With guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham re-defining the tight end position, NFL teams are always on the hunt to find the next freakish mismatch for their offense. But as we well know, guys like Gronk and Graham don’t grow on trees.
Despite the NFL’s love for pass-catching tight ends, there simply hasn’t been a great return on investment with recent first-rounders. Eric Ebron went 10th overall to the Lions just a year ago and finished his rookie year tied for 32nd in receptions amongst tight ends.
Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham play for the same team, and the fact that the Bengals had to spend multiple first-round picks on the same position within three seasons just goes to show how disappointing Gresham’s career has been.
On the other hand, success stories like Gronk, Graham and Julius Thomas reveal that the best value for tight ends is after the first round. In fact, among the top-10 tight ends by receptions in 2014, only Greg Olsen (31st overall, 2007) and Heath Miller (30th overall, 2005) were first-round picks.
Let’s take a look at the top tight ends drafted in each of the last five classes and see where their careers are trending in 2015.