The evolution of the tight end position accelerated over the last season. Long gone are the days of a tight end being used as only a run-blocker, or only as a threat on short routes over the middle. Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark helped revolutionize the position. Now a new crop of players is ready to take tight ends to a new level.
Which players stood out most during the 2011 season, and who is the best of this new breed of tight end?
To find out, we've determined what makes up a great tight end and how well each 2011 starter represents those traits. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The new series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.
B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year or even who has the most potential. Rather, players—in this case, tight ends—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only.
After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 50 tight ends have been scored in 10 criteria (more on the criteria here). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.