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An alternate uniform for the greatest tight end ever

An alternate uniform for the greatest tight end ever

Over the last three days, we’ve looked at the most dominant fantasy quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Today, we look at tight ends, using the methodology described over the three previous days.

I am using the following scoring system throughout this series: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 0.5 points per reception.

You probably expect to see Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season grade as the best fantasy season by any tight end. But, as it turns out, an AFC West tight end had one season that was ever so slightly more dominant.

You might think I’m talking about Tony Gonzalez, who has an unreal eleven seasons in the top 200. Or Kellen Winslow, who has eight top-200 seasons, half of which rank in the top 25. And if not one of those two, then surely Antonio Gates, who has nine top-200 seasons, including two in the top twenty. Or Shannon Sharpe, of course, who also has nine top-200 seasons, with six of those being in the top 70.

In fact, AFC West teams1 have 14 of the top 25 seasons by a tight end in fantasy history, and and 19 of the top 35 years. No division has dominated this position like the AFC West, but the best tight end season in fantasy history came from someone else: Oakland’s Todd Christensen.

Let’s compare Christensen’s 1983 season to what Gronkowski did 28 years later. In 2011, Gronk caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also “rushed” for a two-yard touchdown on a screen pass. That gave him an unbelievable 285.9 fantasy points, or 17.87 FP/G. In 1983, Christensen caught 92 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns, for a slightly less impressive 242.7 fantasy points, or 15.17 FP/G. But it was a lot more common for tight ends to produce good numbers in 2011 than it was in 1983. TE12 in 2011 averaged 7.94 FP/G, while TE12 in 1983 averaged 5.18 FP/G. As a result, Christensen averaged 9.99 FP/G over the baseline, compared to 9.93 for Gronk. We multiply each player’s difference by 16 to get their VBD score, but obviously Christensen will come out slightly ahead.

The table below displays the top 200 seasons in fantasy history by a tight end:

RkPlayerYrTmRECRECYDRECTDFPGFP/GBaseDiffVBD
1Todd Christensen1983RAI92124712242.71615.175.189.99159.8
2Rob Gronkowski2011NWE90132717285.91617.877.949.93158.8
3Kellen Winslow1982SDG547216135.1915.015.89.21147.4
4Pete Retzlaff1965PHI661190102121415.146.019.14146.2
5Tony Gonzalez2000KAN9312039220.81613.84.818.99143.9
6Jackie Smith1967STL5612059210.11415.016.148.86141.8
7Mike Ditka1961CHI56107612207.61414.836.118.71139.4
8Jimmy Graham2013NOR86121516260.51616.287.668.62137.9
9Kellen Winslow1980SDG8912909227.51614.225.68.62137.9
10Antonio Gates2004SDG8196413214.91514.335.378.96134.4
11Tony Gonzalez2004KAN10212587219.31613.715.378.34133.4
12Ben Coates1994NWE9611747207.41612.964.78.26132.2
13Todd Christensen1986RAI9511538210.81613.184.958.23131.6
14Shannon Sharpe1996DEN80106210206.21513.754.988.77131.6
15Kellen Winslow1983SDG8811728209.21613.085.187.89126.3
16Mark Bavaro1987NYG558678162.21213.524.059.46121.1
17Antonio Gates2005SDG89110110214.61514.316.347.97119.5
18Jimmy Graham2011NOR99131011246.51615.417.947.46119.4
19Jerry Smith1967WAS6784912190.41413.66.147.46119.3
20Tony Gonzalez1999KAN7684911188.91512.594.87.79116.9
21Tony Gonzalez2008KAN96105810213.81613.366.077.29116.7
22Kellen Winslow1981SDG88107510211.51613.225.997.23115.6
23Shannon Sharpe1993DEN8199591941612.134.927.21115.3
24Wesley Walls1999CAR6382212185.71611.614.86.81108.9
25Rich Caster1972NYJ3983310163.41411.674.886.79108.7
26Willie Frazier1967SDG5792210180.71412.916.146.76108.2
27Dave Casper1982HOU365736112.2912.475.86.67106.7
28Rob Gronkowski2014NWE82112412225.41515.037.947.08106.2
29Dave Casper1976OAK5369110156.11312.014.927.09105.3
30Jason Witten2007DAL9611457204.51612.786.316.48103.6
31Tony Gonzalez2003KAN7191610187.11611.695.246.45103.2
32Charle Young1973PHI558546157.31411.244.846.39102.3
33Shannon Sharpe1994DEN8710104168.51511.234.76.5398
34Dallas Clark2009IND100110610221.71613.867.826.0496.6
35Tony Gonzalez2007KAN9911725196.71612.296.315.9995.8
36Ozzie Newsome1982CLE496333105.8911.765.85.9695.3
37Ozzie Newsome1983CLE899706177.51611.095.185.9194.6
38Ted Kwalick1972SFO407519150.21410.734.885.8593.6
39Dave Casper1978OAK628529170.71610.674.845.8393.2
40Aaron Thomas1967NYG518779167.21411.946.145.892.8
41Rodney Holman1989CIN507369152.6169.543.765.7892.5
42Joe Senser1981MIN7910048188.11611.765.995.7692.2
43Jason Witten2004DAL879806177.51611.095.375.7391.6
44Paul Coffman1983GNB5481411174.41610.95.185.7291.5
45Bob Trumpy1969CIN3783591561411.145.475.6790.7
46Walter White1976KAN478087147.81410.564.925.6490.2
47Rob Gronkowski2012NWE5579011172.51115.687.528.1689.8
48Antonio Gates2007SDG759849189.91611.876.315.5689
49Vernon Davis2009SFO7896513213.51613.347.825.5388.4
50Keith Jackson1988PHI818696163.41610.214.695.5388.4
51Shannon Sharpe1998DEN6476810168.81610.555.055.588
52Bob Tucker1971NYG597914132.71211.064.686.3887.5
53Shannon Sharpe1997DEN7211073164.71610.294.975.3385.2
54Antonio Gates2010SDG5078210163.21016.327.898.4384.3
55Jerry Smith1969WAS5468291501410.715.475.2483.9
56Marv Cook1991NWE828083139.8168.743.535.2183.3
57Wesley Walls1996CAR6171310161.81610.114.985.1482.2
58Jimmy Graham2012NOR859829194.71512.987.525.4681.9
59Mike Ditka1963CHI597948156.91411.216.155.0680.9
60Kellen Winslow2007CLE8211065181.61611.356.315.0480.7
61Jackie Smith1968STL497892149.71410.695.695.0180.1
62Ben Coates1995NWE849156169.51610.595.595.0180.1
63Rich Caster1974NYJ387457135.51310.425.075.3579.5
64Antonio Gates2009SDG7911578203.21612.77.824.8878.1
65Pete Retzlaff1964PHI5185581591213.257.565.6978.1
66Todd Heap2002BAL688366157.4169.844.974.8777.9
67Mark Bavaro1986NYG6610014157.1169.824.954.8777.9
68Shannon Sharpe2003DEN6277081561510.45.245.1677.3
69Eric Green1993PIT639425155.7169.734.924.8177
70Todd Christensen1984RAI8010077182.71611.426.614.8176.9
71Todd Christensen1982RAI42510495.4910.65.84.876.8
72Ozzie Newsome1981CLE6910026172.71610.795.994.876.8
73Julius Thomas2013DEN6578812183.31413.097.665.4376
74Eric Green1991PIT415826114.71110.433.536.975.9
75Bob Tucker1972NYG557644134.5149.614.884.7375.7
76Todd Christensen1985RAI829876175.71610.986.274.7175.4
77Ben Coates1997NWE667378154.7169.674.974.775.2
78Mickey Shuler1988NYJ708055145.5159.74.695.0175.2
79Antonio Gates2006SDG719249181.91611.376.684.6975.1
80Brent Jones1994SFO496709145.5159.74.7575
81Jason Witten2010DAL9410029201.21612.587.894.6975
82Vernon Davis2013SFO52850131891512.67.664.9474.1
83John Mackey1966BAL508299161.31411.526.914.6173.8
84Ben Coates1996NWE626829153.2169.584.984.673.6
85Riley Odoms1973DEN436297131.7149.414.844.5673
86Tony Gonzalez2001KAN739176167.11610.445.934.5172.2
87Ted Kwalick1971SFO526645128.6149.194.684.5172.1
88Steve Jordan1986MIN588596150.9169.434.954.4871.7
89Tony Gonzalez2002KAN637737150.8169.434.974.4671.3
90Dan Ross1982CIN47508392.3910.265.84.4671.3
91Ted Kwalick1973SFO477295130.1149.294.844.4571.2
92Ozzie Newsome1979CLE557819160.21610.015.684.3369.3
93Riley Odoms1978DEN548296146.4169.154.844.3168.9
94Ozzie Newsome1984CLE8910015174.61610.916.614.368.8
95Raymond Chester1979OAK587128148.21410.595.684.968.7
96John Mackey1965BAL408147144.11410.296.014.2968.6
97Jeremy Shockey2005NYG658917163.61510.916.344.5768.5
98Dallas Clark2008IND778486159.31510.626.074.5568.3
99Raymond Chester1972OAK345768122.9139.454.884.5868
100Mickey Shuler1985NYJ768797167.91610.496.274.2367.6
101Shannon Sharpe2000BAL678105144.5169.034.814.2367.6
102Jay Novacek1992DAL686306133168.314.094.2367.6
103Tony Gonzalez2012ATL939308187.51611.727.524.267.2
104Jerry Smith1970WAS435759135.9149.715.574.1466.2
105Jim Whalen1968BOS477187137.3149.815.694.1265.9
106Aaron Hernandez2011NWE7991071771412.647.944.765.8
107Ben Coates1998NWE676686136.3149.745.054.6965.6
108Freddie Jones2000SDG717665142.1168.884.814.0865.2
109Rickey Dudley1997OAK487877144.7169.044.974.0865.2
110Wesley Walls1997CAR587466139.6159.314.974.3465.1
111Ethan Horton1991RAI536505121.5167.593.534.0665
112Henry Childs1977NOR335189122.3139.415.044.3765
113Dallas Clark2007IND5861611159.51510.636.314.3364.9
114Jason Witten2008DAL819524161.81610.116.074.0464.7
115Jimmy Graham2014NOR8588910191.41611.967.944.0264.3
116Robert Awalt1987STL425266108.7129.064.055.0164.1
117Pete Retzlaff1963PHI5789541421410.146.153.9963.9
118Mike Ditka1962CHI589045149.41410.676.693.9863.7
119Bob Tucker1973NYG506815123.5148.824.843.9863.7
120Keith Jackson1994MIA596737138.8168.684.73.9863.6
121Todd Heap2005BAL7585571651610.316.343.9863.6
122Walter White1977KAN486745121.1139.325.044.2863.6
123Jay Novacek1991DAL596644119.9167.493.533.9663.4
124Keith Jackson1990PHI506706128149.144.684.4662.5
125Alge Crumpler2004ATL487746137.4149.815.374.4562.2
126Keith Jackson1989PHI636483114.3148.163.764.4161.7
127Ben Coates1993NWE536598140.4168.784.923.8661.7
128Antonio Gates2014SDG6982112188.61611.797.943.8461.5
129Jim Mitchell1970ATL446506131.3149.385.573.8160.9
130Dan Ross1981CIN719105156.5169.785.993.7960.6
131Billy Cannon1967OAK3262910138.9149.926.143.7860.5
132Keith Jackson1992MIA485945113.4138.724.094.6460.3
133Fred Dugan1961WAS538174132.21310.176.114.0560.2
134Riley Odoms1974DEN426396123.4148.815.073.7459.9
135Rich Caster1975NYJ478204129.5149.255.523.7359.7
136Kellen Winslow1984SDG556632105.8715.116.618.559.5
137Henry Childs1978NOR538694137168.564.843.7259.5
138Charle Young1974PHI636963122.9148.785.073.7159.3
139Milt Morin1968CLE437925131.5149.395.693.7159.3
140Steve Jordan1988MIN577565134.1168.384.693.6959.1
141Jordan Cameron2013CLE809177173.71511.587.663.9258.8
142Mike Ditka1964CHI758975157.21411.237.563.6758.7
143Carroll Dale1966GNB378767148.11410.586.913.6758.7
144Chris Cooley2007WAS667868159.6169.986.313.6758.7
145Shannon Sharpe1995DEN637564131.11310.085.594.558.5
146Brent Celek2009PHI769718183.11611.447.823.6358
147Brent Jones1990SFO567475132.7168.294.683.6157.8
148Todd Christensen1987RAI476632101.8128.484.054.4356.7
149Jason Witten2012DAL11010393176.91611.067.523.5456.6
150Tony Gonzalez2006KAN739005156.51510.436.683.7656.4
151Don Hasselbeck1981NWE468086139.8149.995.993.9955.9
152Pat Richter1968WAS425339128.3149.165.693.4855.7
153Kellen Winslow1986SDG647285134.8168.434.953.4855.6
154Alvin Reed1968HOU467475127.7149.125.693.4455
155Jermaine Wiggins2004MIN717054130149.295.373.9254.8
156Dave Casper1977OAK485846118.4148.465.043.4254.7
157Doug Cosbie1982DAL30441482.999.215.83.4154.6
158Keith Jackson1991PHI485695110.9166.933.533.454.4
159John Mackey1968BAL456445127.2149.095.693.454.4
160Jim Mitchell1971ATL335935108.3138.334.683.6554.3
161Randy McMichael2004MIA737914139.6168.735.373.3653.7
162Dave Parks1972NOR325426105.5128.794.883.9153.7
163Chris Cooley2005WAS717747154.9169.686.343.3453.5
164Willie Frazier1965HOU375218118.6129.886.013.8853.2
165Jimmie Giles1982TAM2849938299.115.83.3153
166John Mackey1963BAL357267132.4149.466.153.3152.9
167Tony Gonzalez2013ATL838598175.41610.967.663.352.8
168Johnny Mitchell1994NYJ587494127.9167.994.73.2952.7
169Jeremy Shockey2004NYG616666133.1158.875.373.552.6
170Shannon Sharpe2002DEN616863117.1139.014.974.0452.5
171Frank Wycheck2000TEN706364129.3168.084.813.2752.4
172Heath Miller2012PIT718168165.11511.017.523.4952.3
173Emery Moorehead1982CHI30363581.699.075.83.2752.3
174Rickey Dudley1999OAK395559129168.064.83.2652.2
175Monty Stickles1961SFO437945130.9149.356.113.2451.8
176Greg Olsen2014CAR8410086178.81611.187.943.2351.7
177Antonio Gates2008SDG607048148.4169.286.073.2151.3
178Willie Frazier1970SDG384976122.7148.765.573.1951.1
179Kellen Winslow1987SDG53519396.4128.034.053.9850.9
180Russ Francis1980NWE416648134.9158.995.63.3950.9
181Keith Jackson1996GNB4050510130.5168.164.983.1850.9
182Frank Wycheck1997TEN637484130.3168.144.973.1850.8
183Cam Cleeland1998NOR546846131.4168.215.053.1650.6
184Marcus Pollard2001IND477398145.4169.095.933.1650.5
185Johnny Mitchell1993NYJ396306118.5148.464.923.5549.6
186Eric Johnson2004SFO828252135.5168.475.373.149.6
187Henry Childs1979NOR518465140.1168.765.683.0849.2
188Chad Lewis2000PHI697353126167.884.813.0749.1
189Rob Gronkowski2013NWE395924102.7714.677.667.0149.1
190Alge Crumpler2005ATL658775150.2169.396.343.0548.8
191Antonio Gates2011SDG647787151.81311.687.943.7348.5
192Derrick Ramsey1984NWE667927154.2169.646.613.0348.4
193Brent Jones1992SFO456284109.3157.294.093.248
194Steve Jordan1991MIN576382104.3166.523.532.9947.8
195Jay Novacek1995DAL627055131.5158.775.593.1847.7
196Mark Chmura1995GNB546797136.9168.565.592.9747.5
197Alge Crumpler2006ATL567808154169.636.682.9547.2
198Doug Cosbie1985DAL647936147.3169.216.272.9447
199Jason Witten2013DAL738518169.61610.67.662.9447
200Brent Jones1993SFO687353125.5167.844.922.9346.8

At the career level, Gonzalez emerges as the clear #1, and it will take a long time for Gronk to threaten that role. There’s a “Big 3” tier after Gonzalez of Sharpe/Gates/Winslow, but it’s going to take Gronk a couple of years to break into that group, too. More likely to happen in the immediate future: Gronkowski (or Jimmy Graham) breaking into the top 5 in the near future, and to do that, he’ll need to pass his nemesis from today.

RkPlayerFirst YrLast YrVBD
1Tony Gonzalez199720131185
2Shannon Sharpe19902003855
3Antonio Gates20032014776
4Kellen Winslow19791987703
5Todd Christensen19791988577
6Jason Witten20032014567
7Ben Coates19912000488
8Ozzie Newsome19781990487
9Keith Jackson19881996485
10Dave Casper19741984467
11Rob Gronkowski20102014413
12Jimmy Graham20102014404
13Jackie Smith19631978383
14Wesley Walls19892003381
15Jerry Smith19651977361
16Mike Ditka19611972343
17Riley Odoms19721983320
18Pete Retzlaff19561966316
19Mark Bavaro19851994315
20Brent Jones19871997310
21Steve Jordan19821994306
22Mickey Shuler19781991293
23Eric Green19901999292
24Bob Tucker19701980288
25Rich Caster19701982285
26Jay Novacek19851995283
27John Mackey19631972282
28Dallas Clark20032013260
29Raymond Chester19701981260
30Todd Heap20012012258
31Frank Wycheck19932003249
32Ted Kwalick19691977237
33Bob Trumpy19681977235
34Vernon Davis20062014231
35Jeremy Shockey20022011222
36Charlie Sanders19681977219
37Paul Coffman19781988214
38Willie Frazier19641975212
39Henry Childs19741984205
40Rodney Holman19821995199
41Chris Cooley20042012199
42Charle Young19731985197
43Doug Cosbie19791988194
44Aaron Thomas19611970190
45Kellen Winslow20042013188
46Alge Crumpler20012010177
47Jimmie Giles19771989172
48Dan Ross19791986171
49Walter White19751979161
50Russ Francis19751988158
51Jim Mitchell19691979156
52Freddie Jones19972004153
53Owen Daniels20062014144
54Greg Olsen20072014143
55Rickey Dudley19962004139
56Johnny Mitchell19921996137
57Jackie Harris19902001128
58Billy Joe DuPree19731983128
59Marv Cook19891995123
60Julius Thomas20112014115
61Marcus Pollard19952008113
62Alvin Reed19671975113
63Joe Senser19801984110
64Heath Miller20052014110
65Jim Whalen19651971108
66Jean Fugett19721979107
67Milt Morin19661975104
68Aaron Hernandez20102012104
69Randy McMichael20022012102
70Dave Parks1964197399
71Mark Chmura1993199997
72Pete Metzelaars1982199790
73Pete Holohan1981199288
74Mike Barber1976198579
75Robert Awalt1987199378
  • Yes, the top 5 tight ends by VBD all played the majority of their careers in the AFC West.
  • Mike Ditka has the #7 fantasy season as a rookie in 1961, and finished as the top tight end in ’62 and ’63. He was #2 in ’64, but that was about it for Da Coach. His career shined brightly, but it was only dominant for those four seasons. As a result, he’s #16 on the career list.

>What stands out to you?

  1. And we don’t even need to include Seattle, which has 0 entries in the top 200 []
  • John

    No version of tony(or any TE)ever had the impact on an offense that a healthy Gronk does

    • sacramento gold miners

      Good point about Gronk’s durability, he’s had problems dating back to college. Greatness usually means sustainability, and Gonzalez was a force at an age when other tight ends had long since retired.

      I’m guessing most folks here never heard of Joe Senser, but the Vikings TE appeared to be headed for a long, outstanding career after his monster 1981 season. But a severe knee injury finished Senser, players didn’t have the benefit of today’s surgical techniques back then.

    • Richie

      Hard to tell for sure, because Gonzalez hardly ever missed any games.

      In 2013 the Patriots averaged 32 ppg with Gronkowski, and 24 ppg without him. In 2012 it was less obvious, as the Patriots averaged 35 ppg with Gronk and 34.2 without him.

  • In regards to the footnote, the Seahawks, as a franchise, have been remarkably bereft of good seasons from tight ends. Jimmy Graham’s rookie season (31 rec, 356, 5 TD) is roughly on par with the best Seattle TE seasons ever. (No really.) So it will be interesting to see how he performs in the Blue and Highlighter Green.

  • Todd Christensen ranks in the top five for his career even though he essentially started for five seasons. (It’s six years, but one was the abbreviated 1982 season and one was four games shy of a full year due to injury.) That’s one hell of a peak.

  • Delevie

    Gronk played 46 straight games to start his career. He’s missed 17 games due to injury, but he’s only just turned 26 and should have several more beastly years left.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Gronk’s had two monster years, so I’ll need to see much more to put him on the level of a Winslow or Gonzalez. In addition to the arm problem, there are back issues, so it will be interesting to see how he ages. He seems to enjoy the benefits of his fame, but will Gronk have the work ethic of a HOF-type player?

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  • Tim Truemper

    What stands out? John Mackey only at # 27. Wow.