Tony Gonzalez: Where Does Falcons TE Rank Among the Best Ever?

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Tony Gonzalez: Where Does Falcons TE Rank Among the Best Ever?
Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Gonzalez has had a Hall of Fame career.

Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons is easily among the best tight ends in NFL history.

Is he, however, the best to ever step on the field at his position?

Well, there's certainly an argument for it. With this being Gonzalez's 16th season, he has received 13 Pro Bowl and 10 All-Pro selections. Interestingly enough, Gonzalez is much more than just your typical receiving tight end.

His consistent dependability in the passing game has certainly been the most notable. Because after the 2012 regular season concluded, Gonzalez had compiled 1,242 catches for 14,268 receiving yards and scored 103 touchdowns.

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And four times did he rack up over 1,000 receiving yards and seven years with 80-plus receptions.

During his time with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1997 through 2008, Gonzalez was also part of a top-10 rushing offense seven times.

More impressive was his blocking for ball-carriers Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, each of whom enjoyed their best rushing seasons with Gonzalez acting as the sixth offensive lineman. Not to mention, it wasn't like K.C. presented a consistently stellar passing game during those years aside from Gonzalez.

Since Gonzalez joined the Falcons in 2009, running the rock has been tough because Atlanta holds the personnel capable of throwing downfield. Altogether, the Dirty Birds offer Gonzalez more talent than he has ever been around.

And in an article by Tom Rock of Newsday.com, Gonzalez stated:

I know I can still play this game. There's no doubt about it. I can play this game for another three years if I wanted to, at a high level, too. But there comes a point in your career where I've gotten everything I've ever wanted from this game, and the only reason I've been playing for the last couple of years is for an opportunity like this.

At the same time, his knowledge and experience for the game significantly benefits young quarterback Matt Ryan. Gonzalez still possesses the ability to beat any linebacker or defensive back in man coverage; plus, 211 of his 326 receptions with the Falcons—which equates to 64.7 percent moved the chains.

Gonzalez's level of consistent reliability there greatly assisted Atlanta's rushing attack.

The Falcons may not dominate opponents in the trenches, but with Gonzalez over the middle along with his effective blocking, Michael Turner and Co. are able to make a bigger impact. The production of numbers isn't the idea; effectively slamming the rock when needed is.

This is a key reason why the Falcons have gone 36-12 over the past three regular seasons, which also includes two NFC South titles and three straight postseason appearances.

Gonzalez also just continued to get better with age throughout his career, and he is the most complete tight end of the 21st century. Holding countless records for his position including most yards, receptions, touchdowns and starts, Gonzalez's legacy will finish—whenever that may be—with a spot in Canton, Ohio.

 

Top 10 Tight Ends in NFL History

1. John Mackey: Colts, Chargers

2. Mike Ditka: Bears, Eagles, Cowboys

3. Tony Gonzalez: Chiefs, Falcons

4. Shannon Sharpe: Broncos, Ravens

5. Kellen Winslow: Chargers

6. Ozzie Newsome: Browns

7. Mark Bavaro: Giants, Browns, Eagles

8. Dave Casper: Raiders, Oilers, Vikings

9. Charlie Sanders: Lions

10. Jackie Smith: Cardinals, Cowboys

 

Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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