“The People’s Tight End” claims the top once again.
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In a poll and series of interviews conducted by NFL senior insider Jeremy Fowler, the 49ers veteran has never ranked below No. 3 by ESPN while in the prime of his career. And once again, the All-Pro lays claim to the top.
But why did he snatch the top this year is an explanation most fans would want to know about. Fowler’s conversation with a coach plus his own analysis gave the reasons why.
‘Such an Explosive Player’
Fowler first mentioned how Kittle’s all-around game “still endears him to voters, leading to his third consecutive first-place crown.”
The insider did explain how Kittle put up “modest” tight end numbers last season: 71 catches, 910 yards and six touchdowns. But revealed how per Next Gen State, Kittle’s 6.2 catches above expectation and his 19.4% reception rate per route run were both second highest among tight ends.
That was Fowler’s reasoning for Kittle. But one offensive coach who was left unanimous by Fowler gave his scouting report on Kittle — elaborating on Kittle’s ranking.
“He’s such an explosive player with or without the ball, run game, run after catch — that to me is the biggest thing,” the NFC offensive coach said. “He’s never going to be a great route runner. But he plays so physical through contact, and his savvy, and his play speed is so fast that he can overcome all of that.”
Who Ranked Behind Kittle in Order
So with Kittle at the top, what is the rest of the order by ESPN?
Kelce takes second, then Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders claims third, followed by Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens and at No. 5, Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons.
There are NFL fans who constantly argue that Kelce is the best all-around tight end and his production speaks to that. Fowler, however, wrote down this two reasonings for Kelce falling behind Kittle: Age and blocking ability.
“The No. 1 ranking has alluded Kelce for three years, but he’s nearly four years older than Kittle, and Kittle will always have the blocking advantage over him,” Fowler said. “But let’s not discount Kelce’s historic run of 704 catches for 9,006 yards since 2014 — and the way he does it.”
Added one AFC scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity to Fowler: “When it comes to route running, putting him out there all game and asking him to isolate and win, there’s still nobody better at the position.” Finally, one veteran AFC offensive coach pointed out how Kelce is “still so clutch in big moments. Just look at the end of the [Buffalo] Bills game [in the playoffs].”
The second-year player Pitts is the newcomer of the TE top five. That’s following his 1,026-yard season during his rookie campaign. Pitts replaced T.J. Hockenson of the Detroit Lions at No. 5.
The complete Top 10 list is below: