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Tony Gonzalez Ranked the Top NFL Tight End in History

CBS Sports puts the former Cal star atop its top-10 list at the position, just ahead of recently retired Rob Gronkowski
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With Rob Gronkowski retiring (again), CBS Sports decided to rank the top tight ends of alltime, to see where Gronk might fall among the greats.

CBS Sports placed Gronkowski ahead of every tight end in history – except for one. Gronkowsi was placed No. 2 in the rankings, behind former Cal star Tony Gonzalez.

Typically current or recently retired players have an edge in such rankings because their performances are still fresh in our minds, and Gronkowski no doubt benefited from that in these rankings. 

But it was not enough to push him past Gonzalez, whose final NFL season was 2013. A player has to be retired for at least five years to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Gonzalez became the first tight end in history to be voted into the Hall on his first ballot.

CBS Sports’ ranking of tight ends went like this:

1. Tony Gonzalez

2. Rob Gronkowski

3. Kellen Winslow

4. Antonio Gates

5. Shannon Sharpe

6. Travis Kelce

7. John Mackey

8. Ozzie Newsome

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9. Jason Witten

10. Mike Ditka

Here is what CBS Sports said about Gonzalez:

1. Tony Gonzalez

Teams: Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2008), Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013)

No one did it as well as Tony for as long as Tony. Numbers alone don't tell the story, but you also don't rack up 1,300 catches and 15,000 yards by accident. Gonzalez may not have been quite as much of a physical freak as Gronkowski as far as matchups go, but he was the definition of dependable -- both in terms of durability and production. In 17 seasons, he missed a grand total of two games, and it's not as if he was just serviceable in addition to being available. His four 1,000-yard seasons, 11 straight seasons of at least 70 catches, 16 straight seasons with at least 600 total yards and 14 Pro Bowl selections are all proof of his sustained dominance. A true touchdown threat into his late 30s, Gonzalez remains the gold standard for his position.

Gonzalez played at Cal from 1994 through 1996, turning pro after his junior year. His best season was 1996, when he had 44 catches for 699 yards and five touchdowns. That was Steve Mariucci’s first and only season as Cal’s head coach.

That year the Bears were 5-0, ranked 19th and coming off an upset win over No. 17 USC in Los Angeles when they faced Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Cal trailed WSU 21-16 after a 22-yard touchdown reception by Gonzalez, and the Bears were on the verge of victory when they had a first down at the WSU 2-yard line with 1:11 remaining. But quarterback Pat Barnes fumbled the ball without being touched while attempting to make a handoff and the Bears lost 21-18.

Cal finished the season 6-6, and Mariucci left to take the head coaching position with the 49ers. Gonzalez spent the spring helping the Cal basketball team reach the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

He then was the 13th overall pick in 1997 NFL draft, starting a 17-year NFL career.


Cover photo of Tony Gonzalez by Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports


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