The tight end may still not be the most popular position in the NFL but it's certainly en vogue right now. Not only did four different tight ends eclipse 1,000 yards receiving last season, the same number as those that had done this the past three combined, but six wound up leading their team in receptions.
It should come as no surprise that Rob Gronkowski leads the way in Athlon Sports' rankings, which were done in conjunction with Dan Shonka of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the 2016 NFL Preview magazine. However, the names that come after Gronk may include a few you weren't expecting to see or at least their place in the rankings.
Rankings courtesy of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services, which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.
2016 NFL Tight End Rankings
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England
The unanimous first-team All-Pro had 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Tom Brady and Gronk have connected on 64 career touchdown passes, most by any pass-catch duo in team history.
2. Greg Olsen, Carolina
Dependable and consistent, Olsen caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. He has played in 142 consecutive games.
3. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
Corralled 13 touchdown passes in 2015 despite missing significant time in games 12 through 15 due to injuries. Was third on the team with 52 receptions. Wins more than his share of 50/50 balls.
4. Delanie Walker, Tennessee
Was the go-to receiver for rookie Marcus Mariota in 2015, catching 94 passes for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns. A solid and consistent run blocker as well as a pass protector when not out on a route.
5. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
A sure-handed pass catcher who runs fluid and sharp routes. The ex-Stanford Cardinal caught 75 passes and averaged 11.4 yards per catch in a time share with Brent Celek.
6. Jason Witten, Dallas
Is the leading pass catcher in Cowboy history, and his 1,020 career receptions are the second most for a tight end in NFL history. In 2015, despite a variety of quarterbacks, he caught 77 passes for 713 yards.
7. Jordan Reed, Washington
Former third-round pick enjoyed a breakthrough season, catching 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns to help the Redskins capture the NFC East title.
8. Maxx Williams, Baltimore
The rookie caught 32 passes in 2015, including six against the Bengals in the season finale. Was a solid run blocker and an ascending sure-handed chain mover for Joe Flacco.
9. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland
Very quietly had a productive year, catching 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. His previous highs were 13 catches, 242 yards and two TDs.
10. Jimmy Graham, Seattle
The prolific pass catcher in New Orleans was almost an afterthought in Seattle after being acquired by trade. His run blocking improved, but his 48 catches were the fewest since his rookie year.
11. Martellus Bennett, New England
12. Antonio Gates, San Diego
13. Coby Fleener, New Orleans
14. Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore
15. Charles Clay, Buffalo
16. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay
17. Ben Watson, Baltimore
18. Brent Celek, Philadelphia
19. Travis Kelce, Kansas City
20. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota