B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 60 Tight Ends from 2014

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 17, 2015

B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 60 Tight Ends from 2014

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Who is the best player in the NFL? Not based on the last 10 years or one game, but over the last year, who was the best? Good luck answering that one without starting a fight, right?   

    Well, that's what the NFL 1000 aims to do by scouting, grading and then ranking the best players at each position before putting them in order and breaking ties to come up with the top 1,000 players. No narratives, no fantasy football points, no "QBR"—this is cold-hard scouting.

    You can find rankings for all other positions on our B/R NFL 1000 main page.

    The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.

    Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.

    Tight ends are judged on their catching ability (40 points), blocking (10), route running (25), speed (20) and their value as a starter or backup (5). How do we value starter points? If a player is a consistent starter, he gets the full five points. Spot starters received four points. Players scoring in the three-, two- or one-point range are not considered starting caliber.

    In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.

    Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Cian Fahey, Dan Hope, Marshal Miller, Justis Mosqueda) with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.

    All statistics from Pro Football Focus. Players' heights, weights and seasons played from NFL.com.

60-56. Hill, Gillmore, Watson, Dickson, Smith

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    60. Josh Hill, New Orleans Saints

    72/100

    Hands: 31/40; Blocking: 4/10; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter 2/5

    Josh Hill has big shoes to fill in 2015 with Jimmy Graham in Seattle, and they’re really similar types of athletes. Hill has the long, linear (6'5", 250 lbs) frame that looks like an oversized wide receiver, and he plays that way too. Hill’s hands are solid, but he’s untested there. As a blocker, he’s very limited and will likely see most of his time spent in the slot—a la Graham—as he moves into a starter role.

    59. Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore Ravens

    72/100

    Hands: 31/40; Blocking: 5/10; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 3/5

    Here’s a player to keep an eye on for 2015, but looking back on Crockett Gillmore’s 2014 season, there is room for improvement. As a blocker, he struggled to finish, and while he was only targeted 13 times in the passing game, his two drops on those chances don’t generate a ton of confidence in his skill set. Of course, this is a small sample size, but what Gillmore showed in 2014 leaves us wanting more. He does have starter-level size (6'6", 251 lbs) and has flashed the ability to box out in the red zone, but his rookie impression wasn’t overwhelmingly strong.

    58. Ben Watson, New Orleans Saints

    73/100

    Hands: 29/40; Blocking: 7/10; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 3/5

    Ben Watson received most of his attention this year for his comments made about non-football issues. When on the field, Watson is an effective blocker and effective pass-catcher underneath. Watson did, however, have three drops in 27 targets. To be a quality No. 2 tight end, Watson will have to continue to block well. 

    57. Ed Dickson, Carolina Panthers

    73/100

    Hands: 31/40; Blocking: 5/10; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 4/5

    Ed Dickson showed promise as a young tight end with the Ravens but hasn’t progressed much since. He has struggled with drops and hasn’t been an effective blocker.

    56. Lee Smith, Oakland Raiders

    73/100

    Hands: 30/40; Blocking: 9/10; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 3/5

    Lee Smith is a dominant blocker and will make a career as a backup blocking tight end. Smith is raw as a pass-catcher and only saw eight targets with one drop. At 6’5”, 265 pounds, Smith is able to line up in-line and hold his own against defensive ends and get his hands on defenders at the next level.

55-51. Willson, Dray, Paulsen, Tamme, Barnridge

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    55. Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks

    74/100

    Hands: 29/40; Blocking: 6/10; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 19/20; Starter 4/5

    Luke Willson was the Seahawks’ No. 1 option at tight end in 2014, but now he’ll be moved to a secondary role with Jimmy Graham on the team. In Willson, the team has an ideal No. 2 tight end. He’s a solid blocker with good speed and impressive strength. As a receiver, Willson can be inconsistent but showed flashes of being very dangerous up the seam. If he can improve his consistency catching passes on short routes over the middle (four drops on 18 targets), his score could be higher even with fewer starts in 2015.

    54. Jim Dray, Cleveland Browns

    74/100

    Hands: 29/40; Blocking: 6/10; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 19/20; Starter 4/5

    Jim Dray wasn’t the ideal option at tight end, but with injuries pushing him into the lineup, he answered the call with a solid showing. Dray is a very good blocker with the balance to play in-line as a pass protector or out in space as a run-blocker. He’s not a consistent pass-catcher away from his frame but can pull in tough passes in traffic over the middle. Dray isn’t a flashy athlete but gets the job done with separation. Improving his ability to box out defenders as a route-runner will be key for his development.

    53. Logan Paulsen, Washington

    75/100

    Hands: 32/40; Blocking: 7/10; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 2/5

    Logan Paulsen is most dangerous when blocking. The five-year veteran started 12 games for Washington and showed he can be a reliable backup tight end in the league. He does not show much promise as a starter in the NFL.

    52. Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons

    75/100

    Hands: 31/40; Blocking: 5/10; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 3/5

    Jacob Tamme played in 15 games for the Broncos, but he has moved to Atlanta, where the Falcons lack a true No. 1 tight end. Tamme has had a good career and will look to prove he still has something left in the tank as new pass-catching tight ends come into the league.

    51. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns

    75/100

    Hands: 35/40; Blocking: 5/10; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 14/20; Starter 3/5

    Gary Barnidge is a solid tight end and will do most of his work over the middle with fairly good routes. He won’t catch many passes outside his body but is a lock on balls inside him. He is not used much as a blocker because of ability and lack of strength. Barnidge has played six seasons and is a solid big-target tight end.

50. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    The third tight end on the Colts’ depth chart, Jack Doyle is a monster at 6’6” and 253 pounds. While not a huge player in the passing game, Doyle saw 29 targets, bringing in 24 catches without dropping a pass. While it’s a very small sample size, that’s a good idea of the type of target Doyle can be over the middle and on quick-hitters.

    Blocking

    8/10

    Doyle was among the better blocking tight ends seen in 2014. He’s strong in pass protection to keep defenders locked up, and in the run game he moves well enough to wall off defenders to set the edge or get to the second level.

    Route Running

    16/25

    Doyle isn’t a varied route-runner at this time, relying more on dumps and simple breaking routes in front of coverage. He did improve from what we saw in his second year, but he still needs work to execute the more nuanced timing routes.

    Speed

    14/20

    Doyle isn’t a burner up the field and will struggle to generate space in longer, deeper routes. He isn’t a flex tight end with speed to eat up cushions, but more of a mauler.

    Starter

    2/5

    Doyle was impressive in his 469 snaps for the Colts in 2014. And while he’s not looking like a starter for them in the future, he does have value as a third option and special teams player.

    Overall

    75/100

49. Niles Paul, Washington

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    A former wide receiver in college, Niles Paul flashes big-play ability and has moments where you think he’s about to emerge as a star. On 51 targets in 2014 he caught 39 passes but dropped four. That’s a bad ratio for a player looking to take a bigger part in the offense.

    Blocking

    4/10

    Of all the tight ends we evaluated, Paul may be the worst run-blocker. He’s too thin and too timid to effectively set the edge in the run game. As a pass-blocker he’s solid thanks to his ability to cut players and move in space.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Paul has the route-running talent of a wide receiver thanks to his 6’1”, 241-pound frame. He moves well in and out of cuts and has the explosive ability to run away from cover men after he breaks off his route.

    Speed

    18/20

    Speed is a big part of what makes Paul an intriguing talent. Few linebackers can keep up with him on the field, and even some safeties struggle to match his speed.

    Starter

    3/5

    Paul is a very good second option, but in his four years as an NFL tight end he’s failed to ever take that next step into becoming a reliable target at tight end.

    Overall

    76/100

48. Jace Amaro, New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Hands

    30/40

    Jace Amaro will wow people with the catches he brings in and also with the easy ones he drops. In 52 targets, he had six drops and 38 catches. Amaro extends his arms and has a great catch radius. If he focuses on catching the balls he should be catching, he will show sufficient hands.

    Blocking

    5/10

    In his time at Texas Tech, Amaro was not used as a blocker, and it shows. Amaro has some catching up to do and lacks the technique to be an elite blocker. The Jets will use Amaro split out wide and in motion.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Amaro runs good routes and is a natural runner. He can stretch the defense and hit the seam. He runs routes like a receiver and will be exceptional if he can show fluid hips in and out of his breaks.

    Speed

    17/20

    Amaro is a large tight end (6’5”, 265 lbs), but he can move. He ran a 4.74-second 40 at the combine and plays with good speed. His speed makes him dangerous to cover with a linebacker, and his size makes it tough for safeties.

    Starter

    4/5

    Amaro is a raw prospect due to his college offense but showed good production and will look to see more reps next year as he works on his game. He will develop into a solid receiving tight end.

    Overall

    76/100

47. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Hands

    30/40

    Eric Ebron was taken with the 10th pick in last year's draft, two slots ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. The Lions wanted a franchise tight end, again, but Ebron started just seven games and showed poor hands during that time. With four drops in 46 targets and just 25 catches, Ebron showed he is a project and not ready to be an elite NFL tight end.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Ebron is not ready to lock in with NFL defensive ends. He lacks focus and intensity at a position that requires intensity. At times, Ebron flashed good ability in the blocking game and showed some good downfield blocks. If Ebron cannot improve his hands, he had better work on his blocking.

    Route Running

    18/25

    For a rookie, Ebron ran good routes and has the ability to get up the seam. He is a freak athlete for the position and will flash that at times. His quickness and frame will allow him to get open, but he still needs work in his technique and fundamental route running.

    Speed

    18/20

    Ebron can run with the best tight ends in the game. Clocking in at 4.6 in the 40 at the combine and baking it up on the field, Ebron will use his speed to run right by defenders not expecting that speed from a 265-pound tight end.

    Starter

    4/5

    If Ebron can bounce back from a somewhat disappointing rookie year, he has great potential. The Lions hope Ebron isn’t the same mistake they made with Brandon Pettigrew in 2009.

    Overall

    76/100

46. James Hanna, Dallas Cowboys

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    James Hanna was only on the field for 307 snaps in 2014, but he made an impression. As a receiver he was solid on a very small sample size. Taking into account he only saw six targets and had four catches, his lack of a drop isn’t all that surprising. More interesting to us was that Hanna was rarely used in the passing game behind Jason Witten, which keeps his hands score lower than his extrapolated numbers may warrant.

    Blocking

    5/10

    At 6’4” and 260 pounds, Hanna isn’t going to go toe-to-toe with defensive ends in the run game, but give him an angle coming off pre-snap motion and he can win with leverage and a willingness to make contact. In pass protection he doesn’t have the power to be a reliable weapon.

    Route Running

    16/25

    Hanna is a plus-level athlete with good initial quickness, but he struggles to beat a jam at the line of scrimmage and was often covered up by linebackers in space. He has to learn to work through traffic and make himself a target.

    Speed

    19/20

    Hanna has very respectable speed for a tight end—he turned in a 4.49-second 40 during his predraft combine—and is able to beat defenders with his legs. Once he cleans up his route running, Hanna could be a threat with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    3/5

    Barring injuries, Hanna will remain a No. 3 tight end with special teams value for the foreseeable future.

    Overall

    76/100

45. Brandon Myers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Hands

    32/40

    In 2012, Brandon Myers posted 79 catches for the Raiders and then 47 in 2013 with the Giants. Myers' production fell again in 2014 and showed he struggles to extend his arms. Myers caught 22 of his 29 targets but showed limited catch radius.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Much like other tight ends, Myers can’t handle the bigger defensive linemen and needs to be used in motion or out of the backfield to be a solid blocker. When trying to block in-line, Myers does not come off the ball well and lacks explosiveness.

    Route Running

    22/25

    He shows good footwork in his routes with above-average quickness. Myers doesn’t run past defenders, but he has good timing in his routes and finds holes.

    Speed

    15/20

    Myers uses good speed in his routes, but it is not sustained for long runs. He will use his speed in the underneath and through his breaks.

    Starter

    3/5

    Myers has been a starter at times, but in 2014, he was more of a role player and didn't establish himself as the pass-catching threat he had previously shown to be. He's a solid No. 2 tight end but nothing more.

    Overall

    77/100

44. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Hands

    31/40

    When Kyle Rudolph is healthy, he looks exceptional. Staying healthy is the key for him. Rudolph looked like he cured his issues with drops in 2013—only one drop—but managed to drop three passes in just 31 targets in 2014. As Rudolph looks to fight off the other Vikings tight ends for snaps, he will have to improve his catching ability.

    Blocking

    5/10

    At 6'6", Rudolph has the size and athletic ability to be a blocking tight end but lacks the technique. Rudolph tries to overpower his defender like he was able to at Notre Dame, but that doesn’t work too often in the NFL. If Rudolph wants to keep Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison off the field, he had better be working on his blocking.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Route running is probably Rudolph's best asset. He makes a big target for his quarterback and has good quickness in and out of his breaks. Rudolph plays a little stiff in the hips at times, but when he is on, he is one of the better young route-runners.

    Speed

    16/20

    For a guy who weighs in at 259 pounds, Rudolph shows good speed. He won’t run by many defenders but uses his big body and long wingspan to pull in passes many tight ends can’t.

    Starter

    5/5

    When Rudolph is healthy, he is a promising tight end; however, the last two seasons, Rudolph has played a combined 17 games. Rudolph has two good young tight ends behind him right now in Ford and Ellison. He needs to stay healthy and prove he is the tight end the Vikings drafted.

    Overall

    77/100

43. Dion Sims, Miami Dolphins

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    A fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft, Dion Sims has the size and athleticism needed to make plays. As a receiver, he flashed positive skills, bringing in 24 catches on 34 targets and only dropping two passes. He won’t make the tough grabs away from his frame, but Sims is a dependable pass-catcher in traffic.

    Blocking

    8/10

    As a pass protector, Sims needs work. He’s big enough to absorb rushers but has to work on balance and footwork. In the run game, he was better but needs more meanness when he’s asked to get to the second level.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Sims isn’t a flashy, agile mover in space, so his routes are more straight and a little heavy-footed. He can get open over the middle and presents a big target to the quarterback, but he’s not an up-the-seam type of player.

    Speed

    14/20

    Sims is more lumbering than fast and will struggle to pull away from defenders in space. He’s not a big yards-after-catch guy but is a solid chain mover.

    Starter

    3/5

    Through his two seasons in the NFL, Sims has been a solid contributor, but based on his 2014 output he doesn’t project as a long-term No. 1 tight end.

    Overall

    77/100

42. Luke Stocker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Cliff McBride/Getty Images

    Hands

    35/40

    Luke Stocker was not used in the passing game much, but he has shown that he won’t drop many balls. He also hasn’t gone and gotten many balls. He shows good extension but won’t make many plays outside his body.

    Blocking

    6/10

    At 6'5", 253 pounds, Stocker has good size for a tight end but can lose leverage at the point of attack. Stocker is smart and makes up for his shortcomings with solid technique and ability to seal the edge. The Bucs use Stocker best when they get him in motion as a blocker and not in-line with big defensive ends.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Stocker isn’t the most fluid route-runner and will need to use his body to box out defenders. Stocker does not get in and out of cuts and at times looks stiff in his routes.

    Speed

    16/20

    With good speed, Stocker is able to get loose from defenders in his routes and can pick up yards after the catch. He's not a flashy runner, though, and will struggle to get away from good coverage by athletic linebackers or safeties.

    Starter

    3/5

    Stocker has played four seasons with the Bucs and will need to prove he can be more than a second or third tight end.

    Overall

    78/100

41. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Hands

    34/40

    Heath Miller has been a consistent target for Ben Roethlisberger since the two teamed up. Part of that is due to Miller’s hands and ability to isolate himself from the defense, and part of it is the attention Antonio Brown gets. Miller did have a career-high six drops in 2014 and will look to improve that number going forward.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Miller is one of the better run-blockers at the position but at the same time is a rather poor pass-blocker. He has struggled to keep top pass-rushers away from Big Ben while helping open running lanes for whomever the Steelers have plugged in at running back.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Miller has a great ability to get open underneath, but Father Time is taking its toll on him, and the 32-year-old will need to rely more on his route running than his athletic ability to remain one of Roethlisberger's go-to targets.

    Speed

    14/20

    Miller does not posses the speed of the younger tight ends coming into the league. However, he is still among the top tight ends in YAC. The blue-collar bruiser continues to be difficult to bring down.

    Starter

    4/5

    Miller has been starting in the league for 10 years, with no sign of losing that starting job. He brought in 66 catches in 2014 and rarely misses any games, but his 10 grueling seasons may start limiting the number of snaps he can take.

    Overall

    78/100

40. Clay Harbor, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    A versatile threat coming out of the backfield, the slot or lined up in-line, Clay Harbor can be a productive, consistent receiver. In his first extended action of his pro career, Harbor notched career highs in catches (26) while emerging as a good third-down target. Harbor had just one drop on 34 targets, showing off his strong hands.

    Blocking

    4/10

    As a run-blocker, Harbor impressed. He’s quick and strong and can kick out edge-defenders to open running lanes. As a pass protector, his lack of length really showed up against speed rushers off the edge. He’s a liability if asked to protect on the edge instead of being a blitz-pickup player in the backfield.

    Route Running

    18/25

    As more of an H-back receiver, Harbor is at his best working on quick, short routes and utilizing the space around him. He’s not going to win many battles up the seam or in tight man coverage, but he will get open on breaking routes and when he’s allowed option routes to sink into soft spaces.

    Speed

    16/20

    Harbor is a good all-around athlete but lacks the top-end speed to score higher here. He’s quicker than fast but is still able to make plays in space.

    Starter

    3/5

    Harbor is a good role player, and his versatility is a plus, but there’s a reason the Jaguars opened up the bank for Julius Thomas to be their starting tight end.

    Overall

    78/100

39. Garrett Graham, Houston Texans

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    Garrett Graham doesn’t have prototypical size for an NFL tight end at 6'3", 243 pounds, but he has shown good hands and the ability to catch in traffic for the Texans. After replacing Owen Daniels, Graham put together a very solid 2013 season but was unable to back that up in 2014. The Texans once again had poor quarterback play. That, plus an injury, resulted in less desirable stats for Graham this season.

    Blocking

    4/10

    Graham shows good second-level blocking skills but lacks size and strength to handle defensive linemen and big linebackers on in-line blocking assignments. Graham is more comfortable with getting downfield and being a receiver than a blocker.

    Route Running

    20/25

    If you can get a good jam on the undersized tight end, you can really throw him off his route. Graham is used a lot in motion plays and coming out of the backfield to avoid being jammed. He shows good quickness in underneath routes and will shake a defender or two with his agility.

    Speed

    16/20

    You would like to see your undersized tight end have exceptional speed, but Graham doesn’t have it. His lack of top-end speed and size may make him seem like he is not a threat, but he shows good elusiveness and is often a tough guy to cover and bring down.

    Starter

    3/5

    Graham shows good ability as a No. 2 tight end and can step in for a few weeks as the starter, just like he did in 2013.

    Overall

    78/100

38. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    Brandon Pettigrew has, at times, displayed amazing hands. Although, he has not been able to put together a season like the Lions expected him to when they drafted him in the first round of the draft in 2009.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Pettigrew is huge (6’5”, 265 lbs) and should be able to use his frame and long arms to open running lanes for the Lions running backs. He often comes out of his stance too high to be an efficient blocker and lacks the mental toughness to dominate his defender.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Pettigrew has great athletic ability and runs good, clean routes. He does most of his damage underneath but isn't a deep threat. With his large frame, he should be able to shield defenders from the ball more effectively than he has shown.

    Speed

    15/20

    Pettigrew is not a big-play tight end with top speed, but he shows good quickness for a man his size. Pettigrew runs in the 4.8 range and is not a really deep threat, but he uses his quickness to get out of his breaks and into open zones.

    Starter

    4/5

    When the Lions took Pettigrew, they thought they were getting their tight end for the future. Now they hope Eric Ebron can fill that role while Pettigrew proves to be a solid No. 2 at the position.

    Overall

    78/100

37. Dante Rosario, Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    Dante Rosario started the year as a No. 2 tight end and rotational player, but by season’s end, he was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries. With a smaller sample size than many players listed here, he impressed. Rosario didn’t drop a pass all season, and while that’s on just 19 targets, he caught 16 of those passes. Making the most of opportunities gets you bonus points.

    Blocking

    5/10

    At 242 pounds, Rosario isn’t your traditional in-line blocker. He’s best on the move and setting up his blocks with angles and leverage pre-snap. In that way, he’s more H-back than tight end, and as a blocker, he’s limited. In pass protection last year, Rosario allowed three quarterback sacks and failed to flash setting the edge in the run game.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Zone routes and movements out of the backfield are where Rosario excels. When asked to line up across from a defender and beat the jam and then get upfield, he’s out of his game. With the fullback-like frame he brings to the table, Rosario needs help getting open.

    Speed

    15/20

    Rosario shows enough speed to get open when covered by a linebacker. When he’s seeing slot cornerbacks or safeties, the story is a little different. He doesn’t have the impressive first-step quickness to eat up a cushion or pick up big yards after the catch.

    Starter

    3/5

    Rosario impressed our scouting team with his small sample size, but he’s not established himself as a contender for a starting position. He’s best used as a sub-package tight end and not a featured player.

    Overall

    78/100

36. Owen Daniels, Denver Broncos

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    Owen Daniels pulled in 48 of 72 targets in 2014 but also accounted for five drops and three interceptions on balls thrown his way. At times, Daniels will wow you with phenomenal catches; other times, he will wow you with ridiculous drops. Daniels was a great pickup for the Ravens and showed he still has something left in the tank.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Daniels has never been, and probably will never be, a blocking tight end. He doesn’t show the mean streak that you want to see in a blocker and loses his footing when asked to block defensive linemen—which is why you rarely see Daniels used in one-on-one blocking.

    Route Running

    22/25

    The crafty veteran is still effective in getting open. Much like Scott Chandler, Daniels uses his upper body to beat the defense and does a nice job of finding holes and sitting in windows.

    Speed

    14/20

    Daniels isn’t getting any faster, and he has never been much of a speedster. But he knows how to run good routes and use his body against the defense. He catches a lot of balls in traffic, mainly because he cannot get separation.

    Starter

    4/5

    Daniels has been in the league for nine seasons and proved he is a solid tight end. Even after 2013, when Daniels saw action in just five games, he was able to find a home and produce for another team.

    Overall

    78/100

35. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Hands

    29/40

    Usually one of the league's premier tight ends, Vernon Davis saw his production drop drastically as the 49ers struggled in 2014. Davis registered just 26 catches while having six drops. He continued to show his limited catch radius, and his stats showed it.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Davis has never been a strong in-line blocker. He has often showcased his ability to light up defenders with downfield blocking and ear-holing defenders on crack blocks. But his struggles in-line got the best of him and his teammates this year.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Like in many other categories, Davis is usually at the top of the league in route running but had a down year in 2014. He lacked focus within the offense to run effective routes, and Colin Kaepernick could not connect with one of his favorite targets.

    Speed

    20/20

    There is no questioning Vernon Davis’ speed (4.38 40 at the 2006 combine). The man is a freak athlete by any measure, and that includes his speed and agility. At 250 pounds and running that fast, he is a nightmare for even the toughest defenders.

    Starter

    5/5

    Davis and the 49ers are looking to rebound. For San Francisco to experience a bounce-back season, it will have to get the ball to one of the most dangerous tight ends to ever play the game.

    Overall

    79/100

34. Anthony Fasano, Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Hands

    32/40

    Anthony Fasano doesn’t have a tremendous catch radius, but he will get balls thrown in his frame. Fasano needs to do a better job of getting his arms and hands extended, rather than using his body.

    Blocking

    7/10

    Fasano has developed into a good run-blocking tight end for Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs. He puts himself in position to get leverage on defenders and help open running lanes and seal the edge.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Fasano isn’t going to run by defenders, and he tends to play stiff, but he will use his body and put himself in position to make the catches.  

    Speed

    15/20

    Fasano has to rely on good route running to get open. He is an old-school tight end and your typical “high-motor” guy.

    Starter

    4/5

    Fasano provided the Chiefs with a solid underneath target and an effective run-blocker, which is just what the Tennessee Titans need as they rebuild their offense around rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    Overall

    79/100

33. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    Richard Rodgers left Cal as a redshirt sophomore, and his transition to the NFL showed his lack of experience. As a receiver, Rodgers has good hands and impressive agility to adjust his body on the fly, but his consistency was lacking. While Rodgers did have just one drop in 2014, he was only targeted 35 times as he struggled to stay on the field and in the lineup.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Rodgers was not a good run-blocker—at all—and that contributed to his struggling to stay in the Packers lineup. He also surrendered two quarterback sacks in limited reps, which makes pass blocking an area needing improvement for the third-round pick.

    Route Running

    17/25

    Athleticism and the ability to cut on a dime are there from Rodgers, but timing was off for him, and that’s a big issue in the Packers’ West Coast system, which relies so heavily on receivers being in the right place at the right time. The tools are there for him to be a very good route-runner, but consistency in his movements was lacking.

    Speed

    16/20

    The film shows Rodgers making quick cuts and the explosion to get into his route in a hurry. He even flashed some skills at making tacklers miss in space. The pure athleticism from Rodgers is a quality that will continue to get him long looks from coaches as he develops.

    Starter

    4/5

    Rodgers definitely projects as a future starter, but right now, he’s a developmental/rotational player the Packers have to work on.

    Overall

    79/100

32. Scott Chandler, New England Patriots

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Hands

    35/40

    Chandler has shown improvement in his pass-catching ability. He brought in 47 of his 67 targets. Chandler did limited himself to just just four drops this season, a low since 2011.

    Blocker

    5/10

    A 6’7”, 260-pound Iowa graduate screams blocker, but that is not the case with Chandler. He cannot keep leverage on defenders, and that results in Chandler getting pushed into the backfield. He does a good job when asked to seal the edge and is effective in pass blocking, but the Bills like him as a receiver and rarely use him to pass block. 

    Route Running

    20/25

    Chandler doesn’t have the speed to run past defenders, so if he is going to get open, he must run clean routes, and he knows that. The big-bodied tight end will find holes in the defense and sit in windows and does a good job with his upper body, but he still plays stiff at times and needs to use his body to shield defenders.

    Speed

    15/20

    Chandler doesn’t get off the ball as quickly as he needs to but shows good lateral quickness. When Chandler reaches top speed, he can be a threat up the seam and tough for any defender to bring down.

    Starter

    4/5

    Chandler put together a good four seasons with the Bills and demonstrated he can be a solid tight end in the league. That's what the New England Patriots are hoping he can provide as the No. 2 target behind Rob Gronkowski.

    Overall

    79/100

31. Rob Housler, Cleveland Browns

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Hands

    35/40

    Rob Housler is a good receiver when the ball is thrown well. He needs to improve on getting balls that are thrown away from his body. Housler doesn’t have many drops, but he also doesn’t get too many balls.

    Blocking

    5/10

    At 6'5", 250 pounds, Housler lacks ideal size and strength to be an elite blocker. He does most of his blocking on the weak side and is not asked to lead block or open holes in the running game.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Housler has good hips and quick feet when making his cuts, but he will struggle with press coverage and plays mostly on the line. Housler is a more effective route-runner when he can be used in motion.

    Speed

    18/20

    Housler is a great runner and one of the faster tight ends in the league. He is still figuring out how to use his speed in his routes and with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    3/5

    Housler needs to prove he can be reliable catching the ball because is not going to be an adequate blocker.

    Overall

    79/100

30. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Hands

    34/40

    Austin Seferian-Jenkins shows promise and is still a bit of a prospect, as last season was his rookie year. He will show strong, soft hands at times and may develop into a real threat in the passing game. At 6’5” 262 pounds, defenders will struggle to get between him and the ball.

    Blocking

    7/10

    Seferian-Jenkins showed good blocking ability last season, even though he was not considered a blocking tight end out of college. Seferian-Jenkins uses a wide base and drives his defender while keeping his hands inside. One knock on Seferian-Jenkins was that he did not have much functional strength. If he improves his strength, he will be a very good blocker.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Seferian-Jenkins is a massive tight end and uses his big frame to keep himself between the ball and the defender, especially in the red zone. He will use the very popular box-out move on safeties and even linebackers, making him a very tough cover.

    Speed

    16/20

    Seferian-Jenkins did not play with great speed in 2014, but at 262 pounds, I don’t think many expected him to. He uses his stride to his advantage and has adequate speed for a big tight end. Seferian-Jenkins landed on the injured reserve list and will look to recover for his sophomore campaign.

    Starter

    4/5

    As a rookie who appeared in just nine games, it’s hard to judge him, but when Seferian-Jenkins was healthy, he showed great potential in the running and passing games. It'll be interesting to see how the young tight end bounces back in year two.

    Overall

    80/100

29. Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    Lance Kendricks has shown he has valuable hands at this level. Once again, he posted an amazing catch rate (75 percent of his 36 targets). If the Rams quarterback gets the ball close to Kendricks, he is likely pulling it in.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Kendricks did not show much promise in the blocking game coming out of run-heavy Wisconsin, but he is slowly developing and is a willing blocker. Kendricks struggles against big defensive linemen and lacks the strength to move them off their spot. When Kendricks gets to the second level he is a much better blocker.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Kendricks is getting more comfortable getting in and out of his breaks but is still not a deep threat. Relying on his strong hands and good quickness, he does the majority of his damage underneath and in the flats, although he did manage to have multiple 20-plus-yard catches this season.

    Speed

    16/20

    Kendricks has average speed for his position, but he has a great first step, and defenders rarely beat him off the ball. Defenders better do an adequate job at jamming him, or he will beat them with his quickness.

    Starter

    3/5

    Kendricks isn’t going to challenge Jared Cook for the starting spot anytime soon, but he provides the Rams with a consistent No. 2 tight end and underneath receiver opposite Cook in the two-TE sets.

    Overall

    80/100

28. Matt Spaeth, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    Matt Spaeth is the old-school tight end that the Steelers love. Spaeth isn’t much of a receiver but shows above-average hands. Targeted just four times in 300-plus snaps, Spaeth will sit underneath and look for the checkdown. This year the Steelers did an excellent job at getting the ball downfield.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Spaeth makes his living as a blocker. At 6’7”, 260 pounds, he is almost like adding another tackle on the line. Spaeth has the strength needed to block defensive ends and the athletic ability to handle a linebacker, a rare find in today's NFL.

    Route Running

    21/25

    If Spaeth is going to get open, he will use his big body to do so. Spaeth is a box-out type of route-runner and is limited when asked to makes quick cuts or get upfield. Over the years Spaeth has learned how to pin defenders and catch the ball in traffic.

    Speed

    15/20

    Spaeth has average speed at tight end and will be used mostly as a blocker. You don’t see Spaeth make many plays in space or after the catch because of his speed.

    Starter

    3/5

    Spaeth has made a living in the NFL as a blocker, and teams keep calling to add him to the roster. After a short time with the Bears, the Steelers added Spaeth back and have been pleased with his ability to open holes for their running backs.

    Overall

    80/100

27. Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mike McGinnis/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    Wright showed he has solid hands for a tight end by bringing in 26 of 32 targets with just one drop in 2014. He can track the ball well and extends his arms to keep defenders from jarring it loose.

    Blocking

    4/10

    Wright is used mainly as a receiving tight end and was not asked to block much this season. At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Wright lacks size and strength to be an in-line blocker. His team needs to use him in motion or split out wide if he is going to do any kind of blocking.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Wright has the athletic ability to be a good route-runner, but he is still young (25 years old) and still working on his timing and breaks. Wright has the flexible hips and agility to run good routes; he just needs work on the more fundamental things.

    Speed

    15/20

    For a light tight end you would expect to see Wright run by defenders. His added bulk to play tight end has slowed him down a step, and he doesn’t run like you would want a 220-pound tight end to run.

    Starter

    3/5

    Wright came over in the trade for Logan Mankins and then went back to the Buccaneers after the Patriots released him. He's a solid target in the red zone but looks more like a rotational player than starter at tight end.

    Overall

    80/100

26. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Hands

    32/40

    Fleener is an exceptional athlete and runner, but he struggles to pull in passes outside his frame. He is a favorite of Andrew Luck, but he has not been a consistent pass-catcher (six drops in 2014).

    Blocking

    5/10

    Another area the Colts would like to see Fleener improve on is his blocking. Fleener has become a liability in the run game and lacks physicality and leverage to be a useful blocker.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Fleener continues to show development in his routes and the ability to utilize his athleticism. He uses his height to his advantage and can be dangerous in the red zone. Fleener was one of Luck’s top targets at Stanford and continues to build on that relationship with the Colts.

    Speed

    18/20

    Fleener is a smooth runner with great height, which makes him a deep threat at tight end. He will also use his speed to get downfield and up the seam. With his size (6'6", 251 lbs) and speed, he is a tough cover for even the best safeties as long as he doesn’t drop the ball.

    Starter

    5/5

    After back-to-back 50-catch seasons, it looks like Fleener is going to develop into the tight end the Colts thought he would. He still must overcome some tough competition from teammate Dwayne Allen, but the tandem is dangerous in the two-tight set.

    Overall

    81/100

25. Rhett Ellison, Minnesota Vikings

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    Ellison shows good hands in limited reps. In his 41 career targets Ellison has just two drops. While Ellison's pass-catching ability isn’t his strongest skill, he has shown consistency with the pass inside his somewhat-limited catch radius.

    Blocking

    8/10

    It’s safe to say the Vikings have a type when looking for tight ends, and Ellison fits the criteria. Ellison is an exceptional blocker and becoming one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league. His blocking ability helped Matt Asiata rush for nine touchdowns in 2014, and in 2012 he helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson's 2,000-yard season.

    Route Running

    17/25

    If blocking is Ellison's strongest asset, route running might be his weakest. There is a reason the big man (6'5", 250 lbs) has just 41 career targets in three seasons: lack of good clean routes combined with poor quarterback play. Ellison will not stretch the field vertically, but he is aggressive underneath and doesn’t shy away from contact.

    Speed

    16/20

    Ellison lacks top-end speed, but that is not what the Vikes look for in tight end. He will run in the high 4.8 to 4.9 40-yard-dash range but will play to the whistle with good competitive drive.

    Starter

    4/5

    Ellison is currently third on the depth chart of young Vikings tight ends. But he is a very good special teamer and blocking tight end any team would like to have on its roster. Ellison is not a flashy player, but he gets the job done.

    Overall

    82/100

24. Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    Andrew Quarless was targeted 43 times and brought in 29 of those passes. He only had two drops on the season and showed that he has the ability to go up and get the ball. Quarless is a natural receiver and can maneuver his body to make difficult catches.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Quarless does a good job blocking on the second level and getting downfield. He struggles with in-line blocking, and big defensive linemen can overpower him. If Quarless can get to the second level or work across the formation, he is an above-average blocker.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Quarless has been most effective on short routes and sitting in windows. He shows the speed and athletic ability to get upfield, but the Packers have Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson do most of that.

    Speed

    16/20

    Quarless ran his 40 at the 2010 combine in 4.69 seconds—not too bad for a 6'4", 252-pound tight end. Quarless has great initial burst and is tough for bigger defenders, but he does not have long speed and will often be caught from behind with the ball in his hands or on long routes.

    Starter

    4/5

    Quarless looked good for the Packers in 2014 and continues to show growth and comfortability in the Packers offense. Quarless looks to be a solid tight end in the league for years to come.

    Overall

    82/100

23. Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    After coming off a huge 80-catch season, everyone was excited for what Jordan Cameron had in store. However, the big tight end could not stay healthy for the Cleveland Browns, suffering both a concussion and shoulder injury. When healthy, Cameron shows strong hands and exceptional catch radius. He was also able to limit the number of drops last season to just one.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Cameron is not an old-school in-line blocker; he is more of a "split out in the slot" pass-catcher. Cameron (6'5", 249 lbs) has shown growth in the blocking game but still needs to add strength and dictate where his defender is going, not the other way around.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Thought of as a poor route-runner when he was drafted, Cameron has made major improvement to his game. He uses his quickness and speed (4.59 40-yard dash at the combine) to shake defenders and strength to overpower safeties. Cameron has shown that he can be exceptional in the red zone with fade routes and leaping ability. Last year, he managed to pull in just 57 percent of his 42 targets and will look to improve that number next year.

    Speed

    17/20

    Speed has always been one of Cameron's better assets. He is a natural runner and explodes off the ball to get up the seam and downfield. Cameron is a high-motor tight end and has some crazy athletic ability, starting with his speed.

    Starter

    5/5

    While Cameron was limited to just 10 games last season, he still showed flashes from his 2013 breakout campaign. Look for Cameron to bounce back as a starter in 2015 in Miami.

    Overall

    82/100

22. Chase Ford, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Hands

    34/40

    Chase Ford bounced around a few practice squads before catching on with the Vikings. He shows good hands and brought in 23 of the 30 target he saw this season—of those 30 targets, however, Ford did drop two.

    Blocking

    6/10

    The aspect of Ford's game that is going to keep him on the roster and on the field is his blocking ability. His big body (6’6”, 255 lbs) and long arms allow him to seal and steer defenders in the run game and open lanes for Viking runners. If AP is set to return to the team, Ford will be a big help to the veteran running back.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Ford does not possess the top-flight speed of some tight ends, but he does have adequate speed and body control. Ford will use his body to block off defenders—just like in his blocking—to catch the ball, making himself a great target for Teddy Bridgewater. It will also help Ford that he and Bridgewater saw a lot of reps together with the second team before the Vikings promoted the tandem.

    Speed

    16/20

    Ford's lack of elite speed is something that limits him when asked to get up the field, but he's quick enough to separate in coverage and can pick up yards after the catch.

    Starter

    4/5

    Ford saw just 345 snaps last season, but that number is sure to improve next year. He has shown that he can be a great blocker, and he's developing as a pass-catcher. But he will be competing with Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison for time.

    Overall

    82/100

21. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Hands

    35/40

    Jordan Reed has shown sufficient pass-catching ability in his two years as a pro and registered just two drops in 2014. He pulled in 50 of his 65 targets even with inconsistent quarterback play. Reed was thought of as a project when coming out of Florida, and so far he has been a very efficient tight end for Washington.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Reed struggles in the blocking game with footwork and posture. For a shorter tight end (6'2", 237 lbs) Reed still blocks too upright and doesn’t use his footwork to drive defenders and open running lanes. The part of Reed's blocking game I love is his athletic ability and quickness. When Reed stays low, he can be a great H-back blocker in the Washington run game.

    Route Running

    23/25

    When Reed drops his hips in his routes, he is dangerous; when he stays high, it's less than desired. Reed has progressed in his route running and does great in the flats and with option and up-the-seam routes. Look for Reed to be a top target for whoever the Washington quarterback is.

    Speed

    16/20

    Reed shows good quickness and acceleration, but he lacks a second gear or long speed. Reed has a short stride and a short stature, but he uses his quickness to get separation from the defense and his body to shield defenders.

    Starter

    4/5

    Reed saw just 377 snaps this past season, 54th in the league for tight ends, but he caught 50 passes, 17th among tight ends. Reed gets a four rating but shows great promise when Washington gets him on the field. Look for Reed to develop into a formidable tight end in years to come.

    Overall

    83/100

20. Larry Donnell, New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    Larry Donnell exploded in 2014, accumulating 63 catches for 623 yards and six touchdowns in his second pro season. That’s a huge improvement from 2013, and a big part of the reason was his ability to secure the ball. On 87 targets he had just four drops.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Size is not an issue for Donnell, who looks the part at 6’6”, 265 pounds. He’s strong enough to lock out rushers on the edge and has the lower-body power to push the pile in the run game. He has to improve his punch time and accuracy when his team keeps him in as pass protector, and more meanness in finishing his run blocks will push his score up.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Donnell is an athletic route-runner with good spacial awareness and the body to keep defenders from jumping his routes. He doesn’t have great quickness to break out of routes and pull away from the defense, but he is surprisingly flexible and has the hips to drop his weight and cut away from a straight line.

    Speed

    15/20

    A 4.91 in the 40-yard dash when he was entering the NFL draft shows that Donnell doesn’t have great speed, but he plays faster than that time would indicate. His pull-away speed is much better than his buildup speed.

    Starter

    4/5

    Donnell has emerged as a legitimate target in the Giants offense and has the talent to become a consistent performer and safety valve for Eli Manning for the long haul. The only question mark is if he’s a one-year wonder or not. Proving himself in 2015 will be huge.

    Overall

    83/100

19. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Hands

    35/40

    Dennis Pitta played in just three games in 2014, but he looked very good in those three games. In Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pitta had 10 catches for 83 yards, showing that he would be a top target for quarterback Joe Flacco. When Pitta is on the field he is a great tight end with above-average hands. In 2012, when Pitta was healthy, he saw 90 targets and dropped just three passes.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Pitta does a good job at getting his hands on the defense and is a willing blocker at tight end. The Ravens haven't asked Pitta to do much pass blocking, but he looks good as a run-blocker and excels at getting off the ball quickly.

    Route Running

    23/25

    When healthy, Pitta is good at getting off the ball and getting up the seam. He shows good athletic ability and is able to drop his hips and change direction. Pitta has done a better job at finding holes and sitting in windows of the defense than he did early in his career.

    Speed

    15/20

    Age and injury continue to slow down Pitta. Getting off the ball is where the 29-year-old shows great ability—as well as being able to get into his routes and run off defenders.

    Starter

    4/5

    Pitta is a solid, reliable tight end when he is on the field. The past two seasons, however, have been shortened because of injury, and Pitta will have to prove he can stay on the field to remain a starter in the NFL.         

    Overall

    83/100

18. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Hands

    33/40

    Jared Cook will flash good hands at times, but consistency has been the issue. With five drops and three interceptions while his quarterback was throwing to him in 2014, Cook has areas to work on. He isn’t completely to blame because he has not had much consistent play from the quarterback position with the Rams or during his four seasons with the Titans.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Cook is not a physical in-line blocker, but he will do a good job in the second level and on downfield blocks. Cook explodes off the ball but rarely holds his block for long and struggles to keep a wide base and drive his defender.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Cook is fluid in his route running and uses his exceptional short-area quickness to get open. Cook is also dangerous up the seam and as a downfield receiver because of his amazing speed (4.50 40-yard dash at the combine) and size (6'5", 254 lbs). Cook relies heavily on his athletic ability and can lose technique in his routes.

    Speed

    20/20

    There are few tight ends in the league who can move like Jared Cook. From his time with the Titans and Rams, teams all over the league have seen his noteworthy speed. Cook has a rare second gear many tight ends do not have, and he utilizes it to be a matchup nightmare many linebackers can't keep up with.

    Starter

    5/5

    If Cook were an efficient blocker and a clean route-runner, we would be talking about him as a dominant tight end in the league. Cook just completed his sixth year as a pro and is still just 28 years old. He is developing into a very scary pass-catching tight end.

    Overall

    84/100

17. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    Green is a tall tight end (6'6", 240 lbs) who does a good job at going up and getting the ball. Green only saw 23 targets this year while working behind Antonio Gates. The big tight end was able to bring in 19 of his targets with only one drop, resulting in one of the best catch percentages in the league.

    Blocking

    5/10

    Green has not been able to utilize his long frame in the blocking game. Luckily, he plays for the Chargers, who have not had the luxury of a strong blocking tight end for many years. Green does a good job at getting his long arms extended on the defender but still has a lot of work to do to be an effective blocker in the NFL.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Green is still young and developing as a route-runner. The presence of Antonio Gates will continue to help the 25-year-old progress as a route-runner and get open up the seam and in the underneath routes.

    Speed

    19/20

    There is no questioning Green's speed at the position. Green ran an astonishing 4.53 40 at the combine in 2012. He plays with great speed that allows him to be a downfield threat and dangerous with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    4/5

    Green gets a four as a starter, but he has shown great promise early in his career and will look to be the heir apparent to Gates in San Diego. He has the ability to fill those shoes.

    Overall

    84/100

16. Virgil Green, Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Hands

    34/40

    Virgil Green did not get very many targets last season in the deep Broncos offense, but when given the chance, he made the most of it. Peyton Manning targeted the young tight end just six times, and Green brought in all six. Green showed promising hands coming out of Nevada and will look to improve them even more next year.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Green is not in for the Broncos on most passing situations; therefore, he doesn’t pass block much, and his grade suffered because of that. However, Green, aka “The Hulk,” is a beast at run blocking. It is no coincidence that during the last six games of the season, with Julius Thomas banged up, the Broncos committed to the run game. Green paved the way for the Broncos to go from 89.9 rushing yards per game to 111.6 yards per game. Having him in a running play is almost like adding another tackle.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Green was very raw coming out of Nevada and almost had to start fresh with route running. Thankfully, he's had both Julius Thomas and Peyton Manning to work with. Green has made exceptional progress in his routes and does an excellent job at getting into and out of breaks. Green is very athletic for a primary blocking tight end and will look to be more of a threat in the passing game next season.

    Speed

    17/20

    Green was originally a 6’5”, 215-pound wide receiver, but he made the switch to tight end after finding the weight room (now 255 pounds). Green still has that receiver-like speed and has shown it in getting up the field in his routes and blocking downfield in the Broncos run game. Green is such an athlete that he actually saw two carries out of the backfield for Denver in 2014.

    Starter

    4/5

    While Green had only 403 snaps last season, he has proved himself as a solid young tight end. The seventh-round pick keeps giving the Broncos reasons to like him, and the league is now noticing as well.

    Overall

    84/100

15. Daniel Fells, New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Hands

    35/40

    Fells does a good job at getting his arms extended and catching the ball. He was limited in the passing game, seeing just 20 targets, but he didn't register a single drop last season.

    Blocking

    9/10

    Fells was used much more as a blocker in the Giants' multiple-tight end sets than a receiver. The Giants liked to use Fells like an H-back when blocking, often setting him in motion, sending him out of the backfield or asking him to crack. When the Giants asked Fells to block, he did an outstanding job.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Fells has tight hips that limit his change of direction, and he can be somewhat limited in his routes. But Fells looked best when he was able to find holes in the defense and space on option routes.

    Speed

    14/20

    Fells is not a fast tight end and is used more underneath and as a primary blocker. He needs to improve his ability to get off the line and play in space.

    Starter

    4/5

    Fells looked like one of the better blocking tight ends in the league in 2014 and showed how valuable he can be. He has played six seasons in the NFL and has proved he can be valuable on different teams.

    Overall

    84/100

14. Jermaine Gresham, Free Agent

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Hands

    40/40

    Last season Jermaine Gresham showed that he has some of the best hands at the tight end position. With 78 total targets, he had just one dropped pass. Gresham has continued to show the promise that he had coming out of college as a Round 1 pick.

    Blocking

    5/10

    One particular area of struggle for Gresham has been his efficient blocking. He has not been able to use his long arms to engage the defense as well as he catches passes, and he holds defenders. Once again he was one of the most penalized players at the tight end position.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Gresham utilizes his quick burst and big body (6'5", 260 lbs) to help him release off the line of scrimmage and get open downfield.

    Speed

    14/20

    Gresham does a great job at getting his big frame to top speed. Clocking in at 4.66 in the 40, Gresham can use his speed to get open downfield and make himself a dangerous threat after the catch.

    Starter

    5/5

    Gresham seemed to be emerging as a go-to target for Andy Dalton opposite A.J. Green, but the play of Tyler Eifert and his age have Gresham on the open market looking for work.

    Overall

    84/100

13. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Hands

    39/40

    Antonio Gates proved he is still a top receiving tight end in 2014, finishing sixth in targets and fifth in catches among tight ends. After recording two drops in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, many Chargers fans were probably concerned. But Gates did not drop another pass for the rest of the season.

    Blocking

    5/10

    In his 12 seasons with the Chargers, Gates has never been a dominant blocker. In fact, San Diego rarely uses him as a blocker. He will do his best to get his hands on a defender, but it is still not a strength in his game.

    Route Running

    22/25

    When Gates came into the league, he brought with him the ability to box out. The same move that helped him average nearly eight rebounds a game at Kent State has helped him become a top red-zone target for Philip Rivers. Gates is one of the best at getting his body between the ball and the defender and continues to get open despite his lack of speed.

    Speed

    14/20

    Even as Gates gets older and continues to lose a step or two, he has maintained his ability to get open and catch balls in traffic. This resulted in him grabbing a tight end-leading 12 touchdowns, tied with Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski.

    Starter

    5/5

    Gates showed he can still get it done week to week for the Chargers and be one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. While he is still one of the top tight ends, Gates will be 35 at the start of the 2015 season.

    Overall

    85/100

12. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Hands

    38/40

    Brent Celek has not had the spectacular statistics that everyone expected in Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense. While his numbers were down again this past yearjust one touchdownthat is not an accurate representation of his hands. Celek has shown a good, consistent catch radius, tallying 32 catches on 47 targets with just one drop.

    Blocking

    6/10

    During the 2013 season, Celek excelled in helping spring running back LeSean McCoy for big runs. However, this past year the offense did not run the ball as smoothly. Even though Celek did a good job of staying in front of defenders, he could not manage to hold his blocks long enough for McCoy to get free.

    Route Running

    22/25

    One aspect of Celek’s game that helps him grade out near the top of the position is his route running. Celek does not have the speed of guys like Jimmy Graham and Ladarius Green, so he must run good routes to get open. Celek does a great job of finding holes in zone defenses and using his route running to separate from superior athletic defenders.

    Speed

    15/20

    Celek isn’t going to wow anyone in the 40, but his ability to find holes in coverages and use his body helps him get open.

    Starter

    4/5

    Celek is the primary tight end for the Eagles, but after two years of poor production, it might be time for Chip Kelly to find a tight end who is more than a great run-blocker.

    Overall

    85/100

11. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Hands

    33/40

    Dwayne Allen shows good, consistent hands when catching balls inside his frame. However, the big tight end struggled at times this year and finished the season with five dropped passes. Allen does an excellent job of getting his head around and locating the ball.

    Blocking

    8/10

    Many people thought that Allen would struggle as a blocker when the Colts selected the Mackey Award winner out of Clemson. But that was not the case this past season. Allen was a strong blocker for the Colts and was often motioned into the backfield to be the lead blocker for the Colts running game.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Allen’s biggest strength is his exceptional route running. For a young tight end, he is one of the best in the league, and it didn’t take Andrew Luck long to make Allen one of his top short-to-intermediate targets. Allen does a great job using his body and strength to get off the line of scrimmage and shield the defender from the ball.

    Speed

    16/20

    At 6’3”, 265 pounds, Allen can move. It is rare to see a player of his size be such a good, quick athlete. Allen can use his agility against both linebackers and safeties to be a real threat with the ball in his hands

    Starter

    5/5

    After being drafted in the same class as Coby Fleener, Luck's teammate at college, Allen was not expected to be the starter for the Colts. But the big tight end has emerged and flourished with the Colts and turned into a very formidable tight end.

    Overall

    85/100

10. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    Martellus Bennett saw his numbers explode in 2014 as the Chicago offense relied more on him. He was targeted 125 times and caught an impressive 90 balls—but the eight dropped passes on those numbers does stand out as less than ideal, which is why he’s only scoring 36 out of 40 possible points.

    Blocking

    7/10

    Bennett has always been a good blocker, and we saw that continue in 2014. The key is consistency and effort from himtwo things that tend to come and go if he’s unhappy with his role in the passing game.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Bennett has the frame needed to be a big body in route running, and he combines that with quick, light feet and the ability to break off his routes and find space well. He’s a top-tier route-runner with good, consistent effort.

    Speed

    15/20

    At 265 pounds on a 6’6” frame, Bennett isn’t going to be a speedster. He has enough quickness to effectively get open and to pick up some yards after the catch, but don’t ask him to outrun slot cornerbacks up the field.

    Starter

    5/5

    Bennett is a top-tier tight end, but he has not always bought in to the program. He’s worn out his welcome in Dallas and New York before Chicago because of that. But when he’s on...good luck stopping him.

    Overall

    86/100

9. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    Delanie Walker became a go-to receiver for the Titans in 2014 with 100 targets and 63 catches. Those numbers are very good—and why Walker is a top-10 talent—but his six drops on those targets do stand out as a less-than-ideal number. Walker is reliable and dependable. He can pull in tough catches in traffic or errant passes away from his frame, but he has to cut down on the focus drops.

    Blocking

    8/10

    Walker is more of an H-back than a true tight end, and as such he does his best blocking when he’s able to move into position first. As a run-blocker he’s one of the best in football, and that pop he gives defensive ends or outside linebackers opens a lot of rushing lanes in Tennessee.

    Route Running

    20/25

    A dynamic zone route-runner, Walker sinks into space well and understands how to cut off his defender to get open. He excels at using his frame to keep the ball away from the defense and has sharp, precise cuts. Walker isn’t an upfield threat, though, and will get lost on seam routes or deep stretch plays.

    Speed

    19/20

    Walker has speed and power, evident by his 18 missed tackles created last year. He’s straight-line fast, too, and can run away from defenders in coverage or with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    4/5

    Walker had a fantastic 2014 season. Since leaving San Francisco he’s been up-and-down for the Titans, which keeps his score one point shy of perfect here.

    Overall

    87/100

8. Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Hands

    38/40

    Charles Clay is part fullback, part tight end, but as a receiver he’s proved to be one of the best in the game. He was targeted 81 times in 2014 and dropped just two passes while pulling in 58 catches.

    Blocking

    5/5

    Clay is at his best when he’s moving pre-snap to secure an angle as a blocker. He fills the H-back role nicely, though, and can come out of the backfield, the slot or the end of the offensive line to pop defenders in the run game. He lacks the length to be great in pass protection but more than earns his keep as a run-blocker.

    Route Running

    22/25

    The Miami offense asked Clay to be a zone route-runner primarily, and he did a great job feeling out zones and sitting down to get open with defenders on his back. He’s a sharp in-cut route-runner and will leave defenders in space on breaking routes. His upfield routes will never be great due to his lack of elite size or speed.

    Speed

    17/20

    Clay isn’t known for his speed, but our friends at Pro Football Focus counted 12 missed tackles he created with his legs and strength. Clay is fast enough to consistently get open—especially in space—and can get upfield to pick up plus yards, too.

    Starter

    5/5

    Clay isn’t a fit for every offense, but he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber talent as a blocker and receiver—and he can line up in multiple spots for an offense, making him a chess piece you can use in multiple personnel groupings.

    Overall

    87/100

7. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    Jimmy Graham (6'7", 265 lbs) catches a ton of passes (85 in 2014) for a lot of touchdowns (10), but he also drops a lot of passes. He put eight balls on the ground last season while looking flat-out soft at times over the middle. Graham will get the label of “one-trick pony” from critics, but even they must admit it’s a pretty dang good trick. His ability to win contested catches in jump-ball situations adds valuable points.

    Blocking

    4/10

    When Graham fought to be paid like a wide receiver, you could have used his blocking skills as evidence of his labeling there. He’s not a strong blocker, even if 2014 was his best year yet in run situations. Graham will get in the way but lacks the toughness to be a strong finisher in the blocking game.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Graham is a talented athlete and a force over the middle, but he’s also a nightmare to cover down the field because of his size, speed and leaping ability. He doesn’t consistently have great cutting skills or precise routes, but he’s able to win with his athletic traitsand with that he’s rarely truly covered.

    Speed

    18/20

    The top-end speed is there from Graham, and he shows off his moves in the open field and with the speed to get over defenders and up the field in a hurry.

    Starter

    5/5

    You might not get great blocking from Graham, but he’s a truly elite threat in the red zone and the type of playmaker who can take over a game. As long as he can stay healthy, Graham has perennial All-Pro talent.

    Overall

    87/100

6. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Hands

    38/40

    The stats show that Zach Ertz had just 58 catches in 2014, but he only dropped two of his catchable targets, numbers that show why he’s so highly regarded as a pure receiver. Ertz has developed the toughness needed to make those hard grabs over the middle, but he is still athletic enough to pull in passes away from his frame.

    Blocking

    7/10

    Ertz has struggled as a pass-blocker, but in the run game he shines as a bright spot in a run-heavy offense in Philadelphia. Ertz is strong enough to take on defenders head-up and does a great job when asked to move and get the angle off the snap to secure leverage.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Ertz took off as a route-runner in 2014. His ability to beat coverage by sticking his foot in the ground and running away from coverage set up many of his 58 catches. And in the red zone, Ertz’s size (6’5”, 250 lbs) allows him to beat defenders over the top and get off the turf for 50-50 passes.

    Speed

    16/20

    Ertz isn’t known for his game-breaking speed, but he has enough quickness and burst to get open and make plays after the catch. He’s proved to be much faster than his 4.76-second 40-yard dash from before the 2013 draft.

    Starter

    5/5

    Ertz is firmly on a short list of the best up-and-coming tight ends in football. If Chip Kelly’s offense starts to feature him more as a receiver, he could move into the top five of this list as early as next season.

    Overall

    89/100

5. Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Hands

    36/40

    A nightmare to cover in the end zone, Julius Thomas does a great job maximizing opportunities. His 60 targets in 2014 are the fewest of any tight end ranked in our top 10, but Thomas converted those chances into 12 touchdowns and 43 catches. The reason for the lower score comes from the four drops Thomas was credited with—too many on so few targets to be considered an elite pass-catcher.

    Blocking

    5/10

    It might be better to think of Thomas as an oversized slot wide receiver, even if he’s asked to stay in and block or kick out an edge-rusher in the run game at times. Thomas showed improved hand placement and base strength as a blocker in 2014, but he’s still a liability when left unprotected. And really, you’re paying him to catch the ball, not protect the passer.

    Route Running

    25/25

    If you want sharp routes and the basketball body that can box out defenders, Thomas gives you both. He’s agile and strong enough to plant and drive on breaking routes, but he uses his frame exceptionally well to shield the ball.

    Speed

    18/20

    Thomas has the speed to run away from defenders and will get deep up the seam and really take the top off the defense. He’s good with the ball in his hands, too, and can both outrun and elude defenders in space.

    Starter

    5/5

    The Jacksonville Jaguars gave Thomas big money, and he’s worth it as a true blue-chip player at tight end. He’s capable of dictating what the defense does and is a legitimate star at only 26 years old.

    Overall

    89/100

4. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Tom Puskar/Associated Press

    Hands

    37/40

    During the 2014 season, Travis Kelce dropped four passes on 81 targets, finished with 67 catches. That’s not elite, but it’s also not bad for a young tight end. Kelce’s drops were on passes over the middle, but he’s shown remarkable toughness to compete for the ball in traffic. His drops were rare occurrences in his breakout season.

    Blocking

    8/10

    Kelce has the right mix of toughness and meanness to be a finisher as a blocker. In the run game, he’s effective both in an in-line position and also on the move pre-snap. The 25-year-old can get to the second level without issue and has the strength to lock up linebackers and even defensive ends.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Route running is an area where he has room to improve. Kelce will still round off his in-cuts, but he’s learned to use his frame to shield the ball from defenders and is a master at the seam route where he uses his size and speed well to stretch the field.

    Speed

    17/20

    Kelce will remind of a young Rob Gronkowski, as he’s a big man with good athleticism but not elite speed. He’s quicker than fast and will create separation with his feet, but Kelce isn’t a threat to run away from safeties consistently.

    Starter

    5/5

    Go ahead and start making the case for Kelce as one of the best tight ends in football. He has the tools to become a consistent All-Pro threat if unleashed in the Kansas City offense.

    Overall

    89/100

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Hands

    38/40

    A dynamic threat over the middle, Jason Witten has amazing hands in traffic. On 87 targets, he dropped just two passes while pulling in 64 catches in a reduced role in an offense that revolved around the run game in 2014. Witten is still a sure thing at every level of the field, making his rare drops something you remember.

    Blocking

    7/10

    Witten was asked to be more of a blocker as the offense shifted to a run-heavy scheme, and he answered the call well as an extra blocker on the right side of the line. Witten is at his best when he’s asked to block on the move instead of in an in-line position—there his lack of elite size can get him in trouble.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Witten is incredible at finding space and sinking into zones, where he’s able to use his body to keep defenders blocked out. But he’s not just a post-up player; Witten is in the elite category when it comes to breaking off routes and timing his steps and cuts to get open.

    Speed

    16/20

    Speed isn’t a huge part of Witten’s game as he just closed out his 12th season, but he’s quick and has the buildup speed to get open and run away from defenders with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    5/5

    Even as he enters his 13th NFL season, Witten is still one of the best—and most reliable—tight ends in the NFL.

    Overall

    90/100

2. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Blocking

    39/40

    Greg Olsen impressed in 2014 with just three drops on 121 targets. Proving himself to be the most reliable of any pass-catcher on the Panthers roster, Olsen is able to make the tough grab over the middle or up the seam. He’s also athletic enough to make acrobatic catches away from his frame that require adjustments on the fly.

    Blocking

    6/10

    Olsen has the size to be a very effective blocker but can be a little too much of a finesse player when asked to finish and dump defenders. He’s rarely asked to stay in and protect in passing situations. Olsen does a fine job walling off defenders, but he isn’t a strong man-to-man run-blocker.

    Route Running

    23/25

    With very good athleticism, Olsen is able to manipulate his body to get open on any number of routes. He’s not limited to post-up style plays and is agile enough to get open in space and on breaking routes. He’s subtle with his footwork and is fast enough to pull away and separate from defenders.

    Speed

    18/20

    Olsen has the speed to run away from a cover man or a tackler, and he’s a threat with the ball in his hands upfield. He ran an impressive 4.51 in the 40-yard dash coming out of Miami and still looks like that type of runner in the open field.

    Starter

    5/5

    Olsen established himself as a blue-chip player in 2014, showing that he can be a legitimate No. 1 option in the passing game.

    Overall

    91/100

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Hands

    38/40

    There is no doubt that Rob Gronkowski was the best tight end in football in 2014, but even so, he’s never been a perfect receiver. When it comes to targets, catches and drops, Gronk has improved, but he’s not flawless. On 124 targets, he did catch 82 balls, but the seven drops do stand out.

    Blocking

    9/10

    Too often we get caught up in the touchdowns and catches of Gronkowski and forget that he’s a dominant blocker in the run game. His size (6’6”, 265 lbs) allows him to wall off defenders, but he’s also like an extra offensive tackle with his ability to down block or reach outside linebackers.

    Route Running

    25/25

    You don’t find a more nuanced route-runner than Gronkowski. For a big frame, he shows precise cutting ability and is able to also use his size like a power forward to box out defenders. Whether it’s a 12-yard breaking route or a post-up in the end zone, Tom Brady can count on Gronk’s timing and placement.

    Speed

    17/20

    Pure speed isn’t part of the Gronkowski repertoire, but he’s fast enough to get open and create yards after the catch. He won’t win many races, but with the ball in his hands, Gronkowski is more than fast enough.

    Starter

    5/5

    Consistently one of the best overall players in the NFL, a healthy Gronkowski is among the dominant offensive weapons of this era.

    Overall

    94/100
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