By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on May 31, 2014
Ranking the best tight ends of all-time is something that many have done, but few agree upon. The criteria used by different people could include on-the-field achievement, statistical rankings, or even success in the postseason. When evaluating the best Detroit Lions tight ends of all-time, it is clear to see why the Lions have had a good history at the position. Here now are my five greatest TEs in Lions history.
While never flashy, David Sloan played seven years with the Lions, and was a Pro Bowler in 1999, but he was most known for his blocking rather than his catching. From 1995-98, Sloan helped pave the way for Barry Sanders, including his 2,000-yard campaign in 1997. Sloan was finally recognized as a Pro Bowler in 199 after catching a career-high 47 passes for 591 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Despite some moments of inconsistent play and some bad drops, Brandon Pettigrew has been one of Detroit's best offensive players in the past five seasons. In his first full season in 2010, he broke the Lions’ single-season receptions record for a tight End with 71 receptions. Pettigrew would then break his own in 2011, when he caught eight with 83 receptions. Among TEs, Pettigrew ranks third in catches, fourth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns.
Just one year after the Lions won the 1957 NGL Championship, Jim Gibbons joined the Lions, and proceeded to become one of the best tight ends for a decade. Gibbons was named the team's MVP in 1964 after having a career-high 605 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Among TEs, Gibbons ranks second in receptions with 287, second in yards with 3,561, and third in touchdowns with 20.
David Hill replaced Hall-of-Famer Charlie Sanders in 1978, and had a pretty good career with the Lions. Hill played his first seven NFL seasons in Detroit, and was one of the Lions' best offensive players. He led the team in receiving in 1977 and 1978. Among TEs, Hill ranks fourth in receptions with 245, third in yards with 3,054, and second in touchdowns with 23. Hill made two Pro Bowls as a Lion.
The only Hall-of-Famer on this list, Charlie Sanders is the greatest tight end in franchise history, and its not even close. When Sanders retired in 1977, he held the record for most receptions in team history with 336, which lasted until the 1990s. Among TEs, Sanders ranks first in receptions, yards and touchdowns in team history. Sanders made seven Pro Bowls in 10 seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
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