What Does A Tight End Do In Football?

Football Tight End

A tight end (TE) is an offensive position in football. Tight ends are some of the most talented and versatile players on the field. Depending on the play design, the tight end can serve as a receiver, ball carrier, or extra blocker.

The tight end can be a receiver or an extra blocker on the offensive line in football. They are allowed to catch passes and block downfield, whereas some other positions are not allowed to do this. They can be used to deceive defenses by lining up as if they will help block for a quarterback or running back, but instead running downfield to catch a pass. The tight end can also line up out wide as a receiver.

Location On The Field

football strong side

The tight end starts on the strong side of the field. Tight ends usually position themself in the offensive backfield behind the line of scrimmage.

The tight end can line up in multiple positions on the offense. The tight end usually lines up on either end of the offensive linemen near the line of scrimmage, but they can also line up in the position of a wide receiver, running back, or fullback. Most positions are eligible to line up in the places of other positions (like the running back lining up at wide receiver). A tight end can add many options to an offensive game plan.

Responsibilities

Depending on the play design and formation, tight ends may have one of three different responsibilities. The two main responsibilities are to receive passes and block for the quarterback on a passing play, or block for running backs on a running play. The third is to carry the ball on a running play, but this is rarely done by tight ends in today’s game.

When lining up on a passing play, the tight end will line up on either side of the offensive line or out wide. During a passing play, the tight end is usually looking for seams in the defense or open areas to cut into. The tight end lines up on either the left or right side of the offensive line if their role is to block for the quarterback on a passing play. This provides the quarterback with a sixth man to protect the pocket, which is crucial to giving them time to get rid of the ball. To block for the running back on a running play, the tight end will line up in the same place as they would to protect the quarterback. The only difference in this scenario is that the tight end would not simply block on the line of scrimmage but would also attempt to open gaps for the running back and block downfield.

Tight End Skills

Speed: While tight ends are typically not the fastest players on a team, it is still important for them to be quick. The quicker a tight end is, the easier it will be to get open for a pass or run to make a block.

Strength: It is important for tight ends to be strong, as they are often used as blockers in pass and run blocking situations.

Size: Maintaining a large frame is essential for tight ends, as they are commonly blocking or catching balls against defensive linemen and linebackers.

Hand-Eye Coordination: As receiving passes is an essential part of their duties, good hand-eye coordination is a key attribute of a talented tight end. Tight ends are expected to convert a high percentage of passes thrown to them.

Body Control: A wide receiver’s body control is especially important, as they often find themselves having to make catches in awkward positions, such as over their shoulder or away from the body. They also must be able to maintain balance and control when blocking.

Focus/Concentration: The tight end must be focused at all times to understand their role in different plays throughout the game. A star tight end is able to drown out the loud noise of a football stadium and make big plays despite the pressure and distractions.

Notable NFL Tight Ends

  • Dave Casper
  • Vernon Davis
  • Mike Ditka
  • Antonio Gates
  • Tony Gonzalez
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Travis Kelce
  • George Kittle
  • John Mackey
  • Ozzie Newsom
  • Greg Olsen
  • Kellen Winslow
  • Jason Witten

FAQ

What does a tight end do in football?

A tight end is responsible for blocking on running plays and catching the ball or pass blocking on passing plays. Thus, the tight end position is one of the most versatile in football. They must have the blocking skills usually associated with offensive linemen while having the speed and hands of a wide receiver.

How big are tight ends in the NFL?

On average, most tight ends in the NFL are at least 6’3” to provide a sizable frame and upwards of 240 pounds to allow them to compete with even the biggest defensive linemen. Tight ends in the NFL need to be sizable figures on the field in order to block defensive players on certain plays; however, the ideal tight end is also quick enough to blow past the linebackers that usually cover them on passing plays. Players that reflect this ideal blueprint, such as Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and George Kittle, have all had tremendous success in the NFL. 

Do tight ends score a lot of touchdowns in the NFL?

Tight ends in the NFL are known to score a moderately high number of touchdowns, but not as many as wide receivers or running backs. In 2021, the tight end position was responsible for the third most touchdowns scored out of any position on the field. However, a team’s usage of tight ends in the red zone can vary depending on their offensive style, coaching strategy, and team personnel. Extremely talented tight ends like Antonio Gates or Rob Gronkowski were responsible for catching more touchdown passes than a typical tight end due to their dominance on the field.

Are tight ends important in fantasy football?

Tight ends in fantasy football can be very hit or miss, which is important to take into consideration before drafting your fantasy team. The top two or three tight ends in the league tend to be tremendous fantasy options, and past fantasy superstar tight ends have included big names like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates. However, oftentimes tight ends are not the centerpiece of an NFL offense. This is where the strategy of drafting a fantasy football team comes into play. These top tight ends will often be taken very early on, sometimes even in the first round, and other tight ends will fall to late rounds. This means that you will have to commit to the position early or focus on other positions when it comes to building out a championship-caliber fantasy football team.