The Top 10 NFL Tight Ends For 2021

Stoney Keeley continues his look at the NFL as the 2021 season approaches. Today, we're looking at the top 10 NFL tight ends.

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It’s summertime offseason content time! As the season approaches, I’m going to be taking a look at the landscape of the NFL, position by position, over the course of the next several weeks. We’ll be talking about the who’s who of the NFL in our own little version of the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” bit they do every year. Up next, we’re talking about the top 10 NFL tight ends for 2021!

Alright, we’re back around to the skill positions on my 2021 positional preview columns. I love a good tight end (that’s what she said). There’s an art to being able to do so many things well on the football field – being an elite athlete that can make plays, being a forceful blocker to help open running lanes, understanding offenses, identifying mismatches. Whatever it takes. That’s what being a tight end is all about, and the great ones are a ton of fun to watch – simply electric. But, as usual, we have to get through some honorable mentions before the big show. First, I want to mention Kyle Pitts, as he’s popping up on a lot of preseason ‘top tight ends’ lists. I just don’t know how you rank someone in the top 10 when he’s never played a down in the NFL, I don’t care how promising of a prospect, and how rare of a talent he is. Next, I know Robert Tonyan scored 11 touchdowns in 2020, and that’s all well and good. But, I just don’t see the dynamic play-making ability that would put him comfortably in the top 10. Finally, shout out to Logan Thomas for being a steady and reliable force for the Washington Football Team. Now, onto the list.

The Top 10 NFL Tight Ends For 2021

10. Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers – I know…every year, we start talking about Jared Cook approaching the twilight of his career, and maybe…just maybe…2021 is the year that he finally comes back down to Earth. But, I’m not buying it. This dude has been playing the best football of his career over the last few seasons and now lands in a great situation in Los Angeles. I expect at least one more big year out of Cook.

9. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles – Yeah, yeah, yeah – I get it. A lot of advanced metrics and analytics point towards Goedert being one of the best tight ends in the game. I have no problem with that, and I tend to agree that Goedert is as complete as they come…but splitting reps his entire career means the production just isn’t there. If Zach Ertz remains on this team, it’ll limit Goedert’s value, plain and simple.

8. Noah Fant, Denver Broncos – You’ll notice a trend on this list – I’m high on a lot of young guys who are finally starting to see their potential. Fant is no different. He could become a major weapon for that Broncos offense if they get their quarterback position started out. What makes Fant particularly special is the athleticism he possesses. For a guy of his stature, he is slippery enough to make people miss after the catch.

7. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins – I’m all here for the ascent of Mike Gesicki. The dude has shown consistent improvement since entering the league, and will now have a little support in the passing game thanks to the moves the Dolphins made this offseason. He was graded 4th among tight ends with at least 600 snaps by PFF and his 703 receiving yards in 2020 was 4th among tight ends.

6. Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots – The Pats gave Smith a big contract for a reason, and he instantly becomes one of the most explosive play-makers on that offense. Sure, it’ll all depend on what happens at the quarterback position, but the talent is there for Smith to become the focal point of that offense. I give him the edge over Hunter Henry because of his athleticism, though I expect both will make their fair share of plays in 2021.

5. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions – It took Hockenson a little bit of time to transition to the NFL game after being a top 10 pick, but he’s finally arriving as one of the best receiving threats at the position. His 723 yards in 2020 were third among tight ends, and now, he’s poised to become the primary threat in the Lions passing game…even if there was a downgrade at the quarterback position this offseason.

4. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens – Andrews might not be the explosive and dynamic play-maker that numbers #1-3 are on this list, but he’s as steady and useful as they come, especially in that Ravens offense. He’s one of the best red zone targets in the league, and serves as a safety valve for Lamar Jackson. We make our jokes about the Ravens passing game, but can you imagine it without Andrews? Yikes.

3. Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders – Waller is officially in that elite echelon of tight ends. With expectations for Waller skyrocketing heading into 2020, he absolutely delivered on them, going for 107 catches and 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. There is some good young offensive talent at the skill positions in Las Vegas, but Waller is chief among them. He and Travis Kelce were the only tight ends to top 1,000 yards last season.

2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – Kittle only played in eight games in 2020, and still earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. He’s still a complete tight end, can make plays, can block, he’s a feisty guy that is capable of putting the team on his back and willing them to victory (lookin’ at you, Saints). But, he needs to get back to 100% health before he can take the crown back from Travis Kelce.

1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs – Last year, I had these top two swapped, giving Kittle the slight edge because of his ability to block, his tenacity, and the impact he had on his team. But, holy hell, how do you watch the season Kelce had in 2020 and not realize he is clearly the best tight end in the game? That is some impact. Nobody effects game at this position the way Kelce does. He was 2nd in the entire NFL in receiving yards with 1,416 yards, and earned 1st Team All-Pro honors as well as a Pro Bowl vote. It’s really not a difficult decision after seeing Kelce’s 2020 campaign.

OTHER 2021 NFL TOP 10S

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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