George Kittle joined Bleacher Report for an AMA on Friday evening. As one of the league's premier players at the position, he was asked who his top five NFL tight ends of all time were. He had a few no-brainers, but the rest of the list was.... interesting:
Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, and Rob Gronkowski are easy. No matter which way you slice it, those three will be at the top of all tight end rankings until football ceases to exist. Gates and Gonzalez played for a long, long time and were the measures of consistency at the position. Gronk shone brighter than any tight end in history, even if his peak was much shorter than Gates or Gonzalez.
But Travis Kelce? He could very well end up at the Gronk/Gonzalez/Gates level when it's all said and done (especially given who's throwing him the ball), but as it stands he's nowhere close. As I pointed out, Kelce wasn't even the second-best tight end of the decade. He's had four straight seasons of 80+ catches and over 1,000 yards receiving, which is impressive. But he needs to do it for a few more seasons before he deserves a spot here.
Dallas Clark is also undeserving of a spot here. He was a dangerous weapon for Peyton Manning in those early 2000s Colts offenses, but his impact was never at the level of the other names listed. His career numbers (505 catches for 5,665 yards and 53 touchdowns over 10 seasons) are good, and he was one of the early true receiving tight ends, so his place in history should be recognized. But compare that to Shannon Sharpe (815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 TDs over 13 years) or even a player from the early days like Harold Carmichael, listed as a tight end in Pro Football Reference, who had 590 catches for 8,965 yards and 79 touchdowns in 13 years, and it's clear he doesn't belong.
Sharpe's exclusion is most egregious, but there are a lot of different directions to go in. Sharpe, Carmichael, and even Jason Witten have more of a claim than Clark or Kelce. After a certain point, asking a player his top five at a position is equivalent to asking him who his favorite players are, so we can't hold it against Kittle too much. But still!