The Top 10 Tight Ends of All Time and The AFC West

John ParkerCorrespondent INovember 5, 2008

It's the midpoint mark of 2008 and so far the AFC West is arguably football's worst division.

Look at the four teams above in the photo. The Chiefs are dead last against the run and Tony Gonzalez wants to pack his bags. The Chargers have failed to live up to last year's hype. The Broncos have started off the season strong but have struggled over the past few weeks. Do I even need to tell what's wrong with today's Oakland Raiders.

There used to be a time when this was the NFL's most exciting division. From Air Coryell to LT's record breaking season, the Chargers may have never won a Super Bowl, but they have been a lot of fun to watch.

The rest of the teams have all won the Super Bowl and all of them have featured great playmakers. Especially at the tight end position. In Fact half of all of the great tight ends on this list are from the AFC West. Every single one of those teams in that picture have has had a tight end on this list who spent the majority of his football career with them.

10. Antonio Gates—Every single year Antonio Gates is always first or second among tight ends statistically. The Chargers have embarrassed teams with Antonio Gates because opposing defenses are terrified of LT, but they forget that Gates can punish them on any play.

9. Jackie Smith—When you think of Jackie Smith you don't remember his 480 catches. You don't remember he leads all tight ends in the Hall of Fame with 7,918 yards. You don't remember the brilliant 15 years he spent with the Cardinals. You just remember one dropped catch with the Dallas Cowboys.

8. Mark Bavaro—Mark Bavaro is an ideal Bill Parcells New York Giant. He's tough, big, and not scared of anything. His amazing blocking ability paved the way for an amazing rushing offense, and his ability to run over defensive backs struck fear into opposing teams.

7. Ozzie Newsome—Nicknamed the Wizard this tight end wasn't the best blocker, but his ability to catch the football has earned him a spot in Canton and on this list.

6. Dave Casper—I've always been curious how he got the nickname The Ghost. He's in the Hall of Fame for his big-play ability. He was always there when Ken Stabler needed him the most. Plays like Ghost to the Post and The Holly Roller aren't possible without a converted offensive tackle from Notre Dame.

5. Tony Gonzalez—Gonzalez has many records for catching the football. His stats are mind blowing and might break every single major tight end receiving record. Over the years he might not be a Mark Bavaro, but he has improved as a blocker. Even though he wants to leave Kansas City, he will always be remembered as a Chief regardless of what happens.

4. Mike Ditka—Toughness! Some of today's tight ends have forgotten that word. Mike Ditka never will. It's how he played and how he coached, and his mindset has earned him a No. 4 spot on this list.

3. Shannon Sharpe—One of the greatest draft steals of all time. Can you believe he was drafted in the final round by the Denver Broncos! Hands down the greatest receiving tight end ever. But he's undersized and that's why he isn't higher on this list.

2. Kellen Winslow Sr.—His soft hands, enormous size, and great speed revolutionized the tight end position into today's versatile playmakers. He doesn't have the best numbers but he changed the game and that's why he's No. 2. In fact, a lot of people would argue that he deserves to be No. 1...

1. John Mackey—...but I'm not one of those people. I think Raymond Berry always got too much credit for Johnny Unitas' success. People don't remember the greatest run-after-the-catch receiver of all time and that's John Mackey.

His ability the block defensive ends but still go out for a pass was phenomenal. His seven-broken-tackle play is also arguably the greatest single play in NFL history. His athleticism was only matched by one other player of his era and that's Jim Brown.

Even though he didn't spend the majority of his team with an AFC West team, he spent the final year of his career as a San Diego Charger. The Colts front office man who decided to draft John Mackey should be proud of himself.