NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2020" premieres Sunday, July 26, and will air over four consecutive days. Sunday's trio of episodes -- each installment unveiling a new set of 10 honorees -- will reveal two of the four tight ends on the list, which is voted on by the players themselves. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst and former No. 1 overall pick David Carr provides his own ranking of the top 10 tight ends heading into the 2020 regular season.
Kittle is the ultimate tight end as a safety net for the quarterback, a playmaker with the ball in his hands and a phenomenal blocker in the run game. (Just look at this play!) Over the last two seasons, Kittle has averaged 121 receptions, 1,215 receiving yards and five TDs. The effort he gives when the ball is in his hands is second to none. Kittle forced 19 missed tackles last season (most among tight ends, per Pro Football Focus). There's no question in my mind that he's the best player at the position right now -- and should be paid accordingly.
Kelce is coming off a monster 2019 that saw him finish in the top five in receiving yards (ranked fourth with 1,229). He's the only tight end to accomplish that feat in this century. Kelce has proven himself to be a premier receiver for the Chiefs, year in and year out. The only thing keeping him from the coveted No. 1 spot is his unwillingness to block.
Y'all thought I was crazy when I put Waller in my top 10 tight ends list ahead of last season, which made some sense, considering he was suspended for the entire 2017 season and had just 18 receptions in the three seasons he spent on the field. Waller -- whose comeback story from drug addition is awe-inspiring, to say the least -- played a big role for the Raiders' offense and was an absolute nightmare for defenses last season, finishing with 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three TDs. He has a physical advantage against any defender in the league when it comes to size (he's 6-foot-6, 255 pounds) and speed. Given a second chance in the NFL -- and after a career performance last season -- I expect Waller to keep climbing.
Calling it quits after helping the New England Patriots win Super Bowl LIII, Gronk is out of retirement, and I couldn't be more excited to see what he does with Bruce Arians and Tom Brady in Tampa. Gronk set the standard for the tight end position in every facet (and built a convincing Hall of Fame case) during his nine seasons in New England. But with a year away from the game and a trimmed-down physique, it's hard to say what the 2020 version of Gronk will be.
Philadelphia's leader in receiving yards in each of the last four seasons, Ertz is very skilled at beating man coverage and is nearly uncoverable one on one. The three-time Pro Bowler was often double- and triple-teamed last season -- thanks to the Eagles' injury-riddled receiving corps -- and still found ways to get open with his crafty route-running ability. With a healthy receiving corps joining him on the field this fall, Ertz could easily hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the second time in his career.
Andrews enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign with 64 catches, 852 receiving yards and 10 TDs as the leading pass-catcher on the league's top scoring offense. He has size (6-5, 256 pounds) and stunning route-running ability, while being a better-than-average blocker -- which bodes well for the Ravens' No. 1 rushing attack. Look for Andrews to take the next step as the Ravens' starting tight end, with Hayden Hurst now down in Atlanta.
Hooper's production increased every season in Atlanta, with his best campaign coming in 2019 (75 receptions, 787 yards, six TDs in 13 games). Now in Cleveland after inking a four-year deal this offseason, Hooper will thrive in Kevin Stefanski's quarterback-friendly offense as a big target for Baker Mayfield. His best years are ahead of him.
Higbee is an underrated player at the position, but is coming off a career year with 69 receptions for 734 yards and three TDs. His role and production have grown as he's become a more integral player in Sean McVay's offense, and I see that continuing to be the case this year if the Rams aim to return to 2018 form. The fifth-year tight end has great spatial awareness against zone defenses, making him a prime target for Jared Goff.
Henry had a solid year (55 catches, 652 yards, five TDs) after missing four games early in the season due to injury. Heading into his fifth NFL season, Henry has yet to fully realize his potential, but he has all the tools to do so in 2020 -- IF he can stay healthy. With a new quarterback under center, whether it's Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert, I expect Henry to get a lot of opportunities as a big target.
Engram often flies under the radar because he's on a struggling Giants team that's trying to find its offensive identity. But make no mistake: The fourth-year pro is a nightmare matchup in the passing game as a crafty route runner and asset in the run game (much like Ertz). With a full recovery from knee and foot injuries that forced him to miss the second half of last season, Engram is in good position to have a career year as quarterback Daniel Jones continues to develop.