This time, we’re looking at the top 10 TEs for 2022. I am really glad I didn’t write this article before Gronk announced his retirement. Tight ends have diversified in recent years, with some that are pure blockers like an extra lineman or fullback, some that are pure receivers and look almost like large WRs, and others still that have truly well-rounded games. The position is rather top-heavy; we have a few elite options, some good players, and a lot of replacement-level guys. This list is purely my opinion and is subject to change as the season plays out. If you’re looking for other position groups, check out this page!
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
After George Kittle’s injury-riddled seasons in 2020 and slight down year in 2021, Kelce reclaims the top spot, though it was quite close to begin with. The best receiving TE in the NFL, Kelce has exceeded 1000 yards in each of the last 6 seasons. He is a mismatch against smaller corners or any linebacker, and his size and speed make him an excellent red zone and downfield threat. His blocking, though not spectacular, is underrated, which is why he’s ranked first on this list. With Tyreek Hill in Miami, Kelce will be the undisputed #1 target for Patrick Mahomes this season.
2. George Kittle, 49ers
Not a single other tight end on this list comes close to Kittle in terms of blocking prowess (now that Gronk has retired again). Kittle’s best years as a receiver came in 2018 and 2019, where he amassed over 80 receptions and 1000 yards each season. He’s a complete package, and he’s the man who started the run on Iowa TEs, paving the way for guys like TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant. Kittle bounced back decently last year after missing 8 games in 2020, but the offense ran through Deebo Samuel. With QB Trey Lance and his big arm expected to start, Kittle’s downfield potential might be reignited.
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens
The last of the 3 elite tight ends leaguewide, Andrews had a nice start to his career after being drafted in the 3rd round. He wasn’t even the first TE the Ravens selected in that draft (Hayden Hurst was), but he quickly proved that his Oklahoma production wasn’t a mirage brought about by their video game offense. Andrews broke out spectacularly in 2021, with 107 catches for 1361 yards and 9 TDs. He seems to always find ways to get open, particularly when QB Lamar Jackson uses his legs to extend plays. Even when he’s not open, he may as well be due to his contested catch skills. His blocking isn’t fantastic, but he more than makes up for that in the receiving department.
4. Darren Waller, Raiders
Honestly, there’s a major drop-off from #3 to #4. Still, if Waller returns to the form he showed in 2019 and 2022, that drop-off won’t be nearly as steep. Waller is well-known for having overcome substance abuse issues and becoming a star. He is an athletic freak who is very difficult to cover in the middle of the field. Last season he only totaled 655 yards while being hampered by injuries, but in the two prior years, he combined for nearly 200 catches and over 2300 yards. Now that Davante Adams is in town, defenses can’t key on Waller as much. With good health, Waller could be a force to be reckoned with in the new-look Raider offense.
5. Kyle Pitts, Falcons
This one is a bit of a projection, but Pitts is truly a generational talent. He had 68 receptions for 1026 yards as a rookie, falling just short of breaking Mike Ditka’s NFL record. Scouts drooled over him coming out of Florida, crowning him as the best receiving threat in a draft that included Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle. He looked the part in 2021, but defenses doubled him early and often without Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley there to draw coverage. That is no longer true since the Falcons drafted WR Drake London at #8 overall this April. The one cause for concern in his rookie year was his lack of TDs, as he only caught one. With his elite size and speed, I expect that number to improve drastically this year, assuming that he has competent QB play after Matt Ryan’s departure.
6. TJ Hockenson, Lions
The last five guys on this list are really close, but Hockenson is listed first among them because of his fantastic blocking ability. This isn’t surprising based on his Iowa pedigree, but his ability in that regard is special. After going through typical rookie TE struggles in 2019, Hockenson took a big step forward, surpassing 60 receptions in both 2020 and 2021. It was encouraging to see that his production didn’t plummet once Jared Goff took over for Matthew Stafford. He was a rare top-10 pick at TE in his draft class, so I’m not going to let a slightly slow learning curve derail my opinion about him.
7. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys
Schultz had minimal production in his first two NFL seasons, but he then burst onto the scene in 2020 with 63 catches for 615 yard and 4 TDs. He followed that up with a 78 catch/808 yard season last year, adding 8 TD catches in the process. That effort earned him the franchise tag from the Cowboys this offseason. I think Dallas was wise to give him a one-year deal and wait to see how he does without Amari Cooper attracting defensive attention. CeeDee Lamb is still around though, and I believe that Schultz is here to stay as an above-average TE, which right now is enough to easily crack the top 10.
8. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins
After a disappointing rookie year, Gesicki proved that TEs often do need a year of development before producing. He has topped 50 receptions in every season since. His best year was his last, with 73 receptions for 780 yards. Like Schultz, Gesicki parlayed his strong contract year into a franchise tag. It was telling that despite possessing Jaylen Waddle and making a blockbuster deal for Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins still felt that it was important to devote a significant guaranteed year to Gesicki. His early struggles were brought about by a lack of physicality. Though he’s still not much of a blocker, his willingness to use his large frame to box out defenders and make tough catches has raised his pass-catching talents to another level.
9. Dallas Goedert, Eagles
Goedert’s stats were quite similar to Gesicki’s, and both players are great athletes who contribute much more in the passing game than as run blockers. Goedert had more catches but almost identical yardage over the past three years. This tells me that while Goedert is a solid possession receiver, Gesicki has more big-play ability, which is why he’s ranked a slot ahead. Goedert has been consistent in the TD department, with 4, 5, 3, and 4 in his four seasons. He firmly falls in the “pass-catcher” camp rather than the blocking TE category, as evidenced by his 76 catches for 830 yards in 2021. Jalen Hurts seems very comfortable throwing to him, which is a compliment and a suggestion that 2022 will be fruitful for Goedert.
10. Dawson Knox, Bills
I have Knox in the 10th slot instead of a slightly higher ranking because we’ve really only seen one year of strong production. There’s a chance that 2021 will be remembered as his outlier year, but he’s also a young player that may have really taken a step forward in his development. After two middling seasons, Knox became a touchdown machine, with a whopping 9 TDs this past year. He seemed to have a genuine rapport with QB Josh Allen; they were always in sync when the latter extended plays and started scramble drills. Knox would always be the one to find the hole in the coverage. I expect the two to continue to make plays together next year, which is why Knox nabs this final spot.