There’s a growing diversity of players that are labeled tight ends in the NFL. Rutgers’ Tyler Kroft flashes upside to become more than a receiving specialist, but there’s no guarantee he’ll fulfill this potential.
By Matt Waldman
If there’s one prospect type in football that rarely lives up to the first-year hype of the general public it’s the tight end. Want to set yourself up for failure? Have high expectations for one of these rookies.
Having what it takes to be considered an NFL prospect at tight end has parallels to what it takes to pass basic training for the Army. But what is required to become a top-notch starting tight end in the NFL capable of performing the full range of duties that any offense could demand of him is like becoming football’s version of an Army Ranger.
Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski are “NFL Ranger” material. Jason Witten and Antonio Gates? For sure. Some may not think so, butHeath Miller in his prime earned this designation even if some can’t see past the confines of his use in Pittsburgh.
Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham are two of the best receiving specialists in the game in recent years. Both are options I’d arguably take ahead of most of the players I named above if strictly evaluating them as receiving weapons. But neither makes the cut if the standard is “the total tight end.”
Grading players against the standard for every aspect of their position play is the right way to learn what a player can and can’t do. However, projecting that player’s success as a pro to the standard of the best in the game is an easy trap to fall into — especially a position with a wide range of demands like tight end.