Continuing the ever-popular series “Ranking the Rooms” in the AFC North in the heart of Training Camp, we’ll take a look at the tight end groups today, before then diving into the offensive line rooms later this week.
Here we go!
No. 1 — Baltimore Ravens
Things might not be going well overall for the Baltimore Ravens, but they certainly have found something at tight end, starting with free agent signee Benjamin Watson, who is coming off a career year in New Orleans and should pick up in Baltimore right where he left off in New Orleans.
The Ravens love to use their tight ends, so expect Joe Flacco to look in the direction of his new weapon early and often.
Joining Watson is second-year tight end Maxx Williams, who should be in for a big year two. I would be remiss to forget about Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gilmore, both of whom are looking to come back strong from injury.
If everyone stays healthy in Baltimore, they’re four deep at tight end, so “loaded” is an understatement.
No. 2 — Cincinnati Bengals
Sure, Tyler Eifert will miss the early part of the season due to an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl, but when he’s healthy and on the field he’s the best tight end in the AFC North, and it’s not really close.
Eifert is as close to New England’s Rob Gronkowski as it gets, as he’s a major mismatch anywhere he lines up on the field.
Behind Eifert is second-year tight end Tyler Kroft, who will look to have an expanded role in his second season. C.J. Uzomah, John Peters and Matt Lengel round out the Bengals’ tight end room.
As you can see, it’s pretty top heavy, but the guy at the top is arguably the second-best tight end in football.
No. 3 — Pittsburgh Steelers
The loss of Heath Miller to retirement really hurts, but kudos to the Steelers for going out in free agency and stealing Ladarius Green away from the San Diego Chargers.
Although Green is on the PUP list to start the season, he looks like an impact player in this offense simply based on projections.
Joining Green is second-year tight end Jesse James, who looks ready to make a big leap in this offense. James came on strong down the stretch as a pass catcher and a blocker, providing a glimpse of what he can be in this system. Looks like the Steelers might have hit big on the mid-round draft pick out of Penn State.
Behind Green and James, things get murkier as Matt Spaeth was released a few weeks ago. David Johnson is back for his second stint with the Steelers and could fill the role as a run blocker, while Xavier Grimble is the hot commodity at the position and could be the darling of training camp moving forward.
Paul Lang and Michael Cooper are just camp bodies, plain and simple.
No. 4 — Cleveland Browns
Once again, the Browns come in last in a Ranking the Rooms piece.
Outside of Gary Barnidge, who enjoyed a career-year last season with the Browns and looks like a top ten tight end in the league, the Browns are relatively thin at tight end.
E.J. Bibbs appears penciled in as the No. 2 tight end in Cleveland. The second-year tight end out of Iowa State has the size and physical tools to succeed in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how he grows in his first season under Hue Jackson.
Behind Bibbs are two promising rookies in J.P. Holtz and David Reeves, both of whom have a great shot at capturing roster spots in camp.
But for now, the Browns’ tight end rooms looks barren. Lets check in again next year.