NFL Tight Ends on the Rise in 2013

In today's NFL, more teams are factoring the tight end into the offense.

For the fourth consecutive year, NFL tight ends broke the single-season record for the most receptions (2,401) for the position.

Eighteen tight ends caught at least 50 passes, eclipsing the previous record of 17 set in 2011. Tight ends also combined for 26,197 receiving yards and 197 touchdown catches, both of which rank second to 2011's record totals (27,080 yards, 198 TDs).

Single-Season Tight End Records

Year Catches Year Rec. Yards Year TD Catches
Source: NFL

"I've never seen this many tight ends this good at one particular time," says CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe, one of eight tight ends enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "We've never seen the position this dominant. This is the golden age of tight ends."

In a banner season for the position with standout performances by tight ends across the league, Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys and Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots led the way.

Witten's 110 receptions were the most in a single season by a tight end in NFL history, surpassing Tony Gonzalez's mark of 102 in 2004.

Despite missing five games due to injury, Gronkowski led all tight ends with 11 touchdown catches and became the first tight end in NFL history to score at least 10 touchdowns in three consecutive seasons.

To finish off another tremendous season for the position, Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph became the second tight end in AFC-NFC Pro Bowl history to earn game MVP honors, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow (1982).

The versatility of today's tight ends causes matchup problems for the defense, which is crucial in the NFL's never-ending chess game between offensive and defensive coordinators.

"You look at the majority of the explosive pass plays on the field, it's because of tight-end representation," says ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback TRENT DILFER. "Not because tight ends get them every play, but because of their influence on the field.

It's the hardest riddle for the defense to answer, especially if you have two of them that can complement each other." When an offense trots out a two-tight end, two-receiver personnel group, the defense must be ready for anything, particularly when one or both of the tight ends is a receiving threat.

"I think Kellen Winslow and OZZIE NEWSOME really revolutionized the position and now you're seeing more and more of these guys," says NBC analyst and former head coach TONY DUNGY. "They're difficult to defend and I think you're going to continue to see more tight ends become big-time playmakers."

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NFL Tight Ends on the Rise in 2013