The days of a tight end’s being little more than a sixth offensive lineman who was slimmer, trimmer and could catch an occasional pass are seemingly long gone.
The position has transformed from one that used to be filled with guys big enough to be tackles though not quite athletic enough to be receivers to a place where elite athletes can find a home.
Ten years ago, then-New York Giant Jeremy Shockey led all NFL tight ends with 74 receptions and 894 receiving yards. Plug those numbers into the 2011 leader board, and Shockey would have been eighth in catches and fifth in yards. Last season, two tight ends — New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and New England’s Rob Gronkowski — reached the 90-reception plateau and compiled more than 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns, all numbers that used to be reserved only for elite ...