was his true position. Thankfully for the Raiders, Dave Casper made some of the most clutch catches ever for the team. Legendary playoff performances make you immortal in the eyes of Raider fans.

Jimmy Graham –

  • First-team All-Pro (2013)
  • Second-team All-Pro (2011)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
  • NFL receiving touchdowns leader (2013)

Career receiving stats: 8506 receiving yards, 85 receiving touchdowns, 713 receptions, 46.2 yards per game

I’ll say it again, longevity matters. When we’re talking about peak Jimmy Graham, he was practically a stud Wide Receiver for Drew Brees. He was a massive target who racked up the touchdowns. His play fell off fast after leaving New Orleans, but he still made some highlight catches later in his career.

Ben Coates –

  • Super Bowl champion (XXXV)
  • 2× First-team All-Pro (1994, 1995)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1998)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1994–1998)
  • NFL 1990s All-Decade Team

Career receiving stats: 5555 receiving yards, 50 receiving touchdowns, 499 receptions, 35.2 yards per game

Before Tom Brady, this was Drew Bledsoe’s go-to target in Boston. He was a favorite for the team as he was one of the best receiving tight ends of his time and more than a willing blocker who was tough as nails.


John Mackey –

  • Super Bowl champion (V)
  • NFL champion (1968)
  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1966–1968)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1963, 1965–1968)
  • NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor

Career receiving stats: 5236 receiving yards, 38 receiving touchdowns, 331 receptions, 37.7 yards per game

The John Mackey Award is given to the best Tight End in college football after each season. That speaks lengths for just how good he was in both the NFL and in College. He also has one of the greatest single-effort plays in NFL history where it seemed he made every opposing defender miss on his way into the endzone.

Kellen Winslow –

  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1980–1982)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1987)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1980–1983, 1987)
  • 2× NFL receptions leader (1980, 1981)
  • NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Fame

Career receiving stats: 6741 receiving yards, 45 receiving touchdowns, 541 receptions, 61.8 yards per game

Kellen Winslow was the first real deep threat at the Tight End position. When he retired after his 9-year career, he held every relevant receiving record for the position. That includes the record he still holds today which is the most touchdowns in a game with 5. He also has one of the greatest single-game performances ever.

Mike Ditka –

  • Super Bowl champion (VI)
  • NFL champion (1963)
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1961)
  • 2× First-team All-Pro (1963–1964)
  • 3× Second-team All-Pro (1962, 1965–1966)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1961–1965)

Career receiving stats: 5812 receiving yards, 43 receiving touchdowns, 427 receptions, 36.8 yards per game

Many fans today only know him as the Head Coach for the Bears, but this man was one of the OG Tight End studs. He was a superstar blocker as his era demanded, but his dual-threat ability made him special. When he had the ball in his hands he frequently lowered his shoulder pads and ran over defenders.

Jason Witten –

  • 2× First-team All-Pro (2007, 2010)
  • 2× Second-team All-Pro (2008, 2012)
  • 11× Pro Bowl (2004–2010, 2012–2014, 2017)
  • Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2012)

Career receiving stats: 13046 receiving yards, 74 receiving touchdowns, 1228 receptions, 48.1 yards per game

Once again, longevity matters. Jason Witten wasn’t the type of player to have the really jaw-dropping highlights, but he was Mr. Get The Job Done. Whether that was staying in the box and blocking, or making a tough catch down the middle. You could rely on Jason Witten to do all the dirty work and without complaints.



Shannon Sharpe –

  • 3× Super Bowl champion (XXXII, XXXIII, XXXV)
  • 4× First-team All-Pro (1993, 1996–1998)
  • Second-team All-Pro (1995)
  • 8× Pro Bowl (1992–1998, 2001)
  • NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
  • Denver Broncos Ring of Fame

Career receiving stats: 10060 receiving yards, 62 receiving touchdowns, 815 receptions, 49.3 yards per game

It’s still hard to believe Shannon Sharpe fell to the 7th round of the NFL draft. He was a Wide Receiver in college and teams were unsure what to do with the big-bodied Sharpe at the NFL level. Moving him to Tight End proved to be one of the best decisions in Broncos history. John Elway and his Super Bowls would tend to agree.

Travis Kelce –

  • Super Bowl champion (LIV)
  • 3× First-team All-Pro (2016, 2018, 2020)
  • 3× Second-team All-Pro (2017, 2019, 2021)
  • 7× Pro Bowl (2015–2021)

Career receiving stats: 9918 receiving yards, 69 receiving touchdowns, 777 receptions, 71.9 yards per game

Travis Kelce is quickly rising up my all-time Tight End rankings. We saw what Rob Gronkowski did with Tom Brady, now Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes are trying to match it and more. The crazy part about that comparison is that they are both the exact same age today. It’s just that it took Kelce a little longer to dominate and his skill set extends longer.

Antonio Gates –

  • 3× First-team All-Pro (2004–2006)
  • 2× Second-team All-Pro (2009, 2010)
  • 8× Pro Bowl (2004–2011)
  • NFL 2000s All-Decade Team

Career receiving stats: 11841 receiving yards, 116 receiving touchdowns, 955 receptions, 50.2 yards per game

This is a former college basketball player who had no problem translating his skills onto the football field. He had elite athleticism for his size and used his box out ability to become the most lethal redzone threat of both Tight Ends and Wide Receivers alike. It took until only his second season for him to record a 13 touchdown season.



Rob Gronkowski –

  • 4× Super Bowl champion (XLIX, LI, LIII, LV)
  • NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2014)
  • 4× First-team All-Pro (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017)
  • NFL receiving touchdowns leader (2011)
  • NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team

Career receiving stats: 9286 receiving yards, 92 receiving touchdowns, 621 receptions, 64.9 yards per game

If we were to rank the best Tight Ends over only based on their prime, Rob Gronkowski would be the no brainer pick for the GOAT. Not only was he the best pass catching Tight End in the NFL, he was also an absolute mauler as a blocker. Nobody his size has ever replicated his dominance as both a pass catcher and blocker and I find it hard to believe it will ever happen.

Tony Gonzalez–

  • 6× First-team All-Pro (1999–2001, 2003, 2008, 2012)
  • 4× Second-team All-Pro (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007)
  • 14× Pro Bowl (1999–2008, 2010–2013)
  • NFL receptions leader (2004)
  • NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame

Career receiving stats: 15127 receiving yards, 111 receiving touchdowns, 1325 receptions, 56.0 yards per game

Longevity matters and that’s why Tony Gonzalez will always be considered for the best Tight End of all-time. Not everyone has the luxury of Tom Brady throwing to them for their entire career. No matter who it was throwing to Gonzalez, he put up monstrous numbers. The only season he ever recorded under 600 receiving yards was over his rookie season.

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