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Factoid

Elite tight ends

Semifinalists all have franchise tight ends

There are four teams left, and they all have difference makers at tight ends. I don’t think there’s ever been a stronger final four at the position.

Travis Kelce is arguably the best who’s ever played the position. George Kittle isn’t quite as dynamic as a receiver but offers more as a blocker. And Sam LaPorta set rookie records for the position. Using both Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, the Ravens got a league-high 12 TDs out of the position.

Using PPR scoring, LaPorta, Kelce and Kittle all ranked in the top 6 in stat production at the position. I checked the numbers in the 32-team era, and it’s the first time that three such players have made it to the conference championship level.

Andrews would have been right there with those guys had he not gotten hurt. (And he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow.)

These players are not only difference makers, but they come with more team-favorable contracts. Because of the structure of the labor agreement, their contracts are deflated relative to wide receivers. Kelce, Kittle and Andrews all are working under contracts averaging $14-15 million, putting them just behind Hunter Renfrow, Odell Beckham and Courtland Sutton financially. There are 13 wide receivers with contracts averaging over $20 million, and another seven with deals averaging $15-plus million.

With the finances of the position factored in, you wonder if Brock Bowers (from Georgia) will end up being a better first-round pick than some of the wide receivers who’ll go in the same range of the draft. Bowers’ second contract with be less expensive than Rome Odunze (Washington) and Malik Nabers (LSU). (Plenty of years ahead of those guys, of course; it’s unlikely that all three of those players are as good as people are hoping they’ll be.)

Nonetheless, lots of big-time tight ends on display on Sunday.

The four most productive tight ends each season to reach the conference championship games are listed below. Players ranking in the top 6 at the position (using PPR scoring) are in bold.

TIGHT ENDS IN THE FINAL FOUR
YearPlayerPlayerPlayerPlayer
2002C.LewisF.WycheckD.JolleyK.Dilger
2003M.PollardD.GrahamC.FauriaL.Smith
2004A.CrumplerD.GrahamL.SmithC.Lewis
2005J.StevensH.MillerJ.PutzierK.Mangum
2006D.ClarkD.ClarkB.UtechtD.Graham
2007A.GatesD.LeeB.FranksK.Boss
2008H.MillerT.HeapL.SmithB.Celek
2009D.ClarkV.ShiancoeJ.ShockeyD.Keller
2010D.KellerG.OlsenH.MillerA.Quarless
2011GronkowskiHernandezV.DavisE.Dickson
2012T.GonzalezD.PittaHernandezV.Davis
2013J.ThomasV.DavisL.WillsonJ.Tamme
2014GronkowskiC.FleenerD.AllenT.Wright
2015GronkowskiG.OlsenO.DanielsV.Davis
2016M.BennettJ.JamesJ.CookR.Rodgers
2017GronkowskiZ.ErtzK.RudolphM.Lewis
2018T.KelceGronkowskiG.EverettT.Higbee
2019T.KelceG.KittleJ.SmithJ.Graham
2020T.KelceR.TonyanGronkowskiD.Knox
2021T.KelceG.KittleT.HigbeeC.Uzomah
2022T.KelceG.KittleD.GoedertH.Hurst
2023S.LaPortaT.KelceG.KittleM.Andrews

—Ian Allan

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