It seems like every year, the tight end position gets even more important. Perhaps it’s because the best tight ends in the NFL are getting better and better. Plus, it’s no longer surprising if the best tight ends this season are playing on some of the best teams. It’s a testament to how impactful today’s tight ends can be, especially when it comes to the passing game.
Best Tight Ends in 2021
There are so many quality tight ends in the league right now that picking the best tight ends in 2021 is a difficult challenge.
Some teams even have two tight ends that deserve to be considered among the best in the NFL. While it wasn’t easy, we have managed to put together a list of the 10 best tight ends in 2021, at least heading into the season.
10. Noah Fant, Broncos
Noah Fant has flown a little under the radar during his first two seasons in the league, but he’s done just enough to crack the top-10 of our rankings.
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) August 22, 2021
After all, 62 receptions for 673 yards on a team with subpar quarterback play is nothing to dismiss. Keep in mind he’s a solid blocker who flashed a little more downfield catching ability as a rookie, so his stock can still continue to rise.
9. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
Speaking of flying under the radar, Mike Gesicki is perhaps still doing that. But he’s made himself an integral part of the Miami offense with over 1,200 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
We suspect that the best is yet to come from him and 2021 could be a big year for him.
8. Dallas Goedert, Eagles
He’s come out of nowhere to become a key part of the Philadelphia offense and is another player whose star is still on the rise, so we’re expecting big things from him in 2021.
7. T.J. Hockenson, Lions
As far as tight ends who can block and catch passes with equal effectiveness, it’s hard to find anyone better than T.J. Hockenson.
YOU'RE ON THE CLOCK ⏰
Kelce, Kittle and Waller are off the board.
Next TE you’re drafting? pic.twitter.com/Du80ueN3jP
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) August 19, 2021
He made the Pro Bowl last year after starting all 16 games and racking up over 700 receiving yards. Hockenson may not make a ton of big plays down the field like some of the tight ends ahead of him on our list. But he’s one of the most well-rounded tight ends in the league.
6. Hunter Henry, Patriots
He’s returned from the injury that sidelined him for all of 2018 and had over 600 yards receiving in back-to-back years. In fact, Henry didn’t even play 16 games in either season, and yet he was still among the best tight ends in the league. Of course, his inability to play a full season is also something that’s holding him back.
5. Kyle Pitts, Falcons
To be fair, this is all about projection. We don’t know for sure that Kyle Pitts is going to be a star in the NFL, but on the hunch that he’s poised to be one of the best of his generation, it’s fair to put him in the top-5 right off the bat.
He blocks better than people realize. He’ll be an immediate threat in the red zone. Also, he’ll likely lineup outside the numbers more than any tight end in NFL history, which means the sky is the limit.
4. Mark Andrews, Ravens
The angle on this pass from Lamar Jackson to Mark Andrews 🔥
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) August 19, 2021
To his credit, it’s not always easy getting targets because the Ravens have other tight ends on the roster. But Andrews keeps getting himself open and keeps being productive, hauling in 122 passes and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
3. Darren Waller, Raiders
For a player who could have easily been out of the league after 2018, Darren Waller has been unbelievable over the last two seasons.
It’s tough to find a tight end that has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Waller also led all tight ends in receptions last year with 107, and that was after racking up 90 catches in 2019. Frankly, there are a lot of starting wide receivers who wish they were as productive as Waller, which puts him in elite company among his fellow tight ends.
2. George Kittle, 49ers
George Kittle was so good in 2018 and 2019 that we’ll forgive one down season in 2020 when injuries limited him to eight games.
Keep in mind that if you doubled his production from those eight games, he’d have finished the season with 96 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight season. As long as he’s healthy, we can only think of one tight end who’s better.
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
Nearly a decade into his career, Travis Kelce is still the best in the business.
NFL players with at least 1,175 receiving yards in each of the last 2 seasons:
1. TE Travis Kelce (1,229 | 1,416)
2. WR DJ Moore (1,175 | 1,193)
That's it. Only these two.
— The Riot Report (@RRiotReport) August 22, 2021
He’s now had five straight seasons with over 1,000 yards, including an all-time single-season record for a tight end with 1,416 receiving yards in 2020. Of course, it’s a little easier for him with the players around him in Kansas City. But if you put him on any other team and Kelce would still be a nightmare for opposing defenses, which is enough to put him at the top of our list.