San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates finished his 2011 NFL season with 64 receptions, 778 yards and seven touchdown receptions in 13 games. Gates was tied for fourth in TD receptions, while he was 10th in receptions and receiving yards among tight ends.
NFL Network’s list of top 100 players, which was voted on by active players, did not include Gates. San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis was ranked 43rd, Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez was ranked 53rd and Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten was ranked 75th by their peers.
Davis finished his 2011 season with 67 receptions, 792 yards and six TD receptions in 16 games. Gonzalez had 80 receptions, 875 yards and seven TD receptions in 16 games while Witten had 79 receptions, 942 yards and five TD receptions in 16 games. Gates averaged more receiving yards per game than Davis, Gonzalez and Witten and none of them had more TD receptions than him in 2011.
However, I can see both sides of the argument. When the NFL was created in 1920, tight ends were expected to block for quarterbacks and running backs while catching the ball was secondary. Davis, Gonzalez and Witten are better blockers than Gates.
I can see why Gates’ peers ranked Davis ahead of him because Alex Smith finished the season with 3,144 passing yards with 17 touchdowns while Gates’ teammate Philip Rivers had 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns. If Davis had a better QB, he would have had more receiving yards per game and TD receptions. I can also see why Gonzalez and Witten are ahead of Gates.
My issue with the rankings are that they place Witten, Gonzalez and Davis a minimum of 26, 48 and 58 spots ahead of Gates as overall players. I am sure that these rankings will push Gates even further than he already pushes himself to have a very productive 2012 season.