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16.3k voters

The Greatest Tight Ends Of All Time

Updated April 16, 2020 94.2k votes 16.3k voters 201.0k views87 items

List RulesOnly NFL tight ends. No wide receivers or college players.

The greatest tight ends of all time are those dynamic National Football League players who have played the position better than anyone else. The tight end position is a unique one as it has evolved from a blocking player to one that focuses more on receptions meaning each of these best NFL tight ends dominated the role as it was played during their prime.

There is a reason that the Mackey Award is given out each year to the top tight end in college football. That's because John Mackey is easily the best tight end ever to play football. The now Pro Football Hall of Fame member dominated the position with the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers and made the position one to recognize.

Following in Mackey's footsteps are dozens of other talented and famous tight ends such as Tony Gonzalez, the first tight end to catch over 1,000 passes, Kellen Winslow Sr. who dazzled at tight end for the San Diego Chargers, the great Mike Ditka, who before coaching or broadcasting averaged 19.2 yards per catch and notched 12 touchdowns as a rookie and Shannon Sharpe, who topped an amazing 10,000 yards over his career in Denver and Baltimore.

But the top tight ends in the NFL don't stop there. Young stars have taken the offensive position to an entire new level and fascinated fans everywhere along the way, racking up crazy stats and scoring touchdowns left and right. Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is a perfect example of that as he has become the envy of other teams, fans and players with his talent.

Who do you think played the best at tight end of all time? Vote for your favorites, add any not listed or re-rank this list your way all below! Want more football rankings? Check out the greatest linebackers of all time and the greatest NFL punters of all time too! If you're a fantasy football player, head over and help decide the best fantasy football TEs of 2019

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  • Rob Gronkowski1
    6,074
    3,540

    Rob Gronkowski

    New England Patriots

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceAmherst, New York

    Age26

    More Rob Gronkowski 

    #1332 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time#129 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Kellen Winslow2
    2,373
    1,394

    Kellen Winslow

    San Diego Chargers

    BirthplaceSt. Louis, Missouri

    Age58

    More Kellen Winslow 

    #49 of 143 Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon#24 of 36 The Best NFL Wide Receivers of the '80s

  • Antonio Gates3
    3,559
    2,118

    Antonio Gates

    San Diego Chargers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceDetroit, Michigan, United States of America

    Age35

    More Antonio Gates 

    #48 of 77 The Best Athletes Who Have Used Performance Enhancing Drugs#85 of 106 The Fastest NFL Players of All Time

  • Tony Gonzalez4
    4,616
    2,764

    Tony Gonzalez

    Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceTorrance, California, United States of America

    Age39

    More Tony Gonzalez 

    #11 of 60 Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport#4 of 28 The Best NFL Players With The Most Pro Bowl Appearances

  • Shannon Sharpe5
    3,431
    2,046

    Shannon Sharpe

    Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

    Age47

    More Shannon Sharpe 

    #93 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes#12 of 95 The Best Baltimore Ravens of All Time

  • Travis Kelce6
    1,546
    663

    Travis Kelce

    Kansas City Chiefs

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceCleveland Heights, Ohio

    Age26

  • Jason Witten7
    3,410
    2,041

    Jason Witten

    Dallas Cowboys

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceElizabethton, Tennessee, USA

    Age38

    More Jason Witten 

    #131 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever#4 of 48 The Best University of Tennessee Football Players Ever

  • Mike Ditka8
    2,205
    1,360

    Mike Ditka

    Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceCarnegie, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    Age80

    More Mike Ditka 

    #28 of 150 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative#301 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021

  • Ozzie Newsome9
    1,602
    1,083

    Ozzie Newsome

    Cleveland Browns

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceMuscle Shoals, Alabama, United States of America

    Age59

    More Ozzie Newsome 

    #7 of 91 The Best Alabama Crimson Tide Football Players of All Time#2 of 26 The Best NFL Tight Ends of the '70s

  • John Mackey10
    1,279
    997

    John Mackey

    Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    AgeDied at 70 (1941-2011)

    More John Mackey 

    #16 of 147 The Best Indianapolis Colts of All Time#14 of 60 The Best NFL Players From New York

  • Greg Olsen11
    1,501
    941

    Greg Olsen

    Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceWayne, New Jersey

    Age35

    More Greg Olsen 

    #48 of 144 The Greatest Chicago Bears of All Time#7 of 33 The Best Tight Ends in the NFL

  • Dave Casper12
    1,221
    990

    Dave Casper

    Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers

    PositionTight end, Wide receiver

    BirthplaceBemidji, Minnesota

    Age64

    More Dave Casper 

    #15 of 82 The Best Notre Dame Football Players of All Time#24 of 35 Undeserving Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

  • Dallas Clark13
    974
    778

    Dallas Clark

    Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceSioux Falls, South Dakota

    Age36

  • Zach Ertz14
    574
    271

    Zach Ertz

    Philadelphia Eagles

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceOrange, California

    Age25

  • Ben Coates15
    911
    749

    Ben Coates

    New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceGreenwood, South Carolina

    Age46

    More Ben Coates 

    #33 of 246 The Best New England Patriots Of All Time#24 of 50 The Best NFL Players From South Carolina

  • Mark Bavaro16
    925
    763

    Mark Bavaro

    Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceWinthrop, Massachusetts

    Age52

    More Mark Bavaro 

    #6 of 24 The Best NFL Tight Ends of the '90s#113 of 150 The Best Cleveland Browns of All Time

  • George Kittle17
    389
    110

    George Kittle

    San Franscisco 49ers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceMadison, Wisconsin

  • Vernon Davis18
    944
    770

    Vernon Davis

    San Francisco 49ers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceWashington, D.C.

    Age31

  • Jimmy Graham19
    1,579
    1,487

    Jimmy Graham

    New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceGoldsboro, North Carolina

    Age29

    More Jimmy Graham 

    #25 of 64 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#13 of 34 The Most Overpaid Professional Athletes Right Now

  • Heath Miller20
    739
    632

    Heath Miller

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceRichlands, Virginia, United States of America

    Age33

  • Jay Novacek21
    928
    863

    Jay Novacek

    Phoenix Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceMartin, South Dakota, United States of America

    Age53

  • Jeremy Shockey22
    765
    725

    Jeremy Shockey

    New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceAda, Oklahoma

    Age35

    More Jeremy Shockey 

    #7 of 57 The Best College Football Tight Ends of All Time#37 of 149 The Best New York Giants of All Time

  • Todd Christensen23
    665
    699

    Todd Christensen

    Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants

    PositionFullback, Tight end

    BirthplaceBellefonte, Pennsylvania

    AgeDied at 57 (1956-2013)

    More 

    #50 of 107 College & Professional Athletes Who Were Raised Mormon#44 of 86 The Best NFL Players From Pennsylvania

  • Russ Francis24
    369
    334

    Russ Francis

    New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceSeattle, Washington, United States of America

    Age62

  • Kyle Rudolph25
    354
    293

    Kyle Rudolph

    Minnesota Vikings

    PositionTight end

    BirthplaceCincinnati, Ohio

    Age26