Ranking the NFL’s best tight ends: Execs, players, coaches pick the top 10

  • ESPN staff writer
  • Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
  • University of Florida graduate

To preview the 2020 NFL season, we asked more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions (sorry, special-teamers). The results might surprise you. They surprised me.

Here’s how it worked: Voters gave their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews and research. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy — even the honorable mentions.

The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2020. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who’s the best today? Pretty simple.

We’ll roll out a position per day over the next 11 days. Here’s the schedule:

This week: tight ends (July 7); quarterbacks (July 8); running backs (July 9); wide receivers (July 10); offensive tackles (July 11)

Next week: interior offensive linemen (July 12); edge defenders (July 13); interior defensive linemen (July 14); off-ball linebackers (July 15); cornerbacks (July 16); safeties (July 17)

No position sparked more debate about two players at the top than tight end. George Kittle or Travis Kelce. Off-road SUV or corner-bending coupe. Equal greatness.

After the first round of votes, the two sat at a dead-even split. In a race this close, it comes down to preferences: The pure-form receiver (Kelce) for the AFC champion or the do-it-all catalyst for the NFC champion (Kittle). Really, this is the conversation with every modern tight end. Some teams prioritize pass-catching weapons who line up everywhere to maximize mismatches. Others prefer throwbacks who can get open or block, thus impacting every down.

After the top two, the position is stocked with variety, including Hall of Famers making comebacks in their 30s, oft-injured players trying to become stars and young pass-catchers looking to rise up the board.

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