B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 Tight Ends

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 7, 2013

B/R NFL 1000 2013: Top 50 Tight Ends

0 of 50

    Who is the best tight end in the NFL today?

    It's a challenging question, and the latest we're trying to answer with the B/R NFL 1,000 rankings, as we go through the league one position at a time to assess where the players stand right now.

    Comparing tight ends is tough because few NFL offenses are similar in how they use their tight ends. We’ve come up with four key criteria for every tight end, regardless of scheme, and we did our best to scout, re-scout, score and rank them all. This is a subjective ranking based on film study, not career production or potential.

    Tight ends receive an overall score out of 100 possible points. Those 100 points are the sum of the four categories (weighted according to importance for today's NFL): Hands (35), Blocking (20), Route Running (25) and Speed (20). 

    In the case of ties, I have asked myself, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly. Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    I, along with a team of experienced evaluators, have scouted each player with those key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.

50. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

1 of 50

     

    Hands

    17/35

    Jermaine Gresham has big hands, but he struggles looking the ball all the way in. He was one of the worst in the league in dropped passes, with eight. At times he can make spectacular plays, but he will need to become more consistent.

    Blocking

    5/20

    Although he has great size, Gresham isn’t a factor in the running game. He isn’t able to get push off the line and will struggle with hand placement, which led to him being the most penalized player at his position in 2012.

    Route Running

    19/25

    A very good route-runner. He is able to get off of the line cleanly, and he does a nice job of keeping his body between the ball and the defender. There are times where his routes aren’t as crisp as they need to be.

    Speed

    16/20

    A very good athlete for his size, Gresham has the speed to make some plays in the open field. He has to play more aggressively, though. His game doesn’t match his athletic ability.

    Overall

    57/100

    Gresham has the size and athletic ability to be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league, as evidenced by the fact that he led the league in yards after the catch. He is a very poor blocker who needs to get better with his technique and consistency if he wants to be effective on every down.

     

    Gresham was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

49. Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals

2 of 50

     

    Hands

    18/35

    A good receiver when the ball is on the money, Rob Housler doesn’t drop passes that are inside his frame, but he doesn’t work well to get to passes away from his body. Housler has alligator arms at times—failing to fully extend to bring in the ball. While his drops were low (three), his opportunities were limited by his reach.

    Blocking

    5/20

    Housler doesn’t have the size or strength to impact the game as a blocker. He’ll get in the way and mirror defenders on the weak side, but you won’t ask Housler to lead-block and open holes in the run game.

    Route Running

    15/25

    Housler has good feet and quick hips to make cuts and get open in space. He’s not strong enough to beat press coverage off the line, though, and that can be a concern for a guy tasked with playing on the line often. He’s a better route-runner coming off motion or when split out wide.

    Speed

    19/20

    Housler is one of the fastest tight ends in the NFL, but in his young career he hasn’t figured out how to use that speed to further advance his game.

    Overall

    57/100

    Housler has good potential as a No. 2 tight end. He has the speed, size and hands you want from a secondary guy, but his blocking and route running need work before he can take off.

     

    Housler was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

48. Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens

3 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Ed Dickson has decent hands, but decent isn’t good enough when you are almost exclusively a pass-catching tight end. He hasn't fumbled in his career, so once he catches the ball, he doesn’t give it up.

    Blocking

    2/20

    One of the worst blocking tight ends in the league, Dickson struggles setting the edge and getting initial push off the line. He will come off the snap too high and get pushed back into the backfield.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Uses his speed to his advantage and is able to run away from defenders. He doesn’t run the most intricate routes, but he is clean out of his breaks and does a nice job of keeping the defenders away from the ball.

    Speed

    17/20

    A high-level athlete at the position, Dickson has the speed to get away from coverage and make plays in space. He plays stiff, but the speed is there.

    Overall

    57/100

    Dickson took a step back this year due to the emergence of Dennis Pitta. He is a liability in the run game and needs to become a better blocker if he wants to see more action.

     

    Dickson was tied at No. 34 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

47. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

4 of 50

     

    Hands

    15/35

    Brandon Pettigrew has major issues hanging on to the football. He finished the season near the bottom of the league with nine drops and was the worst in the league with his four fumbles.

    Blocking

    10/20

    A good-sized tight end with the power and size to hold his ground against the rush. He shows good technique and is able to open up holes in the run game. There are times where he will come off the snap too high, and he doesn’t always play as aggressively as he should.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Probably the best part of his game, Pettigrew is a solid route-runner who shows good timing and clean breaks. He has good quickness and uses his body well.

    Speed

    14/20

    Pettigrew has never been a speed player. The lack of a top gear prevents him from making plays post-catch or from consistently separating from press coverage.

    Overall

    59/100

    A former first-round pick, Pettigrew has never lived up to his draft stock. His lack of explosiveness and large number of drops in the passing game highlight a player who hasn't yet matched his potential.

     

    Pettigrew was tied at No. 10 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

46. Craig Stevens, Tennessee Titans

5 of 50

     

    Hands

    16/35

    Craig Stevens is much more of a run-blocking tight end than he is a pass-catcher. He uses his body more than his hands to catch balls and doesn’t always look the ball all the way in.

    Blocking

    11/20

    A good pass protector, Stevens does a nice job of extending his arms and playing low. He isn’t quite as good in the run game as he isn’t able to push the pile and consistently open running lanes.

    Route Running

    15/25

    He isn’t asked to go out on very many routes and will sometimes struggle getting off of the line. Although Stevens has improved on his route running, he is inconsistent and doesn’t always get deep enough before making his break.

    Speed

    17/20

    Stevens has good speed to get separation his routes and can even pick up some plus yards after the catch. He has to learn to use that speed in and out of cuts consistently.

    Overall

    59/100

    Stevens had a career high in receptions this year with 23, but he is still better suited staying in and blocking on pass plays as he is a far better blocker than receiver. 

     

    Stevens was No. 44 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

45. Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots

6 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Michael Hoomanawanui is the Patriots' blocking tight end and was only only thrown five balls this year. On the bright side, he caught all five of them.

    Blocking

    10/20

    One of the few tight ends in the league who can block a defensive end one-on-one consistently. He shows good balance and has the strength to push the pile. Has good technique and footwork.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Isn’t asked to go out on many routes, but does a nice job of using his body and his hands to get a little separation.

    Speed

    12/20

    A big, strong, in-line tight end, Hoomanawanui isn’t a runner in space. He has functional speed to block and get into space, but he won’t threaten the defense post-catch.

    Overall

    59/100

    Hoomanawanui is strictly a blocker who is very seldom used in the passing game. He has the strength and technique to be effective in the running game.

     

    Hoomanawanui was No. 50 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

44. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

7 of 50

     

    Hands

    19/35

    Brent Celek has above-average hands, but he still drops too many balls. He doesn’t always catch the ball with his hands, instead allowing the ball to get to his body. Once he catches it, he’s good at securing it and will very rarely fumble.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Not much of a blocker, Celek isn’t able to hold his ground or move a pile. He is a real liability in the running game. Much more suited to just chip and then get out into a passing route.

    Route Running

    20/25

    A superb route-runner, Celek uses his quickness and body positioning to get open. He runs clean, crisp routes and is able to separate from linebackers.

    Speed

    13/20

    Celek lacks the top-end speed to be used in space or threaten the defense. How well he fits in the Chip Kelly offense without good speed remains to be seen.

    Overall

    59/100

    Fans remember Celek hurdling a Ravens defender, but this isn’t a great athlete at the position. 

     

    Celek was tied at No. 23 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

43. Orson Charles, Cincinnati Bengals

8 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Orson Charles wasn’t targeted much in the passing game—just nine targets—but when thrown to, he converted well to receptions. Charles doesn’t have great length to extend and make catches away from his body, but if you get the ball close to his frame, he’s automatic.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Charles is an aggressive and willing blocker, but he’s not converted that to success yet as a pass- and run-blocker. He has to get stronger to anchor and hold up as a base for the Bengals in pass protection.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Charles is athletic enough to be a versatile route-runner, especially in space. He’ll struggle at times to beat a jam off the line, and he has to learn to use his hands better, but the overall route running you see from Charles is strong.

    Speed

    14/20

    A good overall athlete who plays faster than he tested last year at the NFL combine. Charles has a short stride and good burst but doesn’t have the speed to run away from defenses.

    Overall

    59/100

    Charles has the potential to shine as a featured tight end in the future. He needs more opportunities, which allows for some boom-or-bust potential, but the talent is definitely here for Charles to develop into a star.

     

    Charles was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

42. Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs

9 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Tony Moeaki has good hands, but he can struggle to adjust to balls thrown outside his frame. He’s a body catcher at times and must work to better extend his arms and hands. That said, he hangs on to the ball well.

    Blocking

    6/20

    A decent run-blocker when he’s on the move, Moeaki doesn’t have the strength to overpower defenders at the point of attack. He’s an angle blocker only. Not someone you want setting the edge.

    Route Running

    18/25

    A good option in the slot, Moeaki doesn’t have great size or speed to run away from coverage but is quick in space and does a good job recognizing holes in the defense in which to sit down.

    Speed

    15/20

    Moeaki has been slow to recover from injuries, which limits his overall speed. He was never exceptionally fast to begin with, so the slow recovery is affecting his game.

    Overall

    59/100

    Moeaki didn’t have a great first season back from injury in the Chiefs’ two-tight end scheme. He’ll be a better fit in Andy Reid’s system as a receiver, but his blocking has to improve if he hopes to stay on the field.


    Moeaki was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

41. Tom Crabtree, Green Bay Packers

10 of 50

     

    Hands

    21/35

    Tom Crabtree was only targeted 12 times this year, and he dropped two of them. He doesn’t always look the ball all the way to his hands, but he can make a spectacular catch once in a while.

    Blocking

    5/20

    Doesn’t play low enough at times and will get pushed back. He isn’t strong enough to move the pile but will position his body to get in the way of defenders.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Has the quickness to beat linebackers, but runs sloppy routes. He will cut them short and round them off. There are times where he struggles to get off the line, and he isn’t able to use his body to keep defenders away from the ball.

    Speed

    15/20

    Crabtree has good overall speed for the position. He’s not as athletic or fast as some hybrid tight ends, but he shows good ability to get upfield and make plays in space. He can run away from the defense if given room to work.

    Overall

    59/100

    Crabtree doesn’t do any one thing great; he is nothing more than a backup or spot starter. He lacks the hands and blocking ability to used as an every-down player.


40. Steve Maneri, Kansas City Chiefs

11 of 50

     

    Hands

    18/35

    Steve Maneri wasn’t asked to be much of a factor in the passing game. On just 10 targets, he produced five catches. Throughout the season (including preseason) Maneri showed upside and improved agility in making plays on the ball. He’ll still struggle to adjust on the fly, but he was much improved this year.

    Section title

    13/20

    Maneri can be a crushing presence in the run game. He shows the willingness to make contact and drive block both inside and outside to spring the run game. His pass protection can be limited at times by awareness and choosing the right player to attack.

    Route Running

    16/25

    Maneri dropped weight before the 2012 season, and it showed in his improved quickness off the line. He’s more of a strong-side tight end, though, which means he’ll be jammed early and often at the line. That can be an issue for him.

    Speed

    13/20

    Maneri is more of a mauler than a mover. He doesn’t have the worst speed in the NFL at the position, but he’s not a threat to make plays in space or run away after the catch.

    Overall

    60/100

    A former undrafted free agent, Maneri played well when given a chance in 2012. He fits best as a blocker and sometimes receiver, but he has shown dedication to his craft and was much improved this past fall.

     

    Maneri was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

39. Dave Thomas, New Orleans Saints

12 of 50

     

    Hands

    19/35

    Dave Thomas has been a solid tight end for a long time. He is a consistent inside-the-frame pass-catcher who does well when stationary. He doesn’t make big plays on the move or above the field, but he can be a chain-moving receiver otherwise.

    Blocking

    9/20

    Thomas can be hit or miss as a run-blocker. When asked to get wide and attack outside linebackers or wide defensive ends, he’ll struggle. Thomas is more consistent in terms of defending the pass rush, where he can play in-line and use his length to punch and slide with defenders.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Limited athletically, Thomas is an inside-out route-runner who is best served as a 10-15-yard checkdown option. He doesn’t have the agility to cut and explode, but he will fight through jams and pressure to get back to the ball.

    Speed

    15/20

    Thomas has slowed down some over time, but he still shows good quickness up the seam and can be used as a moving tight end to find mismatches with the defense.

    Overall

    60/100

    A good all-around No. 2 tight end, Thomas is versatile enough to be a blocker or a receiver. He’s a three-down asset and can move around to make plays from either tight end position and even from the backfield.

     

    Thomas was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

38. Anthony McCoy, Seattle Seahawks

13 of 50

     

    Hands

    22/35

    A prototypical tight end in terms of size and speed, Anthony McCoy didn’t have a ton of drops this year (two) in his limited targets, but his lack of exposure in the passing game is a concern. When targeted, McCoy does a good job bringing the ball in. He’s not a guy who shows the strength to make contested catches or to high-point the ball.

    Blocking

    5/20

    McCoy has the size to be a good blocker, but his technique isn’t there yet. He’ll get blown off the ball in pass protection and wasn’t used there much as a result. As a No. 2 tight end in the run game, McCoy is asked to seal the edge often, and he did so inconsistently.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Without great speed or agility, McCoy can struggle to get open in space. He’s a tough runner in short areas and can box out defenders.

    Speed

    14/20

    A better runner than his body type might indicate, McCoy has good speed for an in-line tight end, but he isn’t athletic enough to be used in space at a high level.

    Overall

    60/100

    McCoy was a late-round project for the Seattle Seahawks and has panned out well. He’s an ideal No. 2 tight end who can play both in-line as a blocker and help as a secondary option in the passing game.

     

    McCoy was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

37. Luke Stocker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

14 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Luke Stocker wasn’t looked at much in the Tampa Bay offensive system, but the talent is there for him to be a factor as a receiver. When open, Stocker does a good job pulling the ball in and extending his arms to make plays.

    Blocking

    10/20

    Stocker is a tall, lean player without great strength, but he’s a smart blocker when it comes to kicking out and making plays in the run game. Stocker has to be on the move to win blocking battles. He will get worked if asked to simply coming off the ball and engage a defender in pass protection or run-blocking. He has to be coming off motion or cracking back on the ball to win.

    Route Running

    16/25\

    Stocker can be a matchup problem due to size, but he’s not very fluid in space to make cuts and changes to elude coverage. He’s a box-out route-runner who uses his body to shield the defender.

    Speed

    15/20

    Stocker is a plus-level athlete with better quickness than speed. He’ll flash burst off the ball, but it doesn’t always translate to big plays.

    Overall

    61/100

    Stocker should see more production than he does, which may change in 2013. He has good all-around talent without being fantastic at any one thing. There’s good upside here, though.

     

    Stocker was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

36. Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

15 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Lance Kendricks was near the top of the league in catches per attempt, snagging 71.9 percent of the passes thrown his way. He doesn’t always look the ball in, but he does a nice job of using his hands and catching the ball away from his body.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Struggles holding his ground against a powerful rusher and is much more suited blocking on the move.

    Route Running

    18/25

    An average route-runner who is able to do some damage up the seam. His cuts aren’t extremely sharp, and he sometimes struggles getting off of the line.

    Speed

    16/20

    Kendricks is a solid athlete with above-average speed on his lean frame. He doesn’t quite have the top-end burst to run away from defenses, but he uses his speed well to get open.

    Overall

    61/100

    A young player with a lot of potential, Kendricks showed a lot of improvement this year. He has the ability to become a top-15 tight end if he gets more consistent.

     

    Kendricks was No. 29 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

35. Will Heller, Detroit Lions

16 of 50

     

    Hands

    18/35

    The Detroit Lions limited Will Heller’s targets in 2012 (22 total), but he backed that up with 17 catches and just one drop. Heller’s small sample size makes it tough to grade him out fully, but from his snaps we saw a guy who struggled on passes outside his frame, though Matthew Stafford did a great job putting the ball close to his body.

    Blocking

    10/20

    Heller is a solid run-blocker who does a good job getting out in front of the play. He uses his hands well to engage and drive. In the pass game, he’ll get blasted back off the ball at times.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Heller runs good tight end routes (slants, sticks, curls, etc.) but doesn’t have the agility to get up the field and make plays.

    Speed

    17/20

    Heller plays with good speed, and in the right scheme, he could be used in the slot and in motion as a flex tight end.

    Overall

    62/100

    Heller was a part-time player for the Detroit Lions in 2012, showing average overall ability for a No. 2 tight end. He won’t blow you away athletically, but he’s a solid player who won’t make mistakes.

     

    Heller was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

34. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins

17 of 50

     

    Hands

    21/35

    Anthony Fasano isn’t viewed as a pass-catching tight end by most, but he does a good job securing passes thrown his way. He didn’t have a single drop this season. Fasano can be a body catcher at times, though, and is not a guy you want trying to extend and make tough catches. His drop rate is due in part to Ryan Tannehill putting the ball in play for him.

    Blocking

    10/20

    Fasano can be a valuable run-blocker when he gets the jump off the ball. We saw against teams running a 3-4 (San Francisco) that he would struggle with power off the edge in run and pass situations.

    Route Running

    16/25

    You’ll see tight hips and limited flexibility at times with Fasano, but his route running is solid. The key here is to know what to expect. He won’t run away from anyone in coverage, but he’ll use his body to shade out defenders and make himself available.

    Speed

    14/20

    Fasano is a classic tight end without great upfield speed, but he cuts and plants well underneath. He won’t threaten your defense with speed.

    Overall

    61/100

    Fasano is a solid tight end with starting qualities in a conventional offense. He’s a limited receiver who doesn’t always fit the new style of tight end in today’s NFL, but he brings value as a three-down player.

     

    Fasano was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

33. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins

18 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    More of a fullback than a tight end in the classic sense, Charles Clay’s receiving ability is only average. He doesn’t always extend to get to the football and is much better making body catches no more than five yards from the line of scrimmage. Six dropped passes on only 28 targets isn’t good enough.

    Blocking

    8/20

    Clay is a good run-blocker coming out of the backfield, but when put in a one-on-one situation he’s not a powerful enough guy to handle defenders. He, like most smaller tight ends, is a moving blocker.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Clay can run circle routes out of the backfield, does a good job getting to the flats from the tight end position and is versatile enough to move around and find mismatches. He’s not a dynamic route-runner, though, and he won’t be a guy with whom you can open up the playbook.

    Speed

    15/20

    Clay has good functional speed but isn’t one to run away from defenders. He’s limited after the catch and can struggle with separation in routes.

    Overall

    62/100

    Clay may be best served as a fullback or H-back, as he doesn’t have the size or strength to be a conventional tight end. He’s a player you want to move around to find the mismatch in terms of blocking and receiving.

     

    Clay was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

32. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

19 of 50

     

    Hands

    18/35

    Coby Fleener’s rookie season was up and down, but the Stanford product showed promise. Fleener only dropped four passes this season—a good number, but with his height and arm length he should've pulled in more passes that weren’t always catchable.

    Blocking

    9/20

    Blocking was something Fleener struggled with this season. He played too high at times, and without great strength he was walked back by defenders when engaged. Coaches will spend the offseason helping Fleener learn the proper attack angles and how to use his base to power through blocks.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Fleener must do better to make himself open for Andrew Luck by using his size to box out defenders. He has top-level speed for his size, but it’s not been used to separate from defenders.

    Speed

    18/20

    Fleener has world-class straight-line speed, but he still has to learn how to implement that into his game-day production. Fleener’s change-of-direction skills are lacking at this point.

    Overall

    63/100

    My top tight end in the 2012 draft class, Fleener had a rough transition to the NFL. The talent is there for him to become a top-level player, but he must work on his route running and blocking first.

     

    Fleener was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

31. Matthew Mulligan, St. Louis Rams

20 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    In limited opportunities, Matthew Mulligan did well as a receiver, but this isn’t a player the Rams feature in the passing game. Mulligan is a blocker first and foremost, so anything you get from him as a receiver is a plus. He showed good concentration and a willingness to fight for the ball in traffic.

    Blocking

    13/20

    A good run-blocker with the strength to pop outside defenders off the ball, Mulligan is at his best coming off the line and getting into the second level. He’ll attack outside linebackers to seal off rushing lanes. His strength can be a liability against defensive ends.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Mulligan doesn’t show much upside as a downfield route-runner, but his inside game is strong when used. He has sharp cuts and does a good job finding space and settling down to be a checkdown target.

    Speed

    13/20

    Mulligan isn’t a burner or speed player. He struggles to create separation with speed and doesn’t show yards-after-catch ability.

    Overall

    64/100

    Mulligan is a situational player for the Rams who fits in nicely with their more athletic tight end, Lance Kendricks. Mulligan adds value in two-tight end sets as a blocker and sometimes receiver.

     

    Mulligan was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

30. Garrett Graham, Houston Texans

21 of 50

     

    Hands

    21/35

    Garrett Graham has the soft hands you want from a tight end, but he hasn’t shown good consistency in bringing the ball into his frame at all times. Graham’s limited reach also serves as a liability on high passes and anything away from his body.

    Blocking

    11/20

    A good blocker when he’s on the move, Graham isn’t big enough to take on pass-rushers off the edge, but when he’s coming out of motion or from an alignment off the line of scrimmage, he’s able to get an angle and impact the game. The same goes for the run game.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Graham is a short-area route-runner who can do well coming out of the backfield, hitting the flats off of motion across the formation and hitting the seam on comeback routes. He’s good in those areas but lacks upfield moves or the ability to plant and cut past defenders.

    Speed

    14/20

    A versatile tight end who the Texans like to move around, Graham has good but not great speed. He’s agile without being a sprinter.

    Overall

    64/100

    Graham is a bit of a ‘tweener as a guy who could play fullback, H-back or tight end. He saw a good amount of playing time in 2012 and could see more if James Casey leaves in free agency.

     

    Graham was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

29. Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills

22 of 50

     

    Hands

    23/35

    The Bills have a solid tight end who lacks athleticism but has solid hands over the middle. Scott Chandler will make the routine catches all day, but he doesn’t bring exceptional range to the position. If you throw it to him, he’ll catch it, but he won’t go up for the ball or fight in traffic for catches.

    Blocking

    9/20

    Chandler does a good job securing the edge when asked to fire off and kick out on an end or linebacker, but he can’t hold protection for long. He does a better job when on the move, but his in-line skills are solid.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Chandler doesn’t have great flexibility in his hips to make sudden cuts, but he does run strong, precise routes with good timing. He’ll work back to the ball and is tough enough to beat press coverage off the line.

    Speed

    13/20

    A long strider who doesn’t always show the quickness to make sudden movements or change direction, Chandler has average speed for a player of his size.

    Overall

    64/100

    Chandler isn’t a dominant player at the position, but he is very solid. If working with good outside presences at the position, he can open up the middle and be a threat there. The Bills may want more speed at the position, but Chandler is solid all around.

     

    Chandler was tied at No. 34 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

28. Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets

23 of 50

     

    Hands

    21/35

    Jeff Cumberland hasn’t quite developed as expected, but his 2012 was good considering the talent around him. He showed good hands when targeted on catchable passes. He doesn’t have the length to pull in errant passes and can be criticized for his failure to make fingertip grabs.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Cumberland is a good athlete who lacks the fundamental strength to be an asset in one-on-one blocking situations. He’s good when moved and put in position to get an angle, but can’t win head-to-head.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Cumberland has the athletic ability to get open and create separation. What he lacked in 2012 was a technical use of that ability when asked to cut and run precise routes. It’s time for Cumberland to hone his game here.

    Speed

    19/20

    Cumberland is in the top-five fastest at the position. It doesn’t always show up, but he’s a burner in the open field and someone the team has to figure out how to get the ball to if he can improve his all-around game.

    Overall

    64/100

    Our team really liked Cumberland. His athleticism fits the new mold of versatile, hybrid tight ends, but he needs work on route running and should be in a system that better uses his speed.

     

    Cumberland was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

27. Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24 of 50

     

    Hands

    23/35

    Dallas Clark has long been known as a receiver, and in 2012 he once again showed consistent hands. What’s changed is his range and ability to extend and make plays. Clark’s catching radius is much smaller now than it used to be, and his ability to hold on to tough passes has decreased.

    Blocking

    6/20

    More of a No. 2 tight end at this point in his career, Clark didn’t hold up well as a blocker when facing defensive ends and outside linebackers. He’s much better on the move, but even then his lack of agility and strength at the point of attack limited his impact.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Clark is still a good route-runner, especially when he’s coming out of motion and can get a jump on defenders. He’ll struggle with physical coverage but is smart enough to pick his spots and find openings in the zone.

    Speed

    16/20

    Clark’s days of outrunning defenders are gone, but he still shows good burst to get into his routes and has the speed to be moved around pre-snap.

    Overall

    64/100

    Clark is one of the most important tight ends of the last 10 years, but his production and ability regressed in 2012. Away from Peyton Manning, Clark wasn’t nearly as impactful in the passing game.

     

    Clark was No. 28 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

26. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

25 of 50

     

    Hands

    24/35

    Owen Daniels is good at what he’s asked to do, but oddly enough, most of his drops come over the middle of the field and on short passes. Daniels can struggle to secure throws when contested with a body, but he’ll make the tough catches on the sideline and up the field.

    Blocking

    5/20

    Daniels is one of the poorer blockers we graded. He doesn’t show the strength or power to move defenders off the ball. His effort when asked to block is lacking.

    Route Running

    20/25

    A plant-and-go route-runner who can throw off defenders with a good inside or outside cut. Daniels doesn’t have elite speed, but he can accelerate out of breaks to create distance.

    Speed

    16/20

    Daniels has speed, but he’s not a guy who plays fast. When needed, he can turn it on and make plays, but he makes a lot of contested catches and is limited in yards after catch.

    Overall

    65/100

    Daniels might be overrated in the national picture. He’s a good receiver who still drops too many passes. His lacking impact in the blocking game really drives down his overall value.

     

    Daniels was tied at No. 30 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

25. Daniel Fells, New England Patriots

26 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Daniel Fells was used as a situational player in New England throughout the regular season, but in limited time he wasn’t used much as a receiver. When targeted, he did a good job extending to bring in the ball and using his body to track back to the pass, but his exposure in the passing game was limited.

    Blocking

    16/20

    Fells was used much more as a blocker this season when the Patriots went to a multiple-tight end set. He’s a valuable run-blocker when used in motion or allowed to crack back toward the ball. He’s used more like a fullback than a classic tight end.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Limited reps may skew the point of view, but Fells did well when released into the route tree. He has tight hips that limit his change-of-direction skills, but he showed a good understanding of space and zone options.

    Speed

    12/20

    A slow mover who doesn’t have great burst off the line, Fells isn’t someone you’ll want playing in space.

    Overall

    66/100

    Fells is a perfect No. 3 tight end in a system that uses multiple formations and sets. While he doesn’t do anything amazing, he’s a solid all-around player who can contribute no matter the down-and-distance.

     

    Fells was tied at No. 48 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

24. Joel Dreessen, Denver Broncos

27 of 50

     

    Hands

    20/35

    Joel Dreessen is your classic turn-and-catch tight end. He doesn’t make big plays over his head or when led into the route, but if he’s asked to sit down in space and make catches, he’ll do it without issue.

    Blocking

    12/20

    A good blocker on the edge, Dreessen can impact the game as a pass protector when kept in and as a run-blocker on the edge. He shows good ability to fire off the line and drive in the run game. He did get abused at times in the run game by teams with a strong outside defensive end.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Dreessen doesn’t have the agility or speed to be an upfield receiver, but he does a good job working underneath on option and conversion routes. Dreessen isn’t athletic enough to run away from defenders, meaning he’s left using his frame and making contested catches.

    Speed

    14/20

    A very good all-around tight end without great speed, Dreesen is a middle-of-the-road runner in space.

    Overall

    66/100

    An all-around tight end who does most everything well and nothing great. Dreessen is perfect as an in-line tight end who can block on run downs and then work as a chip-blocker and checkdown receiver on third down.

     

    Dreesen was No. 9 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

23. Ben Watson, Cleveland Browns

28 of 50

     

    Hands

    24/35

    Ben Watson has remained a solid, consistent receiver over time. He adjusts and tracks the ball well, limiting drops on catchable passes. He’s not used up the seam as much these days, but when sent upfield, he fights for the ball and has some skill to high-point passes.

    Blocking

    7/20

    A limited blocker when it comes to both pass- and run-blocking. Watson can slide and mirror some, but if engaged he’ll get walked back in pass protection. He shows the quickness to get outside on sweeps and will make plays there.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Watson is an underrated athlete who can get open with footwork and by using his body. He doesn’t have great height or length, but he’ll use his body to get between the ball and the defender. He’s an intermediate-route expert who doesn’t go upfield with much success.

    Speed

    17/20

    Watson has started to slow some due to age, but he’s still very quick and has the burst to get separation and challenge a defensive backfield.

    Overall

    67/100

    Watson is a solid starting tight end who can work as an underneath and intermediate threat in the passing game, but for all his athleticism he doesn’t offer much in terms of yards after catch or separation from defenders.

     

    Watson was tied at No. 48 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

22. Matt Spaeth, Chicago Bears

29 of 50

     

    Hands

    19/35

    The Chicago Bears don’t feature Matt Spaeth as a receiver much—partially due to his ability as a blocker and partially due to his weaknesses in the receiving game. He’s a classic checkdown tight end. If the pass is right to him, he’s good; otherwise, it’s a 50/50 shot.

    Blocking

    20/20

    Spaeth is one hell of a blocker when asked to attack the defense. With very good size for the position, he can keep up with defensive ends on the edge and has the strength to overpower linebackers in space.

    Route Running

    15/25

    A limited route-runner when it comes to upfield play, Spaeth lacks the agility to be a factor on routes that require multiple cuts or much speed to beat defenders. He’s a box-out route-runner.

    Speed

    14/20

    Spaeth has average speed for a tight end who spends the majority of his time in-line. He won’t run away from defenders consistently or make many plays in space.

    Overall

    68/100

    Spaeth is a high-ranked No. 2 tight end who fits in well as a complement to a more athletic, pass-catching option. If paired with an athlete who can threaten defenses, Spaeth is very valuable as a protector of the pocket.

     

    Spaeth was tied at No. 37 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

21. Dustin Keller, New York Jets

30 of 50

     

    Hands

    23/35

    Dustin Keller only dropped two passes in 2012, but in his eight games he was only targeted 36 times. That’s a small sample size to make a snap judgement on, but dropped passes were noted in 2011 too. Keller has concentration lapses that can be fixed.

    Blocking

    6/20

    Keller is used as a receiver on passing downs and is rarely kept in to protect the pocket. He’ll get in the way on rushing downs but doesn’t initiate contact or get dirty off the ball. He’ll go through the motions of blocking without really blocking anyone.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Keller has good athleticism and quick enough feet to be a factor in a number of route combinations. He’s at his best working in straight lines and vertical patterns where crisp cutting aren’t required.

    Speed

    18/20

    Keller’s speed hasn’t always shown up in terms of production, but it’s there. He has the burst off the ball to run off defenders and can separate post-catch.

    Overall

    69/100

    Limited in 2012 due to injuries, Keller wasn’t able to get comfortable in a new offense and show what he can do. In his eight games, we saw much of the same from Keller, though. He’s a below-average blocker and solid receiver who can be threat but hasn’t yet developed into one.

     

    Keller was No. 27 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

20. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

31 of 50

     

    Hands

    23/35

    Drops have long been a problem for Jermichael Finley. You can argue that his job is to be a decoy, but nine drops are too many for a player with his talent. Finley has the length, range and flexibility to track the ball and go up for tough grabs, but his concentration is lacking. He cannot catch in traffic consistently. You hold your breath every time a key pass is thrown his way.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Rarely kept in as a pass protector, Finley is used often in the run game as a blocker. He’ll help on weak-side runs but lacks the strength to push the pile or play a role as an end-of-the-line lead blocker.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Primarily a slot receiver in the passing game, Finley has the size and speed to beat defenders off the ball. He’s agile enough to make quick cuts and does a good job using head and body fakes to create separation.

    Speed

    16/20

    More of an athlete than sprinter, Finley doesn’t wow you with straight-line speed out of the gate, but he’s a long strider who can run away from defenders.

    Overall

    70/100

    There are few tight ends with Finley’s raw ability, but his drops and his poor blocking highlight the problems with his game. His value to the Green Bay offense is great due to his play as a decoy, but his talent trumps his production right now.

     

    Finley was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

19. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

32 of 50

     

    Hands

    28/35

    A key part of the Baltimore passing attack, Dennis Pitta shows reliable hands when stationary but struggles on the move. Pitta is at his best when sitting down in a zone and making catches close to or near his frame. If you try to lead him too much or make him adjust, he’ll struggle. Overall though, Pitta is consistent and reliable.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Pitta is used more as a run-blocker than other premier tight ends today, but he’s not doing so at an extremely high level. He’ll struggle to get off the ball and into his man. As a lean, athletic tight end, this isn’t his strength; he’s mostly a weak-side blocker.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Pitta shows a versatile skill set as a route-runner. He can come off the line and make plays up the seam with good athletic ability to stretch defenders. He was used more and more down the field as the Ravens' season progressed.

    Speed

    15/20

    A plus-level athlete with good speed to get into his routes and run off defenders. He can plant and cut with very good acceleration.

    Overall

    72/100

    Pitta is an underrated tight end with good skills to be a threat in the passing game. He doesn’t offer much as a blocker other than to slide and mirror the edge, but he’s valuable in the slot and up the seam as a receiver.

     

    Pitta was tied at No. 25 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

18. Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos

33 of 50

     

    Hands

    28/35

    A sure-handed, undersized tight end, Jacob Tamme benefited from the strong play of Peyton Manning in 2012. Tamme has good hands with limited range to make catches outside his frame. He tracks the ball well though, and he has the strength to fight for contested passes.

    Blocking

    7/20

    A lack of pure size and strength hurts Tamme’s ability as a blocker. He’s tough to hold up against pass-rushers but will get walked back into the pocket if engaged on the edge. Tamme is an angle blocker who needs to be in motion to win battles.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Tamme is an option-route specialist who does a good job finding openings and making himself open. He’ll fight and rub off the line to beat press coverage. Tamme lacks the speed to be a downfield threat, but he’ll make money as an intermediate presence.

    Speed

    17/20

    Tamme has exceptional quickness in his cuts and good burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s fast enough to get separate in his routes and pick up yards post-catch. Tamme can be dangerous when he gets into space.

    Overall

    72/100

    Tamme is the perfect complement to Peyton Manning as a checkdown option and hot-read tight end. He won’t amaze you with acrobatic catches and downfield moves, but he’s reliable underneath and a big part of the Denver offense.

     

    Tamme was tied at No. 15 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

17. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

34 of 50

     

    Hands

    27/35

    A prototypically sized tight end with exceptional size, speed and strength, Greg Olsen just needs to put it all together. Olsen does a good job adjusting to the ball in flight, showing the reach to high-point passes and make tough grabs. His drops tend to come from hot-read passes that he’s not ready for over the middle.

    Blocking

    7/20

    Not a player you want protecting the quarterback or fueling the run game, Olsen is largely ineffective when asked to block. He’s purely a receiver.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Olsen does a good job using size and speed to create separation, which led to the sixth-most targets among NFL tight ends. Olsen has the size to box out defenders, but he must work on cleaning up his cuts to prevent cover men from jumping underneath his routes.

    Speed

    18/20

    A better athlete than given credit for, Olsen can run after the catch and be a threat to the defense. He hasn’t always been used in this role, but he’s agile and fast enough to play in space as a flex tight end.

    Overall

    72/100

    Olsen has the talent to be a top-five overall player at the position. If he can clean up his route running to become more precise and work on at least initiating contact as a blocker, we’ll be moving him way up next season.

     

    Olsen was tied at No. 23 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

16. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

35 of 50

     

    Hands

    28/35

    Limited in 2012 due to injury, Fred Davis got off to a hot start. He shows soft hands and a good ability to track the ball. He does a good job getting his body turned to make himself a target for the quarterback. Davis’ concentration would get him at times in space, as he’d look to run before tucking the ball away, but this rarely resulted in a complete drop.

    Blocking

    8/20

    Davis plays more like a wide receiver at the position than a classic tight end. He’s someone who can stalk block in space but isn’t strong enough to seal off the edge against defensive ends or tight ends. Only a moving blocker who needs the benefit of an angle to win.

    Route Running

    22/25

    With strong athleticism and speed, Davis can be tough to keep up with in space. He doesn’t always make tight cuts, which allows defenders to come underneath him and jump routes. He is fast enough and fluid enough to get upfield for deep passes.

    Speed

    15/20

    A fantastic athlete at the position, Davis has good speed to make plays after the catch and to separate from defenders in his route tree. He can be dangerous with the ball in his hands.

    Overall

    73/100

    A torn Achilles tendon limited Davis in 2012, but from an athleticism and ability standpoint, he has the potential to be a major impact once healthy.

     

    Davis was tied at No. 25 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 tight end rankings.

15. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars

36 of 50

     

    Hands

    23/35

    It can be tough to grade hands for a tight end that has multiple quarterbacks throwing to him in one season. Marcedes Lewis qualifies there. Lewis struggled once Chad Henne came into the lineup, recording a drop in five straight games. He otherwise showed good extension and the ability to track the ball in.

    Blocking

    16/20

    Lewis has the size and strength to be an impact as a blocker when kept in. The Jaguars didn’t use Lewis as a pass-blocker more than a few times per game, but as a run-blocker he was a big part of their outside run game.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Lewis does a very good job beating a jam at the line of scrimmage and getting into his route. While he doesn’t have world-class speed to get upfield, Lewis is a quick cutter who sits down well in space. His best asset for separation is his size.

    Speed

    14/20

    A big body at tight end, Lewis has average speed for a man his size. In today’s NFL of speed at every position, he’s slower than you’d like from an up-the-field tight end.

    Overall

    75/100

    Lewis’ production hasn’t been great in Jacksonville, but much of that can be attributed to poor quarterback play. He has talent and could flourish in the right system.

     

    Lewis was No. 14 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

14. Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks

37 of 50

     

    Hands

    27/35

    Zach Miller didn’t get a ton of opportunities in 2012, but he made the most of them. With just one drop on the year, Miller showed that he can handle a bigger role in the passing game than his 46 regular-season targets. He must get better at adjusting to bring in hot-read passes and in working to extend to make tough grabs, but overall Miller did very well.

    Blocking

    13/20

    Miller is an average blocker with some upside. He is willing to initiate contact on the edge and allow for outside runs. He’s not much of a pass protector, though, and is most often allowed to release up the field on passing downs.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Miller’s route tree can be a bit limited, but he is a smooth and crisp route-runner when he's sent out.

    Speed

    13/20

    A classic in-line tight end without great speed in space, Miller has good short-area quickness but not much straight-line speed.

    Overall

    75/100

    Miller may be underrated due to a lack of production, but when scouting traits and abilities, it’s easy to see loads of potential here. As he and Russell Wilson develop more of a relationship in the passing game, his production should start to match his ability.

     

    Miller was No. 40 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

13. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

38 of 50

     

    Hands

    28/35

    A sure-handed tight end with prototypical size, speed and strength, Kyle Rudolph is a bit of a throwback at the position. He does a very good job catching anything near his body but can struggle at times to extend to make tougher catches away from his body.

    Blocking

    9/20

    Rudolph is not a blocker. His ability to lock horns with defenders and drive block was erratic this season. He’s much better working in space against linebackers or when getting to the second level against safeties. In-line, he’ll struggle.

    Route Running

    23/25

    The 2012 season showed progress from Rudolph in his route running. He can run high and stiff at times, but when attacking the seam and getting upfield he shows good balance and understanding of space.

    Speed

    15/20

    Rudolph doesn’t have great speed or quickness in the open field. He’s a player who uses his size and precise route running to separate from defenders.

    Overall

    75/100

    The Kyle Rudolph you saw in the Pro Bowl isn’t the same guy the Vikings see each week. While he’s talented, don’t get too caught up in his numbers against NFL players who are barely trying. That said, if you could buy stock in Rudolph’s upside, you should.

     

    Rudolph was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

12. Delanie Walker, San Francisco 49ers

39 of 50

     

    Hands

    18/35

    Drops plagued Delanie Walker throughout much of the 2012 regular season. While this was fixed to some extent by the playoffs, Walker’s season was marred by drops and missed opportunities. This wasn’t an issue in 2011, so it could be correctable.

    Blocking

    18/20

    Walker is one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. His lack of elite size and strength can be an issue against defensive ends, but as a moving blocker, Walker is a stud.

    Route Running

    22/25

    An area where Walker can be more crisp and clean, but we’re still looking at a top-tier route-runner. Walker can execute both deep patterns and timing routes underneath.

    Speed

    20/20

    Walker was a college wide receiver who has made the move to tight end, and that speed still shows up in his game. Walker is one of the fastest in the NFL at the position.

    Overall

    78/100

    A blueprint for the versatile tight end/H-back that can move, block and work as a receiver up the field. Walker’s drops are the only thing holding him back from a higher score.

     

    Walker was No. 20 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

11. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans

40 of 50

     

    Hands

    26/35

    Jared Cook is a matchup nightmare for defenders; with his good hands, he’s one of the more potentially dangerous players at the position. Cook dropped just five passes all season, compared to 44 catches.

    Blocking

    10/20

    Cook is rarely asked to help as a blocker, as the team prefers he be used as a receiver when at all possible. He’ll stock block some on run downs, but by and large, he’s not a factor here.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Cook does more damage with speed and agility in his route tree. There’s work to be done on his planting and cutting, as he could be more precise in his transitions. Once Cook masters the ability to beat defenders with his routes, he’ll move way up the list.

    Speed

    20/20

    A tight end that really plays more wide receiver, Cook has amazing speed for the tight end position. He was clocked at 4.49 at the NFL pre-draft combine.

    Overall

    78/100

    An elite athlete at tight end, Cook has versatility that NFL teams love. The Titans haven’t quite figured out how to use him, but he’s among their more valuable assets.

     

    Cook was No. 19 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

10. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

41 of 50

     

    Hands

    26/35

    Dwayne Allen was one of the most impressive rookies at any position in 2012, due in large part to his ability to pull in tough catches. Allen only had 45 catches, so his production wasn’t eye-popping, but he dropped only three all season. He was as sure-handed as any when the ball was catchable.

    Blocking

    20/20

    Allen made an instant impact as a blocker—both in the run and pass games. He was a key cog in the Colts’ run game as a moving blocker from the backfield, the end of the line and in the slot.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Allen’s route running was good for a first-year player, but this is one area he needs to improve before Year 2. Allen was quick off the snap but stiff at times in his lower body when asked to make sharp cuts in space.

    Speed

    14/20

    Allen didn’t run well at the NFL Scouting Combine back in 2012, but he shows good quickness in and out of his breaks and enough speed to run away from defenders. The Colts have hidden his lack of top-end speed a bit by moving him around pre-snap.

    Overall

    79/100

    A rookie in 2012, Allen didn’t play like one. He was an ideal fit for the Colts’ versatile offense, showing off his ability to move pre-snap, affect the game as a receiver and pitch in as a lead blocker.

     

    Allen was not ranked in last year's B/R NFL 1,000.

9. Martellus Bennett, New York Giants

42 of 50

     

    Hands

    28/35

    Martellus Bennett wasn’t a well-known tight end before the 2012 season, but he came on the scene strong this year with more opportunities. Bennett dropped six passes this season, more than we’d like to see based on his targets, but he continues to show reliable hands when the ball is delivered in his range.

    Blocking

    15/20

    A good blocker on both passing and run downs, Bennett can be used to stay in and protect the quarterback and kick out to power the run game as a strong-side blocker. He doesn’t always excel when matched up against defensive ends, but the talent is there.

    Route Running

    22/30

    Bennett is an asset as an intermediate and deep threat. He has the size to get behind coverage and the toughness to plant and go across the middle.

    Speed

    15/20

    Bennett has good speed for his size, but he won’t be a guy making huge plays in space or running away from defensive backs. He’s not a liability as a runner, though, and has shown he can get open and separate.

    Overall

    80/100

    A complete tight end, Bennett doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves. As a top tight end on our list last season, Bennett backed up that ranking with a fantastic 2012 season.

     

    Bennett was No. 13 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

8. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

43 of 50

     

    Hands

    31/35

    Antonio Gates has struggled the last two seasons with injuries and a diminished overall athletic ability, but his hands are still as good as ever. Gates is making more contested catches, but he’s showing great hand strength and concentration by being asked to make tougher catches over the middle.

    Blocking

    10/20

    Gates has never been much of a blocker, as the Chargers have focused on him being a receiver first and foremost. He’ll get in the way and shadow linebackers in the run game, but he’s not a pile mover.

    Route Running

    24/25

    A stick-and-go route-runner who excels at intermediate routes where he can fire off the ball, put his foot in the ground and play off the defender. Gates does a great job setting up double moves in his routes with head fakes and body placement.

    Speed

    15/20

    As age sets in, Gates isn’t as fast as he used to be. His inability to separate from defenders means more contested catches and fewer yards after contact.

    Overall

    80/100

    Gates has had a Hall of Fame career and is one of the players responsible for the evolution of the position to more athletic prospects. He has slowed down due to age and injuries, but when asked to catch in traffic and make plays in the red zone, he’s still elite.

     

    Gates was ranked No. 7 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

7. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

44 of 50

     

    Hands

    32/35

    A consistent, tough pass-catcher, Heath Miller is a football magnet. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism to adjust and make highlight-reel catches, but if the ball if within his reach, he’s catching it. Miller had one of the lowest drop counts that we charted.

    Blocking

    10/20

    An average pass-blocker when used there, Miller received solid marks in run-blocking, but his inability to fire off and drive block ends is concerning. He’s much better on the weak side in running situations.

    Route Running

    24/25

    A versatile route-runner with good mechanics to throttle down and sink his hips, Miller has the strength and quickness to win when matched up with linebackers and most safeties in coverage.

    Speed

    15/20

    A big-bodied tight end that has never been known as a runner, Miller’s lack of speed was the only real knock on him coming out of college. It’s still the only knock on his game.

    Overall

    81/100

    Miller is one of the top all-around tight ends in the game. He’s becoming a bit of a throwback to the days of three-down tight ends, but we love his tough-as-nails style of play.

     

    Miller was ranked No. 8 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

6. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

45 of 50

     

    Hands

    32/35

    An underrated pass-catcher, Aaron Hernandez does a great job extending his arms to bring in outside passes. He has the strength to catch in traffic. Hernandez did have 10 drops on the season, but many were on passes that would have required incredible catches.

    Blocking

    10/20

    More of a wide receiver than tight end in his ability and use as a blocker, Hernandez is best served as a crack-back blocker or as someone who is tasked with running off the defense.

    Route Running

    24/25

    With his speed, agility and flexibility, Hernandez is one of the better route-running tight ends in the NFL. The Patriots use a complex passing tree, and Hernandez has shown he can run every route in the playbook without limitations.

    Speed

    17/20

    When you think of players who are more quick than fast, Hernandez comes to mind. He doesn’t have high-end speed in the open field but is very elusive and changes direction well.

    Overall

    83/100

    A classic example of the new flex tight end position that we’re seeing in the NFL, Hernandez is similar to a bigger wide receiver in his use and ability.

     

    Hernandez was No. 5 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

5. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

46 of 50

     

    Hands

    33/35

    The Atlanta Falcons targeted Tony Gonzalez 121 times during the regular season. He dropped just four passes. You would be hard-pressed to find a more consistent receiver at the position in the NFL today. Gonzalez has soft hands and the size to position himself perfectly for contested passes.

    Blocking

    10/20

    An underrated run-blocker when sealing off the backside, Gonzalez isn’t used to protect the quarterback and is rarely used as a lead blocker off the edge.

    Route Running

    25/25

    Gonzalez doesn’t run a complex number of routes, but those he does run are precise. He can plant and go without losing speed and is the best in the game at using his size to get between the ball and the defender.

    Speed

    15/20

    Once an exceptional athlete, Gonzalez has seen a decline in his speed and agility as time has worn on. He’s still explosive in short areas, but maintaining that speed isn’t something he can do.

    Overall

    83/100

    Among the all-time greats at tight end (if not the greatest), Gonzalez had an amazing 2012 season that once again highlighted his value as a red-zone receiver and target in the passing game.

     

    Gonzalez was ranked No. 4 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

4. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

47 of 50

     

    Hands

    31/35

    Jimmy Graham led all NFL tight ends in drops in 2012 with 15, but he had the second-most passes thrown his way. The drops hurt, but Graham has the strong hands to pull in the large majority of all passes thrown his way. With great length and size, he can extend to pull in errant passes too.

    Blocking

    11/20

    Graham is not a blocker. The Saints rarely use the big tight end as anything other than a pass-catcher. On rushing downs, he’s not a player the team likes to run behind as a lead blocker.

    Route Running

    25/25

    Graham’s size and speed make him a dangerous route-runner. He has the ability to cut and explode and uses his size well to box out defenders.

    Speed

    18/20

    One of the better athletes at the position, Graham doesn’t have a blazing open-field sprint speed, but he’s fast enough to make plays with the ball after the catch. His burst and explosion off the line is top notch.

    Overall

    85/100

    Jimmy Graham continues to be one of the best in the business. His dropped passes in 2012 hurt his overall score, as does his lack of use as a blocker, but Graham is definitely a cornerstone in the Saints offense.

     

    Graham was ranked No. 2 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

48 of 50

     

    Hands

    33/35

    Jason Witten catches everything. He catches contested passes, high passes, low passes and passes that he has no business getting to. Witten has the best hands of any tight end in the NFL.

    Blocking

    14/20

    A strong run-blocker who can do well as an in-line or motion blocker, Witten could do a better job sealing off blocks to maintain the edge. He’s not asked to stay in as a pass protector.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Witten is a technical route-runner who uses his size and quickness to generate separation. There’s not a route Witten can’t run, but it’s worth noting that many of his catches up the seam are contested by defenders. He still makes the catch, but his separation can be lacking.

    Speed

    16/20

    Witten wasn’t known for his speed coming out of college, and 10 years later his top-end speed has dropped off. Witten won’t run away from defenders post-catch.

    Overall

    87/100

    A complete tight end who fits into a throwback mold of the position, Witten is one of the most enjoyable players in the NFL to watch. His gritty, tough style of play equals his production.

     

    Witten was No. 3 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

49 of 50

     

    Hands

    30/35

    Rob Gronkowski will drop more passes than you might remember, but he will also pull in contested balls and make spectacular catches look easy. Gronk has big, strong hands that enable him to pull in passes that aren’t perfectly on the mark.

    Blocking

    18/20

    A very good run-blocker, Gronkowski is excellent at coming off of motion and cracking linebackers, ends and defensive backs. He’s strong enough to make a major impact in the run game as an edge blocker.

    Route Running

    25/25

    One of the best in the NFL at getting open, Gronkowski can stick his foot in the ground and cut like a much smaller player. He uses his size well to box out, but he’s also fast enough to run away from coverage.

    Speed

    16/20

    Gronkowski won’t wow anyone with a blistering 40-yard dash time, but he’s quick in space and uses his agility to separate from defenders. It’s a bit cliche, but he plays faster than his 40 time while still being fast enough to separate pre- and post-catch.

    Overall

    89/100

    One of the most impressive players in the NFL, Gronkowski has been slowed by injuries that have limited his production and overall skill set. A healthy Gronk in 2012 would likely be ranked higher, but there’s no telling when he’ll be back to 100 percent.

     

    Gronkowski was No. 1 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.

1. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

50 of 50

     

    Hands

    30/35

    Vernon Davis doesn’t have the longest arms or biggest hands, but he’s a strong pass-catcher who looks the ball in and secures it before turning upfield. Davis doesn’t put the ball on the ground often, and while he struggles at times with fastballs over the middle, he does a good job adjusting to passes in flight.

    Blocking

    16/20

    Davis is a technician when it comes to blocking. He has a great understanding of angles and leverage. The 49ers also help by setting him up for most blocks coming off motion, which allows him to get a natural angle to the side of the defender.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Davis is one of the most athletic tight ends in the game, and the 49ers offense benefits from being able to open up the playbook with him. Davis does a good job planting his foot in the ground and changing direction. He has quick feet and with a short, compact stride that allows him to make quick cuts and then accelerate into breaks.

    Speed

    20/20

    One of the fastest tight ends in the NFL right now, Davis does a good job converting speed to big plays. He knows how to use his quickness to separate from defenders in his route tree.

    Overall

    90/100

    Davis didn’t have the best production among tight ends in 2012, but when looking at the position from a traits and abilities standpoint, he was the best. His balance as a blocker, receiver and route-runner makes him invaluable.

     

    Davis was No. 6 in last year's B/R NFL 1,000 rankings.