Tight end might be the most fascinating position in football when you consider the multiplicity of the men expected to handle the hybrid role.
It’s a function that requires them to do everything from serving as pass protectors against outside rushers, to performing lead-blocking duties on running plays along with lining up as pure receivers both outside the formation and in the slot.
The trend over the past 15 years has been the scour the country for big and extraordinary athletes that may have been superior basketball players at the high school or college levels and turning them into tight ends.
The same is true with college quarterbacks (see Logan Thomas, Tyrone Swoopes, et. al.) that have exceptional size and running skills, but lack the passing skills to earn roster spots as signal callers at the next level.
But while some very astute NFL offensive coordinators have successfully devised plays to highlight the physical attributes of these physical supermen, the transition to pro tight end takes much more than having long arms, big hands and the ability to leap tall buildings in one single bound.
Mastering the position means learning all of its aspects, most notably blocking.
Offensive linemen aren’t the only ones that need to constantly refine their technique when it comes to engaging defenders at the line of scrimmage, tight ends similarly need to consistently bend their knees and place their weight on their toes to generate maximum force when crashing into an opponent.
Another daunting obstacle that most tight ends face is the fact that they can no longer win their battles against pass defenders on athletic ability/size alone; they must demonstrate the facility to cleanly transition in and out of their cuts.
Technique, hands, agility and stamina are just a few of the characteristics tight ends must eventually possess if they hope to avoid quickly washing out and being replaced by a new crop of versatile pass-catching weapons.
The NFC North has no shortage of king-sized athletes at the position with mesmerizing pass-catching skills.
Trying to rank these players simply on the basis of their ability to make plays with the ball in their hands would be extremely arduous.
Evaluating them on how well-rounded they are in the various aspects of the positions seems to be the more plausible option.
So, on that note, here are your NFC North tight end grades and rankings with roughly two-and-a-half months remaining before the regular season kicks off in Foxborough, MA.