Under-appreciated and often overlooked, tight ends play one of the most vital positions on the football field.
No other position takes on the quantity of roles a tight end is asked to perform.
They must play a primary role in a team's passing game, play bulldozer on run plays, and take on blitzing linebackers and defensive ends on select passing plays.
The tight ends of the AFC are some of the best in the league, and perhaps some of the best of all time. Although the NFC might boast better depth in quality tight ends, the names Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark might be enough to make it an intriguing debate.
Some are future Hall of Famers, some are yet to blossom, some are past their primes, and some are simply consistent.
Here are the top 10 tight ends of the American Football Conference.
Miami Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano showed the league what he was capable of in 2008.
In the midst of the Dolphins' miracle turnaround, Fasano caught seven touchdown passes, which left him third behind Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez for total touchdown receptions.
Although Fasano has caught just 65 passes over the last two seasons, he has a chance to build a relationship with young quarterback Chad Henne.
However, if Fasano does not pick up his production, the Dolphins will likely go elsewhere at the tight end position.
Perhaps aided by the presence of one of the NFL's most prolific offenses, former Patriots and current Browns tight end Ben Watson has nevertheless become a model for mediocre consistency.
Watson's career numbers are by no means spectacular, but since he became a regular starter for the Patriots in 2005, they have been steady.
The recently signed Brown has averaged 33 receptions per season, 30 yards per game, and has totaled 20 touchdowns in that span.
Watson will enter Cleveland as one of the team's most trusted receiving threats, and his numbers in 2010 will likely reflect that.
However, he must prove that he can produce without Tom Brady and a great receiving corps surrounding him.
After waiting five rounds to hear his named called in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans made Texas Longhorns tight end Bo Scaife the 179th pick in the Sixth Round.
Since then, Scaife has exceeded everyone's expectations and become one of former college teammate Vince Young's favorite targets.
Although Scaife posted his best numbers with Kerry Collins at the helm for the Titans in 2008, with 58 receptions, 561 yards, and two touchdowns, he has shown flashes with Vince Young under center as well.
Scaife will be aided by the emergence of Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, as well as defenses' increased attention on the Titans run game.
However, he needs to begin finding the end zone more often if he wishes to stay on as the Titans' long-term tight end.
If Dustin Keller's first two years in the NFL are an indication of what his future holds, he might soon find himself climbing towards the top of this list.
In two years with the New York Jets, Keller has compiled 93 receptions, 1,057 yards, and five touchdowns. Those may not necessarily be spectacular numbers, but with more experience and more time to develop chemistry with quarterback Mark Sanchez, Keller could become a cornerstone in the Jets offense, and therefore see increased numbers.
Much like Bo Scaife, Keller should be helped by the improvements his offense has made. The acquisition of Santonio Holmes and the rise of Shonn Greene will probably allow Keller to get more open looks, and if he takes advantage of them, the Jets will have themselves another weapon about which to boast.
Zach Miller had easily the toughest task on this list: catching passes from JaMarcus Russell.
Surprisingly, Miller did so, and produced admirable numbers considering the circumstance.
After three years with the Oakland Raiders, Miller has missed just one game, and has accumulated 166 receptions, for 2,027 yards, and seven touchdowns.
New Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell favored Redskins tight end Chris Cooley during his days in Washington, and if he develops a similar liking for Miller, bright things could be ahead for the young tight end.
Keep an eye on Miller in 2010, because the formula in Oakland is just right for him to breakout.
Todd Heap has proven that he can be an elite tight end in the NFL after nine productive seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Heap posted stellar back to back seasons in 2005 and 2006, when he combined to catch 148 passes for 1,620 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, his numbers quickly dropped off after an injury plagued 2007 and a mediocre 2008 season.
Just when the former Arizona State Sun Devil's career appeared to be in a downward spiral, he rebounded with six touchdown catches in 2009.
Although Heap is now 30, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco might be the key to reignite his engine and soak a few more productive seasons out of him.
Before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week Eight of last season, Owen Daniels was well on his way to a breakout season.
But after just eight games, Daniels had already caught 40 passes, for 519 yards, and five touchdowns. And this was after he caught 70 passes for 862 yards in 2008.
Daniels has proven he can accumulate the stats to make him an elite tight end, so all that is left for him to do is accumulate them on a yearly basis.
Assuming Daniels can rebound strongly from his knee injury, expect to see him post elite numbers in 2010.
Even though Heath Miller caught six touchdowns during his rookie campaign in Pittsburgh, and has gone on to catch an average of five since, he remains one of the most underrated players in the league.
Miller's name is seldom mentioned with the league's best tight ends, yet his numbers do not trail those of the big names by much.
After five seasons with the Steelers, Miller's numbers have increased almost every year. In 2009, he put up career bests in receptions (76) and yards (789), while also racking up six touchdown receptions.
If Miller can build on the success he had in 2009, he will continue to gain notoriety in a league that has overlooked his great performances.
Playing in an offense with Peyton Manning at the helm will make any player look better, but playing with Dallas Clark might make any quarterback look better too.
Clark has served as Manning's safety blanket behind Reggie Wayne and the retired Marvin Harrison since he entered the league in 2003.
Additionally, Clark has seen a steady increase in numbers over his career, which led to a career year in 2009. He caught 100 passes, for 1,106 yards, and 10 touchdowns, leaving him in the top three of almost every statistical category amongst tight ends.
The former Iowa Hawkeye was a key component in the Colts Super Bowl run, and if he can replicate last year's play in 2010, Indianapolis will return as a Super Bowl threat.
Antonio Gates epitomizes dominance at the tight end position.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Gates has used his freakish build to make unfathomable catches over defensive backs throughout his seven year career. These incredible catches and Gates' dominance on the field has made him arguably the league's best tight end.
Since 2004, Gates' second NFL season, he has caught no less than 60 passes and eight touchdowns every season, and has earned a Pro Bowl selection in each one.
Those numbers top those of almost every other tight end in the league, and they may very well earn Gates a bust in the NFL Hall of Fame one day.