5 Things to Look at When Evaluating NFL Tight Ends

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5 Things to Look at When Evaluating NFL Tight Ends
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The tight end position has been transformed in recent years in the NFL.  

While most tight ends were once hulking bodies acting as essentially a sixth offensive lineman who could be trusted to run a quick hitch or hook route and catch a pass every now and then, now they are becoming unmatched athletes with the kind of skills that give defenders nightmares.

Tight end has gone from being a complement to other areas of the offense to the focal point in some offenses, and a far greater factor in almost all of them across the league.

That change has also resulted in a schism in what teams look for in tight ends. Some teams still chase for the more traditional complete player, who can catch and block and be a factor in all facets of the game, but some teams are eschewing the blocking duties to find unstoppable receiving threats.

That divide has been evident over the past decade with Jason Witten and Antonio Gates. Gates was the ex basketball player that teams never really managed to match up with. His blocking was never good, but he was such a weapon in the passing game that the Chargers didn't care, and he routinely put up huge receiving numbers in that offense.

On the other side of the coin was Jason Witten, who may never have put up the eye-popping numbers Gates could, but was a far more complete player, and was effective when asked to pass protect, run block and run routes. Witten was the pinnacle of the complete tight end while Gates was the poster boy for the athletic freak receiver.

Those two sides of the coin exist today too, and they are perfectly represented by Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Both of those players put up record-breaking numbers last season as receivers, but only one of them, Gronkowski, is a complete player and a capable blocker. Gronkowski is the new Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham represents the new breed of Antonio Gates.

So let's take a look at what you need to look for to find a top tight end these days.

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