Dec 2, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (89) catches a pass against Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning (38) during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire

NFC West Power Rankings: How Do The Tight Ends Stack Up?


If you haven’t been paying attention to Ramblin’ Fans’ Power Rankings over the last couple of days, we have already mowed through the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receiver. Naturally, the next position up for ranking is the tight ends, a position that is becoming more and more important in the modern era of football.

For that last decade, the tight end was a luxury position, occasionally risen to glory by the performance of Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, or Antonio Gates. Now, after the dominance by the New England Patriots with their Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez combo, the league is shifting back towards the two-tight end sets. We saw that in this year’s NFL Draft, with the Bengals mading a hard push to snag Tyler Eifert, pairing him with Jermaine Gresham, the leagues 8th leading tight end in receiving yards last season.

Last season, the San Francisco 49ers’ had a formidable combination in Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis. Who will man the top of the rankings in 2013?


Tight End

1. Lance Kendricks/Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

With the acquisition of Jared Cook his offseason, the St. Louis Rams now have the most underrated tight end duo in the NFL. Cook is a physical freak, measuring in at 6’5” tall and 246 lbs., on top of running a 4.49 40-time, with a 41 inch vertical to boot. There is a consensus opinion that Cook was misused in Tennessee, which is an understatement given the unnecessary focus on Chris Johnson in their offense. Even so, he will come into the NFC West trailing only Vernon Davis in terms of production on the field in 2012. Cook snagged 44 receptions for 523 yards, including 4 touchdowns; only 25 yards shy of Davis with 3 more receptions.

However, even if Davis gets the nod over Cook, the St. Louis Rams still have third-year tight end Lance Kendricks on the roster. Kendricks had just as many receptions as both Davis and Cook in 2012, tallying up 500 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. He was also listed as the St. Louis Rams No. 1 fullback on the depth chart for part of the 2012 season after the release of Brit Miller, pointing to his versatility in the offense and his prowess as a blocker in the NFL.

2. Vernon Davis/Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers

Vernon Davis is one of the biggest household names at tight end in the NFL, right after Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, and Tony Gonzalez. Davis was the favorite target of Alex Smith, but saw his targets and, consequently, his production fall off a cliff once Colin Kaepernick took the reins. In fact, he only recorded 144 receiving yards in the final 7 games of the season after Kaep was deemed the “starter.” Davis is solid as a run blocker and posted one of the best catch rates among tight ends last season. Still, if Kaepernick cannot get the ball into his hands, Davis’ athletic superiority will be wasted as a middle-tier, in-line blocker.

McDonald was the 49ers’ second round selection in the 2013 draft, and is fairly similar to Jared Cook in at least one area. McDonald  has little to no experience as an in-line blocker, which does not necessarily fill the void left by Delanie Walker. McDonald figures to be used primarily in the slot, however, unlike Cook, he was not overly dominate in college, and doesn’t possess the speed to be much of a threat down the field. He also had some issue with drops at Rice, which will not change being on the receiving end of a Kaepernick tight rope.

3. Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks

Zach Miller was a Top 5 tight end in the NFL a couple of years ago, but has slowly dropped back into irrelevance within the Seahawks’ offense. Miller finished the 2012 season with 38 receptions for only 396 yards, with a mere 3 touchdowns to show for his troubles. Miller, like Davis, is adequate as an in-line blocker, which helped pave the way for Marshawn Lynch on the edge. However, Russell Wilson targeted Miller on only 46 throws throughout the entire season, and with the addition of Percy Harvin to the roster, that number doesn’t look to change.

4. Rob Housler/Jeff King, Arizona Cardinals

Rob Housler will start the season at the top of the Cardinals’ depth chart, among with Jeff King. Never heard of these two? You are likely not alone…

The duo combined for an impressive 62 receptions last season. However, those catches only racked up 546 yards and resulted in a grand total of zero touchdowns on the season. Both players also graded out in the Bottom 5 run-blocking tight ends in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Next Rams Game View full schedule »
Sunday, Sep 77 Sep12:00Minnesota VikingsBuy Tickets
Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Arizona Cardinals San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

  • brian

    I’d just say that this article vastly undervalues Zach Miller’s importance during the playoffs, especially the redskins. Wouldn’t have won without him.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Maybe so, but one massive performance in a losing effort against the Falcons does not erase an entire season worth of non-production.

      …But what do you mean the ‘Hawks wouldn’t have won without him? He had 4 receptions for 48 yards and no touchdowns, and graded out “even” in both run and pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus (i.e. no significant effect), against the Redskins.

  • Jason Bochenek

    Seem to be a trend… did you just stop watching football after the regular season? If so your rankings make total sense. I know that it doesn’t help the argument for your beloved Rams players, but you completely ignore the post season numbers for both the Seattle and San Fran… In both cases they played pivotal roles in their teams post season success.

    • Nathan Kearns

      No I watched every snap of every NFC West game last season…

      But it isn’t necessarily an even comparison to rank players higher purely due to their team’s ability to make it into the post season, and because of out two outlier performances. My assumption is that you are pushing for Vernon Davis by himself to be ranked ahead of both Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks?

      Did you stop watching football after Colin Kaepernick took over the helm? Then your comment would make sense…

      With Kaepernick as the starter Davis averaged 20.5 receiving yards per game, and was non-existent in the opening round against Green Bay! In fact, that 20.5 yard per game for the latter half of the season is heavily influated by a 6 rec, 83 yard performance against Chicago. Take that away, and Davis averaged 1 reception and 10.1 yards per game for the last 6 games of the season.

      Sorry, I am not going to hand-pick the game that Vernon Davis was dominate in to use in the comparison, or for any other player. You have to use the full body of work, which included half a season of worthlessness in the passing game.

      Same goes for Zach Miller, he averaged 24.75 receiving yards per game for the entirty of the season. Those number do not get magically erased because of a single 142 yard performance in a LOSS in the playoffs. GTFOH with that noise…

      • Jason Bochenek

        Sorry, but I refuse to believe that anyone but a fan of the Rams would honestly say that they have the best TEs in the NFC west. Yes I am saying that both the Seahawks and 49ers should have been ranked ahead of the Rams. Is Cook a promising player yes, but there is no way in hell you can convince me that he is a better TE than VD.

        Your rationale is extremely bias… to discount individual game performances is pure stupidity. Most great players legacies are based on several individual game performances. When the game matters the most and the team game plans to put a player in position to be great. When that player performs up to the level the team asks of them and beyond is what elevates them above their peers. So excuse me for laughing in your face and calling you a fool when you talk about discarding performances in the playoffs in favor of arbitrary stats during the regular season. As a Ram’s fan I believe you are still on a learning curve having watched such poor coaching over the past few years. Hopefully under Fisher’s watch you will realize that each player plays the role that is asked of them in order to win a game. Just like how VD does what is asked of him during the regular season to get the win (IE blocking more than putting up big receiving numbers), but when called upon in the playoffs to put up a big game he is twice the player Jared Cook will ever be. Sadly you will likely not see this, because the Ram’s will probably be missing the playoffs again.

        • Nathan Kearns

          I am not going to argue when all you want to do is rate “best” performance, instead of the entire season…

          Both Kendricks and Cook were just as productive on their respective teams, with significantly less talent around them!

          Zach Miller is a player past him prime, and it has shown through his production, or lack there of, in his time in SEA.

          Davis is the best TE in the division, but cannot match the output of both players on St. Louis roster…

          Make an argument that you can support with something outside of name calling and your clear biased opinion against the Rams and we can talk ;)

          All you have done so far is complain about bias, but have yet to provide any logical argument to support your assertion

          • Jason Bochenek

            I don’t have a bias against the Rams… I just don’t have delusions of grandeur. You are promoting unproven players based on bias. Cook is supposed to have the talent and yet he is a one dimensional pass catching TE that couldn’t live up to expectations in TN and Kendricks is a mid of pack TE at best. Why don’t you wait until they prove something until you promote them to the top spot? You want so desperately to believe that the Rams have to hold the top spot in something in the division you are willing to look past the facts. Cook put up decent numbers and should have been MUCH better. He was considered the one of the only real receiving threats while Britt was dealing with injury and was constantly on the field because TN run play-action out of TE friendly sets. Yet he still put up mediocre numbers against a schedule that was made up of poor defenses. THUS…. ONLY A BIAS FAN WOULD PUT THE RAMS ON THE TOP OF THIS LIST.

          • Nathan Kearns

            Again opinion, name calling, opinion, name calling…. where is the data to support your claim?

            Cook wasn’t, and never will be anything more than a pass catching tight end, although he did grade out positively in run blocking in 2012. No, he didn’t live up to extreme expectations in the run-oriented, Titans offense where an aged Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker are the guys throwing him the football. Still, Cook put up EQUAL OR BETTER numbers than Vernon Davis in 2012, despite Davis play 457 more offensive snap (i.e. nearly double the time on the field).

            If Lance Kendricks was “mid of pack” last season, than so was Vernon Davis, considering the put up nearly identical stats.Kendricks is headed into his 3rd year in the league, and is already ahead of where Davis was by his 3rd year, both in productivity and use in the offense (Kendricks was the Rams “starting” FB for some of the season last, much like Delanie Walker, except for the fact that Lance also was a force in the pass game).

            You so desperately believe that the 49ers are superior in every way that you are ignoring what happened last season. You attempt to make unsupported excuses like…

            “He was considered the one of the only real receiving threats while Britt was dealing with injury and was constantly on the field because TN run play-action out of TE friendly sets. Yet he still put up mediocre numbers against a schedule that was made up of poor defenses:”

            … well, Cook was on the field about half as much as Davis, and still put up equal numbers, despite being keyed on by the defense.. YOU ARE MAKING MY POINTS FOR ME!

            If Kendricks and Cook were mediocre last season, then Davis was mediocre last season. But, you are right, Cook should have been much better, but not every tight end has the luxury of having a Pro Bowl running back, Top 10 offensive linemen at every position, and a handful of other receiving threats, including the only 1,000+ yard receiver in the NFL West, Crabtree, to take some of the defenses’ attention off.

            You continue to disregard that fact that it is essentially the St. Louis Rams tight end unit vs. Vernon Davis by himself.

            Still waiting for legitatimate, supporting argument for your point. I won’t hold my breath though…

          • Jason Bochenek

            I just like that you put more effort into the comments section than your articles… keep up the good work.

          • Nathan Kearns

            Well, no one wants to read a 4,000 word article ;)

            Go Rams, Go NFC West. Good discussion, thanks for the comments

  • VR

    Your assessments are always garbage. Jared Cook over VD? You should be kicked in the a!! for that one. Who the heck is Jared Cook? Complete garbage.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks over Vernon Davis….

      Maybe you should watch a couple of NFL games where the 49ers’ aren’t player, it might make you a more informed viewer… althought that is highly doubtful?

      While playing within inferior offenses both Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook (while in Tennesee) put up nearly identical numbers to Vernon Davis last season.

      Cook had 44 rec. for 523 yards, 4 touchdowns and Kendricks racked up 41 rec. for 500 yards, 4 touchdowns…. which makes a combined 85 rec. for 1,023 yards, 8 touchdowns worth of 2012 production on the St. Louis Rams tight end depth chart. Davis has an eerily similar 41 rec. for 548 yards, 5 touchdowns.

      No doubt that Vernon Davis is the best tight end in the division, but that doesn’t mean the San Francisco 49ers have the top rated tight end UNIT in the NFC West.

      If you don’t like the assessment, that is fine. But at least comment with something more intelligent than a blanket statement voicing you unsupported opinion.