Top 5 Quarterback and Tight End Combo’s in the NFL
The role of the tight end has changed significantly over the years, back in the beginning they were basically a sixth Offensive Lineman. In the 60’s the likes of Mike Ditka showed you can have a star pass-catching tight end, and by the 80’s Kellen Winslow was running wide receiver type routes. The athletic prowess of Shannon Sharpe changed the game for tight ends in the 90’s leading to players like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham becoming elite offensive weapons.
In today’s NFL people want to know how explosive a tight end can be. Their blocking ability is an afterthought if any consideration is taken at all. There is huge excitement around Kyle Pitts, the 4th overall pick out of Florida in this year’s draft. You will be more likely to see him lined up at wide receiver than you will sent in to block. Team’s want touchdowns from their tight ends, so let’s take a look at the best quarterback and tight end combos. Here are my top 5, with Pro Football Focus ratings in brackets.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo (67.5) & George Kittle (84.9)
If it wasn’t for injury history and uncertainty at the quarterback position, this pairing could have been as high as number 2. Kittle only scored 2 touchdowns last season, in an injury-ravaged season. Only one of which was thrown by Garoppolo, who spent even less time on the field due to injury. Despite the injury, Kittle was his usual effective self when on the field. After the 49ers made a big trade for the 3rd overall pick, eventually selecting Trey Lance. We can’t be 100% certain who is starting week one, but Kittle is one of the top 2 tight ends in the league. Whoever his quarterback is, they make the top 5.
4. Lamar Jackson (79.3) & Mark Andrews (76.8)
It was somewhat of a down year for Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews in 2020. Both had years that would be considered good by the majority and combined for 7 touchdowns. But production was down from 2019, and the hopes the team had of challenging Kansas City in the AFC fell short. They will both be in the upper echelons at their respective positions again this season. They will need to be in a stacked AFC conference. The Ravens will hope adding Sammy Watkins and Rashod Batman, along with Marquise Brown at wide receiver, will give opposition defenders more to worry about, and create space for Andrews to cash in.
3. Cam Newton (70.9) & Jonnu Smith (74.0)/Hunter Henry (69.3)
Whilst the jury is out on what Cam Newton can be at this point in his career. The Patriots going out and getting not just one, but two of the best Tight Ends in the business. Makes them impossible to ignore here. Can Newton refind his sparkle this year? I don’t think see a return to the Cam of years gone by when he was in his prime in Carolina. I do think however, the Patriots are surrounding him with an offense he can thrive in. A big part of that will be the Tight Ends, who combined for 12 touchdowns on their previous team’s. Short passes to Smith and Henry will be the staple of the Patriot’s offensive diet this season.
2. Derek Carr (84.7) & Darren Waller (86.5)
After 4 fairly unproductive seasons in the league, Darren Waller’s breakthrough came in year 2 in the Raiders offense. He built on that last year becoming a deadly combination with quarterback Derek Carr. The 28-year-old posted a second consecutive 1000 yard season. Whilst significantly increasing his touchdowns from 3 in 2019 to 9 in 2020. Earning pro bowl recognition for the first time in his career. Waller was, and still should be Carr’s best and most reliable weapon in the Raiders offense. Expect another good year from these two.
Patrick Mahomes (91.8) & Travis Kelce (93.8)
Let’s be honest, this one was never close. Football is a game of opinions, but right now I can’t see any sane argument for anyone other than Mahomes and Kelce here. Put George Kittle with an elite quarterback, and we’d have a debate on our hands. Right now though, these two are way ahead of everybody else. Travis Kelce’s numbers are comparable to the league’s elite wide receivers. His 1416 receiving yards were second only to Buffalo’s Steffon Diggs. Whilst his 11 touchdown passes were tied for 5th most in the league. Phenomenal numbers for a tight end. With the most talented quarterback in the league throwing him the ball, I see no reason for that production to fall. As long as Kelce proves to be such a reliable target for Patrick Mahomes, he’s sure to keep feeding him the ball. Meaning this passer-catching combination should remain one of the most feared in football.