Tight end is a difficult position to assess in the NFL. While the stars of the position are typically elite receivers, the value of a good blocker is not to be understated—and a tight end that can do both is extremely valuable.
Whereas the NFC North has had a fair share of talent at quarterback, running back, and receiver, the tight end group is a far different story. There aren’t many Pro Bowl-level tight ends in the league right now, but the NFC North does have one of them. Aside from that player, however, there a slim pickings amongst the teams. A mix of veterans and youths, raw pass catchers and anything-but-dynamic blockers, the NFC North has a lot of players with a lot to prove.
Where do the NFC North teams rank at tight end?
- Ranking the NFC North quarterbacks
- Ranking the NFC North running backs
- Ranking the NFC North wide receivers
Note: Players on each team are listed alphabetically.
1. Detroit Lions
Derrick Deese Jr., Devin Funchess, Nolan Givan, Garrett Griffin, T.J. Hockenson, James Mitchell, Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra
Perhaps there is some bias, but I believe the Lions have far and away the best tight end group in the division. T.J. Hockenson alone elevates this group into the top half of the NFC North. Although 2021 was a regression for Hockenson in terms of yards per reception and games played, he still looks like one of the premier tight ends in the NFL. With the Lions boasting a talented receiving corps, Hockenson will no longer be the focus for opposing defenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if he reaches a Pro Bowl-level once again in 2022.
James Mitchell appears to be healed from a college ACL injury, and he slots in as a capable receiving target opposite Hockenson. The TE3 role (if there is one) is up in the air, but the likes of Devin Funchess, Garrett Griffin, Brock Wright, and Shane Zylstra are the likeliest candidates. Funchess and Zylstra are additional receiving options, Griffin is a decent blocker, while Wright is a mix of the two. Deese and Givan could also earn a spot, but it is a very crowded room. Be sure to follow along with our Bubble Watch as this training camp battle plays out.
2. Chicago Bears
Chase Allen, Ryan Griffin, Rysen John, Cole Kmet, James O’Shaughnessy, Jake Tonges
Cole Kmet is a fringe top-10 tight end in the NFL, having put together a solid second season in what was a struggling Bears offense. He won’t take over games like Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but he’s a well-rounded tight end and a reliable safety net for whoever is at quarterback. Kmet may be the co-focal point of the Bears passing offense alongside Darnell Mooney.
The Bears have two veteran backups that might fly under the radar. Neither Ryan Griffin nor James O’Shaughnessy stand out as elite tight ends, but they perform their roles well. Griffin likely has first dibs on the TE2 role thanks to his balance of receiving and blocking. O’Shaughnessy projects more as a blocker than Griffin, but he has had a few flashes as a receiver. The high-end talent isn’t there for Chicago, but it’s a fairly strong foundation. For the tight end position, that can be enough.
3. Green Bay Packers
Sal Cannella, Dominique Dafney, Tyler Davis, Josiah Deguara, Marcedes Lewis, Alize Mack, Robert Tonyan
The Packers have a lot of uncertainty at tight end heading into 2022. Robert Tonyan is a year and an ACL tear removed from an 11 touchdown campaign, and it remains to be seen if he can be a true starting-caliber tight end instead of a red zone threat. He starts the year on the PUP, so his recovery timeline may still put him a month or two away from game day.
With Tonyan out, Marcedes Lewis figures to helm the tight end group. At 38 years old, Lewis has little left in the tank as a receiver, but he continues to be a mountain of a blocker. The receiving threat will likely come from Josiah Deguara or Tyler Davis, although neither of them have extensive track records. Deguara has disappointed thus far as a former third-round pick, while Davis—being hyped up as a breakout candidate—has a mere 35 receiving yards to his name. Coupled with their lackluster receiving corps, Aaron Rodgers won’t have many reliable targets.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Shaun Beyer, Zach Davidson, Ben Ellefson, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, Irv Smith Jr.
The Vikings had a total of four tight ends record a target in 2021, and not a single one is currently on the roster. Irv Smith Jr. was expected to be the top tight end, but a torn meniscus forced him to miss the entire season. In his stead was Tyler Conklin, who put up a respectable 593 receiving yards. However, the New York Jets poached him this offseason, leaving the Vikings without a reliable replacement.
Smith was once a prized tight end prospect who slid due to mediocre traits, and mediocre has been the summary of his career so far. Smith has 676 receiving yards across his first three seasons of action, but with his contract soon ending, the Vikings and Smith will need a far better fourth year.
The top backup in Minnesota will be Johnny Mundt. He was an option for the Detroit Lions this offseason, but he has largely been limited to blocking and special teams. The depth beyond Mundt is even worse, with neither Shaun Beyer, Zach Davidson, Ben Ellefson, or Nick Muse providing much in the way of offensive firepower. Davidson and Muse are both elite athletes, so they have some tools to work with. As a fun fact, Davidson was a punter in college as well—nothing would excite me more than a tight end/punter in the NFL.
Where do the Lions rank in the division at TE?
This poll is closed