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Ranking the tight end groups in the NFC East

Which team has the best tight end group in the division?

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Our position-by-position analysis has taken us all over the offenses in the NFC East and there is just one position group left: tight end. Let’s do one final reminder of where the rankings stand around the division up until this point:

Quarterback:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. New York Giants
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

Wide receiver:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. New York Giants
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

Running back:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. New York Giants
  3. Washington Football Team
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive line:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. New York Giants

As we have made our way through the offensive positions, Dallas has emerged as a clear favorite. This is not surprising as the Cowboys were poised to field a strong offense heading into last season before Dak Prescott suffered his season-ending injury in Week 5. With Prescott back and healthy, Dallas has one of the strongest offenses not only in the division, but in the league. But the rankings have turned on the Cowboys this time around. Let’s take a closer look around the division to see which teams have a surprising strength at the tight end position.

Philadelphia Eagles

Players: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers

At this point, Zach Ertz is still one the Eagles’ roster though he is likely on the way out soon. Ertz, a three-time Pro Bowler, is of course a strong tight end in his own right despite having a down season in 2020 in part due to an ankle injury. He was one of only eight tight ends in the league to run at least 250 routes and average fewer than 1.0 receiving yards per route run at 0.94. But Ertz’s past still speaks volumes and there are many reasons to believe he will have a bounce-back year next season.

But even if that rebound season happens outside of Philadelphia, Dallas Goedert is an explosive backup plan, receiving a No. 5 overall ranking from Pro Football Focus. Goedert is the only tight end in the NFL with receiving and run-blocking grades of 80.0 or higher since 2018, per PFF. He ranks seventh in receiving grade and first in run-blocking grade over that three-year span. Goedert may not catch the volume of passes that Ertz has in his career but his other strengths, particularly yards after the catch, make up for it.

The Eagles also elected to bring back veteran Richard Rodgers on a minimum contract and he is a viable No. 2 option behind Goedert if Ertz doesn’t return to Philadelphia.

New York Giants

Players: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo

In New York, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Evan Engram are the drops. His 25 drops in four years are two more than any other tight end in the league over that same span. Engram also posted the lowest PFF grade of his career last season at 60.5 and averaged a career-low 1.28 receiving yards.

But despite these facts and to the surprise of many Giants fans, Engram was a Pro Bowler last season after recording 63 receptions for 654 yards and one touchdown. If he can become more consistent on the field, the Giants might be able to cash in on the talent they first saw in Engram when they drafted him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

One player the Giants added this offseason was Kyle Rudolph from the Minnesota Vikings. At 31 years old, Rudolph is a little past his prime but the Giants are hoping that he has enough left to make an impact this season. In 12 games last year, Rudolph recorded just 28 catches for 334 yards. He will not necessarily stretch the field but, unlike Engram, he has reliable hands. In the last four seasons combined, Rudolph has dropped just two passes. His consistency will be a major step up for New York, especially if some of it rubs off on Engram.

Washington Football Team

Players: Logan Thomas, Deon Yelder, John Bates

Logan Thomas was a pleasant surprise for Washington last season. The quarterback-turned-tight end bounced around for the first few years of his career, but came into his own in Washington in 2020. Thomas caught more than twice as many passes last season, 72, than the rest of his career combined, for 670 yards and six touchdowns. He was the only tight end in the NFL to play over 1,000 regular-season snaps last year, highlighting both his production and value.

While Thomas will be Washington’s no-doubt No. 1 player at the position, he will likely get less receptions next season due to the addition of receivers like Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown this offseason. But he will still lead the tight end group as the next two players likely to make the team are Deon Yelder and John Bates. Yelder started just two games in his three seasons in Kansas City and Bates was a fourth-round pick out of Boise State.

Dallas Cowboys

Players: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Jeremy Sprinkle

Dalton Schultz, a fourth-round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, stepped up in a big way last season in the absence of Blake Jarwin, who suffered from a torn ACL early in the year. Schultz recorded 63 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns.

If Jarwin can return to top form, the Cowboys would be in good shape because Jarwin had the best season his his career in 2019 in which he recorded 31 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns. He also averaged a career-best 1.82 receiving yards per route run in 2019.

The Cowboys are going to have to see who can step up at this position in what is the post-Jason Witten era. If Jarwin can recover strongly from his injury and Schultz can maintain the performance he gave last season, Dallas will be in solid shape. This is also a team with elite wide receivers so while they may rank last in the division as far as tight ends, they have many other weapons on offense.