With everyoneâ€™s eyes focused on the outstanding performance of the stellar quarterbacks in this league, people are missing out on the cosmic performance of the most versatile position. Tight ends are no longer second class players.
In fact they may be what take a team to the next level. A good tight end opens up an offence. He allows mismatches to foster.
A simple glance at a stat sheet would indicate the NFL is also aware of their importance.
There are seven teams with a 4-1 record or better after five weeks.
Five of those teams have a tight end in the top ten in receiving yards at the position. Five of them have a tight end in the in the top ten in receptions at the position. Five of them have a tight end in the top ten for touchdowns at the position.
The only 4-1 team without a tight end in any of those categories is San Diego, and they have Antonio Gates.
The six tight ends that are leading the best teams in the league are Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew, Vernon Davis, and Scott Chandler. Be honest, how many of those would you have guessed?
These are not necessarily the big names at the position, or any position for that matter, but they are cogs for teams on a mission; and those teams know how to use them.
This is the young crop of up and coming tight ends, but what do they have in common?
They are all physically imposing. Strong. Fast. Tall. Take your pick.
They have great ball skills. Graham and Finley played basketball in college before testing their abilities on the grid iron.
Mindset. They all want to prove themselves.
The other thing these players have in common is the mismatches they create and the versatility they bring to the field. Air Coryell might have made the discovery with Kellen Winslow, but this is the age of the tight end.
They can run and catch like a wide receiver, and block like a fullback (linemen might be stretching it). They can beat a linebacker with speed and route running or box out a cornerback before jumping right over them. Simply put they can do it all.
The reason this is important is not just individual matchups and mismatches, but what it allows an offence to do. It becomes possible to spread the ball around out of a running formation without losing a single thing. It opens up the middle of the field and allows everyone to be better.
Basically, it keeps the running game as effective as ever, while elevating the passing game and utilizing every inch of the field.
The defense is spread out and the offense has holes to throw or run through. This becomes paramount in the red zone, which is where the tight ends make most of their money.
Touchdowns, they preach about touchdowns. And tight ends provide them.
Scott Chandler is 6â€™7â€, try and get a 5â€™11â€ cornerback to beat him on a fade route to the corner of the end zone. Fat chance.
Tight ends may not get paid like it, but they complete a team. Good teams have recognized their value and made them an integral part of their team (New England boasts two). With a skill set for blocking, catching and creating mismatches all over the field these young tight ends will soon get the recognition they deserve for an out of this world performance.