The tight end position is ready to take off in 2021 and beyond. It's not as though it ever went away — the 2000s and early 2010s were filled with names like Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen — but there's a certain star power within the position right now that's taking the league by storm. Heck, when there's a "Tight End University" hosted by the aforementioned Olsen alongside Travis Kelce and George Kittle, two of the most charismatic players in the league, you know the position must be thriving.
It's a good time to be a tight end, and Tony Gonzalez knows it. The Hall of Famer is arguably the greatest to ever play the role, with 14 Pro Bowl bids and six first-team All-Pro selections to his name, and even he is impressed by some of the top talent that the league has to offer today. Gonzalez spoke with CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr and answered questions about three specific TEs — Kelce, Kyle Pitts and Zach Ertz — and he had interesting thoughts to share about all three of them.
On Kelce and if he'll slow down now that he's 31 years old: "There is no way (he'll decline). He's got another five years of top quality football in him -- that's if he wants to... He'll go down in that argument as the best tight end ever, with me, Gronk and all these other guys that have played before me and after me."
On Pitts and his ceiling: "If he (works hard), and he stays healthy -- the sky's the limit. He'll be an All-Pro tight end for a long time. He'll set records. He'll do incredible stuff... This guy is just a faster, more athletic version than me -- and I was pretty damn athletic."
On Ertz and if he can bounce back from poor 2020: "He's one of the most underrated tight ends in the league, maybe even ever... The Eagles would be foolish not to use him like they had in the past. From what I heard, he's had an incredible camp. He's like that toy you used to love, but then you put it in the closet and take it back out and say 'Man I actually really like this toy!' I hope they dust him off and start using him again like they used to."
That's a fearsome foursome of tight ends — Gonzalez, Kelce, Ertz and Pitts — and we should expect to see their names fill a number of the slots on TE leaderboards by the time Pitts' career is over, (hopefully) a couple of decades down the road. As of now, here's where the first three members of that trio rank among tight ends in a number of important statistics:
Receptions: Gonzalez (No. 1 with 1,325), Kelce (No. 8 with 612), Ertz (No. 14 with 561)
Receiving yards: Gonzalez (No. 1 with 15,127), Kelce (No. 12 with 7,881), Ertz (No. 20 with 6,078)
Receiving yards per game: Kelce (No. 1 with 71.0), Gonzalez (No. 6 with 56.0), Ertz (No. 7 with 51.9)
Receiving touchdowns: Gonzalez (No. 1 with 116), Kelce (No. 19 with 48), Ertz (No. 52 with 36)
Where will Kelce and Ertz finish their careers on these lists? Could Pitts end up higher than all of them? The 2021 season could hold some key answers to those questions and much more.
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