We all love best-of lists, but what if people around the NFL created their own? To preview the 2022 NFL season, we surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive lineman. This is the third edition of these rankings, and there are several players who moved up or dropped from last year's lists. Today, we focus on the tight ends.
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 50 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with our rankers. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy -- even the honorable mentions.
The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2022. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who are the best players today? Pretty simple.
We rolled out a position per day over 11 days. Here's the schedule: edge rushers (July 5), defensive tackles (July 6), off-ball linebackers (July 7), cornerbacks (July 8), safeties (July 9), interior offensive linemen (July 10), quarterbacks (July 11), running backs (July 12), wide receivers (July 13), tight ends (July 14) and offensive tackles (July 15).
Tight ends in the NFL fall into two categories: the traditional ones, and wide receivers who are tight ends by title due to their size. Several players in this year's top 10 either have mild interest in blocking or aren't asked to do it as often as a traditional tight end would. That's largely because they are so good at beating coverages to get open. But it also leaves those who voted here in a precarious spot, choosing between throwback-style favorites and matchup tight ends who fit today's passing trends.
This debate spills into the top of the rankings for a third consecutive year. Let's look at some of the game's top tight ends as ranked by execs, coaches, scouts and players around the NFL.