Best of the AFC West: Tight ends


Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Good Saturday my friends, welcome to another edition of Best of the AFC West. Last week we covered the outside linebackers where Justin Houston was ranked number one among the others in the division. Today we’re going to discuss the tight ends.

The AFC West isn’t loaded at the position and actually lost a pretty good player Julius Thomas in free agency. The Denver Broncos made an attempt to fill the position in the draft by drafting Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman but was lost for the year due to injury. The next men up will be free-agent Owen Daniels and backup tight end Virgil Green.

With the San Diego Chargers you have the ageless wonder Antonio Gates who just seems to defeat Father Time on a yearly basis. Then there are the Kansas City Chiefs who have the rising star in Travis Kelce who showcased his ability last year. The Oakland Raiders have a rookie that’s getting a lot of attention in Clive Walford but for statistics sake I’ll go ahead and nominate Mychal Rivera since he started last year.

So who are the best and the worst of these blockers and catchers? Bear in mind this is based on of last year and who is currently in uniform of these teams.

#1 Antonio Gates

Gates took the same path Tony Gonzalez did using his basketball background to win a lot of  one-on-one matchups by just using his body frame. He and Philip Rivers are operating as one mind as they’ve been playing catch for 12  years and when the Chargers need a critical first down, Rivers goes to his most trusted receiver. The 35-year-old finished with 821 which was seventh best in the league and 12 touchdowns which was a three-way tie for the most in the league.

Pro Football Focus was not kind to Gates who finished with a -7.2 overall for the season which ranked him 17th in the league. This was mostly due to his run blocking which was graded at a -13.3. His best performance came against Seattle with a +2.4 grade and his worst performance came against New England with -3.3 grade.

#2 Travis Kelce

Kelce is going into his third year as a pro but last year was his first year playing a full season due to an injury keeping him out of his rookie season. Kelce quickly showed Chiefs Kingdom and the rest of the NFL that he’s got a bright future in this league. Kelce finished the season with 862 yards which was sixth best in the league and five touchdowns which was tied for fifth best in the league.

Pro Football Focus graded “Zeus” with a +11.6 overall which was fourth best in the league. Kelce’s best game came against San Diego where he received a +4.0 grade and his worst game was against Oakland where he received -2.3 grade.

#3 Owen Daniels

Daniels isn’t a prolific tight end that reels in loads of highlights but what is an efficient pass catching tight end. The other positive as you could see in this little video our Bronco friends made was he’s reuniting with a previous coach so he’ll be contributing right away.

Daniels had 527 yards which was 15th-best in the league and four touchdowns (how much you wanna bet that at least doubles) which was tied for 6th best in the league. Pro Football Focus graded him at a -0.9 overall for the season which was 13th-best in the league. His best performance came against Atlanta with a +1.9 grade and his worst performance was against Cleveland with a -3.1 grade.

#4 Mychal Rivera

At first I was wondering how there was over three minutes of highlights but realized they had to go to his college tape to extend this video. Rivera is an average tight end whose career is still pretty young as he’s going into his second season, so there’s definitely a chance he could improve into a better player. Most are predicting his job will eventually be taken by the rookie Clive Walford at some point this season. Rivera finished with 528 yards which just edged out our man above (Daniels) for 14th best in the league but finished with the same amount of touchdowns as Daniels with four (6th best in the league).

Pro Football Focus was even harder on Rivera than Gates as he graded out a -25.1 overall for the season which second worst in the league among tight ends who had at least 60 snaps. His best game of the season cane against the Jets with a +0.3 grade and his worst performance of the season was against -3.5 against the Browns.

We’ll revisit these rankings after the first quarter of the season but this is how I see it now. What do you think, Addicts?