Yesterday, I posted some graphs on league-wide passing distribution. In that post, I noted that tight ends grabbed about 16% of all receiving yards in 2002-2003, but that number has increased to over 20% in recent years. But that’s just receiving yards: as you might expect, targets and receptions have seen a similar climb:
But more targets aren’t the only thing driving the increase. Tight ends are also averaging slightly more yards per catch, too. That increase has come despite the general decrease in yards per completion, so this may be a sign that tight ends are more athletic than they were 15-20 years ago, and that teams are sending them on more downfield rights. In addition, catch rate has also been increasing, although in a more volatile way; still, tight ends are catching more passes, at higher rates, and for more yards. In the picture below, yards per reception is plotted against the left Y-Axis, and catch rate is plotted against the right Y-Axis.
Whatever the reason, tight ends seem to be a larger part of NFL offenses they were a decade ago, and for good reason: they’re getting better.