The tight end position has many archetypes ranging from extensions of the offensive line to jumbo wideouts, who are only tight ends in position designation.
Some of the best players at the position can do it all, blocking, running after the catch, and stretching the defense deep. Others are so good at their best skill they can be deployed in ways to mitigate their limitations.
There’s an eye-of-the-beholder nature to ranking tight ends, but I attempted to account for versatility, difference-making talent, and the potential for ascension by young talent or decline for older tight ends when ranking them.
And since I’m not a tape-grinding expert watching every blocking rep on NFL’s All-22 tape, I used Pro Football Focus’s (PFF) blocking data when constructing my rankings.
Without any further ado, let’s dig into my NFL tight end power rankings ahead of the 2023 season.
TE Rankings 35-21
35. Jonnu Smith, Atlanta Falcons
The Patriots threw gobs of money at Smith in free agency before the 2021 season and failed to use him properly for two years.
The Falcons scooped him up cheaply in a trade, and head coach Arthur Smith knows how to get the most out of the athletically-gifted tight end after coaching him as the offensive coordinator for the Titans during the tight end’s most productive seasons.
Smith is at his best after the catch, and his ability to gash teams with the ball in his hands has even been utilized as a rusher 16 times for 127 rushing yards and a touchdown in his career.
34. Luke Schoonmaker, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys spent the 58th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Luke Schoonmaker.
According to PFF, Schoonmaker had 45 targets, 35 receptions, 418 receiving yards, 2.15 Yards per Route Run (Y/RR), and three touchdowns in 12 games in his final collegiate season at Michigan, his best statistical season for the Wolverines.
Schoonmaker’s numbers weren’t eye-popping, but his elite athleticism could allow him to be the latest tight end who is a better pro than an amateur.
According to Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS), Schoonmaker’s 9.86 RAS out of a possible 10 ranked 16th out of 1,105 tight ends since 1987.
33. Irv Smith Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Smith from blossoming after the Vikings picked him 50th in the 2019 NFL Draft following a productive final season at Alabama, where he had 42 receptions, 707 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns in 2018.
The Bengals hope a change of scenery will allow him to tap into the potential he demonstrated in college and flashed in his second pro season in 2020.
Smith isn’t a well-rounded tight end but is a pass-catching option.
32. Tyler Conklin, New York Jets
Tyler Conklin has had over 550 receiving yards and tallied precisely 87 targets in back-to-back seasons. He’s not the flashiest tight end, but he offers the Jets alignment versatility.
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Per PFF, in 2022, Conklin was inline 60.9% of his passing snaps, in the slot 29.5% of the time, and wide at a 9.3% clip. Conklin doesn’t earn high marks for his blocking, but he has value as an ancillary passing-game option.
31. Jelani Woods, Indianapolis Colts
Jelani Woods is a big-bodied moldable piece of clay for the Colts. After playing quarterback in high school, he ran just 741 routes in four collegiate seasons.
Woods doesn’t add value as a blocker but had 25 receptions, 312 receiving yards, 1.51 Y/RR, and three touchdowns on just 40 targets as a rookie last year.
Furthermore, Woods earned a target on 17.4% of his routes run.
30. Austin Hooper, Las Vegas Raiders
Hooper lacks jaw-dropping athleticism but is a reliable safety valve in the passing game.
He has cleared 400 receiving yards in five of his seven NFL seasons and has seen at least 60 targets in six consecutive years.
29. Foster Moreau, New Orleans Saints
First, before addressing Foster Moreau’s football prowess, I want to wish him well as he’s thankfully in full remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Circling back to football, Moreau was a stellar complement to a jumbo-wideout-style tight end in four years with the Raiders and should serve in a similar role for the Saints.
He’s an ascending player after setting career highs in 2022 for targets (54), receptions (33), and receiving yards (420) in 15 games after setting new highs in 2021.
Moreau has alignment versatility and outstanding athleticism, sporting a 94th-percentile SPARQ-X and 80th-percentile or better 40-yard dash, speed score, burst score, agility score, and catch radius, per Player Profiler.
28. Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals
McBride dominated at Colorado State in his final college season in 2021, capturing the Mackey Award, an award given to college football’s best tight end, after hauling in 91 receptions for 1,125 receiving yards, 2.78 Y/RR, and one touchdown on 122 targets.
Sadly, as is the case for many young tight ends, McBride didn’t hit the ground running in the NFL.
Nevertheless, after Zach Ertz suffered a season-ending injury, McBride was able to eclipse 40 receiving yards in three of his final four games in his rookie campaign.
27. Mike Gesicki, New England Patriots
Mike Gesicki is the poster child for being a tight end in position designation only.
He’s a jumbo wideout, playing only 19.5% of his passing snaps inline in his career, and is a liability as a blocker.
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Gesicki’s shortcoming as a blocker holds him back in the tight end power rankings, but he had 286 targets, 177 receptions, 2,053 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns from 2019-2021. He will be a receiving weapon in a New England offense starving for playmakers.
26. Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers
Hurst will always be saddled with getting selected by the Ravens before Lamar Jackson and being outperformed by his teammate at the same position, who was chosen 61 picks later. (We’ll discuss Mark Andrews more below.)
Still, Hurst is a capable pass-catcher and a better blocker than most of the tight ends ranked behind him.
In 29 games as the primary starting tight end for the Falcons in 2020 and the Bengals in 2022, Hurst accumulated 156 targets, 108 receptions (3.7 per game), 985 receiving yards (34 per game), and eight touchdowns.
25. Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
Johnson is a converted wideout who broke out last year with 65 targets, 42 receptions, 508 receiving yards, 1.39 Y/RR, and seven touchdowns.
Despite being a former wide receiver and fitting the jumbo-wideout archetype, Johnson has better blocking grades from PFF than Gesicki.
If Johnson were only scratching the surface last year, this ranking would look too low in retrospect.
24. Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks
Noah Fant has aligned inline for 62.1% of his passing snaps in his career. However, he’s cut from the same cloth as the other pass-catching peers allergic to blocking.
Fant has used his excellent athleticism to reel in at least 40 receptions and post at least 486 receiving yards in each of his four seasons as a pro, besting 550 receiving yards three times and reaching paydirt 14 times.
23. Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers
Progression for a player isn’t always linear, but it has been for Gerald Everett.
His targets, receptions, and receiving yards climbed every year since his rookie campaign in 2017, peaking at 87 targets, 58 receptions, 555 receiving yards, and tying his career high with four touchdown receptions in 2022.
Everett hasn’t been quite as productive as a receiver as Gesicki and Fant, but he jumps them in my power rankings with superior blocking.
22. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
After an underwhelming rookie year in 2020, Kmet has cleared 500 receiving yards in consecutive seasons and scored seven touchdowns in 2022. He’s an above-average athlete and adds value in the passing game.
Yet, he differentiates from the tight ends who only add value as receivers by blocking capably. His PFF blocking grade has improved each year in the NFL.
21. Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
Dawson Knox is in the same bucket as Kmet, boasting above-average athleticism, producing over 500 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons, and he gets after it as a blocker.
Knox has below-average hands, resulting in a 12.1% drop rate. However, he has a nose for the end zone (15 touchdown receptions in 30 regular-season games since 2021) and is a wrecking ball after the catch, amassing 14 missed tackles forced in the previous two seasons.
TE Rankings 20-11
20. Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers
Musgrave’s ranking requires the most significant leap of faith for any player in these power rankings. He came out of the gates hot for Oregon State last year, securing 11 receptions on 15 targets for 169 yards and one touchdown in two contests before an injury sidelined him for the rest of his final college season.
Musgrave’s production and elite athleticism were reasons enough for PFF to rank him 49th, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com to rank him 39th, and Dane Brugler of The Athletic to rank him 29th on their respective big boards.
Further elaborating on Musgrave’s athleticism, his 9.77 RAS was 26th out of 1,091 tight ends since 1987. He’ll be one to watch this season.
19. Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions
Sam LaPorta is the next man up in Iowa’s growing list of NFL tight ends. LaPorta was attached to an anemic offense in college but accounted for a 25.8% target share, 30.2% of the team’s receptions (58), and 31.9% of Iowa’s receiving yards (648) in 2022.
He was well-regarded by NFL Draft pundits and was another RAS darling, scoring a 9.01 RAS (110 out of 1,105 tight ends since 1987). LaPorta can move around the formation, and his athleticism is best used breaking tackles and gashing teams after the catch or stretching the seam.
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His scouting reports also described him as an average run blocker.
18. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots
Hunter Henry kept gradually climbing the power rankings as I worked through them since he has a combination of blocking ability, receiving chops, and a lengthy track record of success in the NFL.
Henry has exceeded 40 receptions and 500 receiving yards in five consecutive healthy seasons. He also has a nose for the end zone, scoring 32 touchdowns in 89 career games.
Unfortunately, Henry is coming off his worst season as a pro. Otherwise, he’d rank ahead of the following two tight ends.
17. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
Higbee is a jack-of-all-trades type of tight end, offering the Rams value as a blocker and receiver. He primarily aligns inline but can play in the slot or on the perimeter.
The Rams were broken last year, but Higbee had 108 targets, 72 receptions, 620 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. His efficiency left much to be desired.
Still, Higbee has bested 500 receiving yards in four straight years and had more than 60 receptions three times during that stretch.
16. Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans
Dalton Schultz has commanded targets and produced with his looks in the previous three years, tallying 282 targets, 198 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns in 48 games.
He undoubtedly had an ideal rapport with Dak Prescott, but Schultz deserves credit for playing well.
Schultz is a throwback tight end, executing as a receiver with craft instead of relying on freakish athleticism, and he is a genuine asset as a run blocker.
15. Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars
Freed from incompetent coaching during his tenure with the Giants, Evan Engram had 98 targets, 73 receptions, 766 receiving yards, and four touchdowns in 17 games for the Jaguars in 2022.
It was Engram’s second season with over 700 receiving yards, third with over 60 receptions, and first with over 70 receptions.
Engram isn’t a nuanced route-runner but uses his elite speed to give defenses problems when he has the ball in his hands. He’s comfortably in the above-average range of the jumbo-wideout mold of tight ends.
14. Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens
Likely primarily operated as Baltimore’s No. 2 tight end as a rookie in 2022 but showed out when he had extensive opportunities in Weeks 7, 8, and 18.
During that three-game stretch, he led the Ravens in targets (25), receptions (15), receiving yards (204), and touchdown receptions (two) while producing a blistering 2.13 Y/RR.
Baltimore’s new offensive coordinator Todd Monken did a superb job using multiple tight ends at Georgia and should incorporate Likely into the offense, even if the club’s top tight end stays healthy.
13. Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos
Greg Dulcich was one of the only bright spots for the dysfunctional Broncos in 2022.
He began the year on the Injured Reserve (IR) before playing well from Week 6 through Week 16 when his season came to an early end with another injury.
Over those 10 games, Dulcich ranked 10th among tight ends in receiving yards per game (41.1).
The UCLA product could explode this year under the guidance of new head coach Sean Payton, especially if the offseason buzz about Dulcich being Payton’s new “Joker” comes to fruition. (See where Payton falls in our NFL head coach power rankings.)
12. Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans
According to PFF, among 42 tight ends targeted at least 30 times last year, Chigoziem Okonkwo was third in its receiving grade, first in yards per route run (2.61 Y/RR), and first in Yards After the Catch per Reception (7.8 YAC/REC).
The Titans never fully handed the reins over to him as a rookie, so there’s some risk of Okonkwo pulling the rug out from under his optimists, à la Albert Okwuegbunam in 2022, after an efficient year as a rotational tight end in 2021.
Still, it’s impossible to view Okonkwo’s rookie season as anything but promising for his long-term outlook.
11. Michael Mayer, Las Vegas Raiders
Mayer is an above-average athlete, albeit without the eye-popping RAS of the previously discussed rookie tight ends.
However, he offsets the discrepancy in tested athleticism with better college production and game-changing blocking ability.
In three years at Notre Dame, Mayer had 255 targets, 180 receptions, 2,099 receiving yards, 1.95 Y/RR, and 18 touchdowns. He can immediately help the Raiders as a pro-ready receiver and run blocker.
TE Rankings 10-1
10. Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
The Bills traded up to make Dalton Kincaid the only tight end selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft following an excellent season at Utah in which he tallied 93 targets, 70 receptions, 890 receiving yards, 2.41 Y/RR, 16 missed tackles forced, and eight touchdowns.
Kincaid was ranked 20th on Brugler’s big board, 10th on PFF’s big board, and ninth on Jeremiah’s big board.
He projects as a wideout in a tight end’s body and could hit the ground running in Buffalo’s pass-happy offense.
9. Darren Waller, New York Giants
Unfortunately, Darren Waller has battled injuries in recent years, playing only 20 games in the previous two seasons.
Still, he averaged five receptions and 60.5 receiving yards per game in 2021 and efficiently tallied nine yards per target in 2022.
Waller should be Big Blue’s most productive pass-catcher this season.
8. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Njoku broke out last year for 80 targets, 58 receptions, 628 receiving yards, and four touchdowns in 14 games.
Among 32 tight ends targeted at least 40 times in the regular season and playoffs, Njoku was 11th in yards per route run (1.55 Y/RR).
He is an ascending weapon in Cleveland’s passing game and can add value as a blocker.
7. Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
Freiermuth has bucked the standard steep learning curve for a young tight end by reeling in 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie before hauling in 63 receptions for 732 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore NFL campaign.
Freiermuth is efficient (7.5 yards per target and 1.68 Y/RR) and was a top-six tight end last year in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
6. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Sadly, Kyle Pitts’s second season ended after 10 games because of a knee injury. He was also saddled with lousy quarterback play when healthy last season.
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Still, through two years, Pitts has had 3.6 receptions per game, 51.2 receiving yards per game, 8.2 yards per target, 1.92 Y/RR, and three touchdowns.
He is exceptionally athletic and the prototype of the modern mismatch tight end.
5. T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings
T.J. Hockenson was already a top-10 tight end in the NFL entering last year with the Lions. However, he jumped to a top-five player at the position after flourishing with the Vikings following an in-season trade.
Among tight ends in 2023, Hockenson ranked second in targets (129), receptions (86), receiving yards (914), sixth in yards per route run (1.73 Y/RR), and tied for fifth in touchdown receptions (six).
A compelling case could be made for ranking Hockenson a spot higher, but the others ahead of him have better blocking grades and are more efficient.
4. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Goedert made it apparent he was a top-shelf tight end even while sharing the same offense as Zach Ertz through his first three and a half seasons in the NFL.
His production has climbed every year in the NFL, spiking to 4.6 receptions per game, 58.5 receiving yards per game, 10.2 yards per target, 1.79 Y/RR, and three touchdowns last year.
Goedert had his worst PFF blocking grades of his career in 2022 but was still solidly average. Furthermore, he was graded as an elite blocker in previous years.
Even though Goedert’s counting stats are behind Hockenson, the former’s advantage in efficiency and his track record of excellence as a blocker earn him the fourth spot in our rankings.
3. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
Andrews would have been the second-ranked tight end after the 2021 season but took a slight step backward while navigating a knee injury in 2022.
Still, he averaged 4.9 receptions and 56.5 receiving yards per game, 7.5 yards per target, and hauled in five touchdown receptions in 15 regular-season contests last year.
In addition, Andrews was third among tight ends targeted at least 40 times in yards per route run (1.97 Y/RR) when you include the postseason. Interestingly, Andrews has also earned stellar blocking marks from PFF.
2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
In 2022, Kittle had his lowest receptions per game (four), receiving yards per game (51), and yards per target (8.9) since his rookie season.
Still, those marks were elite, as Kittle splashed paydirt 11 times and has a lengthy track record of excellence.
Kittle also ranked fourth in yards per route run (1.80 Y/RR) among tight ends who had at least 40 targets across the regular season and postseason.
The four-time Pro Bowler separates from Andrews by earning higher blocking marks throughout his career on a higher volume of blocking reps.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce is a future Hall of Famer, but his ranking atop the tight end power rankings isn’t a lifetime achievement award.
However, he is still in a class of his own.
Kelce led the position last season in targets (152), receptions (110), receiving yards (1,338), and touchdown receptions (12).
To add perspective to Kelce’s dominant lead in receiving yards, the 424-yard gap to second place would have ranked 22nd among tight ends.
Kelce is the gold standard for the modern tight end.