Nowadays in the National Football League, a tight end can often be a quarterback's best friend. With exotic blitz schemes coming from all over the field, the man under center often needs that security blanket to dump it off to while under pressure.
Last year, we saw guys like Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles and Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers have breakout seasons, while other premier tight ends like Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons and Kellen Winslow of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their careers in new places.
This slide show features the top ten tight ends currently in the NFL, with highlight videos to accompany them!
Enjoy and feel free to comment on who is too high, who is too low and who should make the cut!
During the 2008 season, Owen Daniels became a name that every fantasy football owner grew to know, as the five-year Wisconsin graduate embarked on his second straight season with 60-plus receptions. Daniels was beginning to put up big numbers in the Houston Texans pass-heavy offense that featured Pro Bowl wide receiver, Andre Johnson.
Daniels recorded 70 catches for 862 yards and two touchdowns in 2008, and continued his success into 2009, catching 40 passes for 519 yards and five touchdowns before his season came to a screeching halt after eight games due to a season-ending injury.
This year, Daniels is returning to the Texans healthy, and should return to his prior form, especially with the huge question marks at running back in Houston.
Greg Olsen is one of many highly successful tight ends to emerge from the University of Miami, and while there are questions surrounding Greg Olsen's potential productivity for the 2010 season, there is no question that his past production will ensure that he gets his touches.
The former Hurricane caught 60 passes for 612 yards while scoring eight touchdowns last season in a Chicago Bears offense that was pretty awful with Jay Cutler under center.
The Bears signed tight end Brandon Manumaleuma this offseason, as new offensive coordinator, Mike Martz loves tight ends that can block, but something tells me Lovie Smith will want Olsen's receiving abilities in the mix as well.
Zach Miller is a 6'5", 255-pound tight end that has been the victim of a terrible Oakland Raiders offense for his first four seasons in the National Football League, but this year he has a new quarterback in Jason Campbell.
Despite the struggles of the Raiders offense, Miller still caught 66 passes for 805 yards and three touchdowns last season, from quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, and even J.P. Losman.
Jason Campbell has already displayed his love for tight ends in Washington, where he had both Chris Cooley and Fred Davis to turn to. Zach Miller is poised for a big 2010 season.
Brent Celek emerged as a huge red-zone threat last season for the Philadelphia Eagles, catching 76 passes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns while being targeted 112 times.
Celek was ranked second in targets inside the opponents five- and 10-yard line last season, due to the lack of skill at the running back position. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy poised for a big year, but Celek will prove to be first-year starter, Kevin Kolb's new best friend when he is under pressure.
Kellen "The Soldier" Winslow has had a rocky road in the National Football League since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2002 out of the University of Miami. The son of Kellen Winslow Sr. was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 2009 season.
Winslow was targeted 127 times by Buccaneer quarterbacks, catching 77 of them for 884 yards and five touchdowns, the most in his career, after starting in just eight games during a disappointing 2008 season that followed his huge 82 reception, 1,106 yard, five-touchdown 2007 season.
With more continuity at the quarterback position in Tampa Bay, Winslow should return to his previous form from 2007.
While most people may remember Vernon Davis for his infamous Sunday when he walked off the field and was chewed out by Mike Singletary, others may now recognize him as being the leading touchdown scorer among tight ends in the NFL.
Davis became a huge threat in the 49ers passing game last season, when he caught 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns while being targeted 129 times.
Davis is just 26 years old, and is at the beginning of what is expected to be a very productive career in the National Football League.
After playing for 12 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Gonzalez signed with the Atlanta Falcons prior to the 2009 season, and became another weapon in young quarterback Matt Ryan's arsenal.
The 6'5", 243-pound future Hall of Famer caught 83 passes for 867 yards and six touchdowns and was targeted 135 times.
At age 34, Gonzalez is still in great shape, and is well on his way to Canton, Ohio.
Heading into his 14th season in the NFL, Gonzalez has caught 999 passes for 11,807 yards and 73 touchdowns.
Antonio Gates is a former basketball player turned NFL Superstar, and is a fan favorite in San Diego where he has been a huge benefit for both Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers for the past eight years.
Last season gates caught 79 passes for 1,157 yards and caught eight touchdowns for the seventh straight season.
This season, the Chargers leading wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, is threatening to hold out into the season, so Gates, who just signed the highest contract ever for a tight end, should be targeted even more than the 114 times he was targeted last season.
Despite not being a huge touchdown scorer, Jason Witten has been a major asset to the Dallas Cowboys as both a pass catcher and a blocker. At 6'6" and 263 pounds, Witten looks like the prototype of a tight end.
Witten caught 94 passes for 1,030 yards and scored two touchdowns last season. Even with a crowded receiving corps in Dallas, Witten is still sure to be a major receiver for Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
Dallas Clark is blessed with playing for the best quarterback in the National Football League. How often do you see a tight end catching 100 passes? That is exactly what Dallas Clark did last season, in addition to gaining 1,106 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns.
Eleven of his receptions were for more than 20 yards, and it was Clark's second time of his career catching at least 10 touchdowns, and his first time catching 100 passes or gaining 1,000 yards in a year.
Clark is sure to see his targets continue as he has been one of the most consistent pass catchers in Peyton Manning's offense for the past eight seasons, and is just the second tight end in NFL history to catch 100 passes in a season.