Using variables like player age can give us an advantage when attempting to predict the future of a player. With dynasty leagues growing in popularity, making the correct prediction for a player’s peak is important.

Most players at the same position share similar career timelines. By examining the careers of tight ends, we can gain knowledge as to when players at the position should improve or regress. At a position that is infamous for having players need a year or two extra to transition from college to the NFL, we may find that predicting tight end peaks is different than other positions.

You can see what the peak ages are for wide receivers and running backs. We update these studies each offseason.

Defining A Peak Season

To begin the study, we must define a peak season for an NFL tight end. What is the production necessary for a tight end to consider him at the peak of his career?

Last year, only the top five tight ends scored more than 170 PPR fantasy points. Our peak seasons will include all tight end seasons that finished with at least 170 PPR fantasy points since 2000. The list includes 118 tight end seasons and was generated by the RotoViz Screener.

PlayerYearAgeRecTRGsYdsTDPPR
Rob Gronkowski20112290124132717330.9
Jimmy Graham20132786142121516303.5
Travis Kelce201829103150133610296.6
Jimmy Graham20112599149131011296
Zach Ertz20182811615611638280.3
Dallas Clark200930100133110610271.7
Tony Gonzalez20042810214812587270.3
Tony Gonzalez2000249315012039267.3
Rob Gronkowski20142582131112412266.4
Tony Gonzalez20083296155105810261.8
Antonio Gates20052589140110110259.1
George Kittle2018258813513775256.7
Rob Gronkowski20152672120117611255.6
Antonio Gates2004248111496413255.4
Jason Witten2007259614111457252.5
Vernon Davis2009257812996513252.5
Jason Witten2010289412810029248.2
Jordan Reed2015258711495211248.2
Tony Gonzalez2007319915411725246.2
Antonio Gates2009297911411578242.7
Delanie Walker2015319413310886242.4
Gary Barnidge2015307912510439237.3
Jimmy Graham201226851359829237.2
Tony Gonzalez201236931249308234
Jimmy Graham2014288512488910233.9
Travis Kelce2017288312210388233.5
Jason Witten20123011014910393231.9
Greg Olsen2015307712411047229.4
Antonio Gates200727751179849227.4
Rob Gronkowski2017286910510838225.3
Eric Ebron2018256611075013224.2
Antonio Gates201434699882112223.1
Tony Gonzalez2003277110691610222.6
Kellen Winslow2007248214811065222.6
Brent Celek200924761129718221.1
Travis Kelce2016278511711254221
Jason Witten200422871229806221
Greg Olsen2014298412310096220.9
Martellus Bennett201427901289166217.6
Antonio Gates200626711209249217.4
Tony Gonzalez201337831218598216.9
Aaron Hernandez201122791139107216.5
Julius Thomas201325659078812215.8
Vernon Davis201329528485013215
Jordan Cameron201325801189177213.7
Tony Gonzalez201135801168757209.5
Jason Witten2009279412410302209
Kyle Rudolph201627831328407209
Jason Witten201331731118518206.1
Tony Gonzalez200933831358676205.7
Greg Olsen2016318012910733205.3
Zach Ertz201727741108248204.4
Tony Gonzalez200125731189176203.6
Jason Witten201129791179425203.2
Todd Heap200525751148547202.4
Jason Witten200826811219524202.3
Heath Miller201230711018168200.6
Rob Gronkowski201223558079011200
Dallas Clark200829771078486197.8
Kellen Winslow200926771268875196.4
Jeremy Shockey200525651218917196.1
Kellen Winslow200623891208753194.5
Jared Cook201831681018966193.6
Jimmy Graham20163065959236193.3
Tony Gonzalez200630731049005193
Chris Cooley200725661107868192.6
Benjamin Watson201535741108256192.5
Tyler Eifert201525527461513191.5
Todd Heap200222681228366191.4
Heath Miller20092776987896190.9
Brandon Pettigrew201126831267775190.7
Greg Olsen201328731118166190.6
Chris Cooley200523711037747190.4
Travis Kelce201526721038755189.5
Vernon Davis20102656939147189.4
Dallas Clark2007285810161611188.5
Charles Clay201324691027596188.4
Antonio Gates201333771138724188.2
Antonio Gates201030506578210188.2
Marcedes Lewis201026588970010188
Delanie Walker201632651028007187.3
Shannon Sharpe20033562947708187
Todd Heap200626731167656185.5
Antonio Gates20113164887787183.8
Brandon Myers201227791058064183.6
Zach Ertz201626781068164183.6
Greg Olsen201227691048435183.3
Travis Kelce20142567878625183.2
Alge Crumpler200528651188775182.7
Tony Gonzalez20022663997737182.3
Alge Crumpler200629561037808182
Vernon Davis20112767957926181.7
Tony Gonzalez200529781169052180.5
Chris Cooley201028771268513180.1
Jermichael Finley20112455927678179.7
Visanthe Shiancoe200929567956611178.6
Delanie Walker201733741118073178.5
Antonio Gates20082860927048178.4
Shannon Sharpe200032671058105178
Jason Witten20052366897576177.7
Freddie Jones200026711307665177.6
Dustin Keller201127651158155176.5
Eric Johnson200425821178252176.5
Coby Fleener20142651927748176.4
Randy McMichael200425731187914176.1
Jeremy Shockey200222741278942175.4
Chris Cooley200826831118491173.9
Evan Engram201723641157226173.6
Brent Celek20112662978115173.1
Jack Doyle201727801086904173
Delanie Walker201430631068574172.7
Zach Ertz201525751128532172.3
Tony Gonzalez201034701086566171.6
Cameron Brate20162557826608171
Dennis Pitta201631861217292170.9
Martellus Bennett20132665947595170.9
Jordan Reed20162666896866170.6
Jeremy Shockey200626661156237170.3

The average age of the peak season is 27.44 years old. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the tight end seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


The peak is from 25 to 28 years old, as 54.2 percent of the seasons fall within that range. As mentioned before, tight ends generally take a few years to develop. While just 16 total peak seasons took place before a tight end turns 25, 25-year-old tight ends alone account for 20 of the peak seasons.

In addition, a tight end is more likely to achieve a peak season at 30 years old than at 24 years old. We can speculate the reasoning for this but clearly, it takes some time for tight ends to develop in the NFL.

There’s certainly a gradual decline but it seems that there is a bit of a drop off at after the age 31 season. 89 percent of the peak seasons take place prior to the age 32 seasons. The career age timeline of a tight end is very similar to a wide receiver.

What does this mean for the 2019 season?

Likely the best tight end to ever play, Rob Gronkowski, retired this offseason before his age 30 season. Despite remaining a serviceable player, the wear and tear on Gronk’s body was obvious and had an impact on his previously incredible efficiency.

While historically decline comes just after the age 30 season, Travis Kelce showed no signs of decline last season. Paired with arguably the league’s best quarterback, Kelce remains the odds-on favorite to lead tight ends in scoring this season.

Zach Ertz will turn 29 years old in November and remains squarely in his prime. Ertz caught the most passes for a tight end in a season last year (116) and remains one of the very best at his position heading into the 2019 season.

George Kittle (26 this season) had an incredible season, finishing with a record 1,377 receiving yards. Just entering his prime, you don’t need me to tell you to expect big things from Kittle.

After years of underachieving with the Lions, I told owners to draft Eric Ebron last season. He provided those who drafted him with a great value and is a reminder that tight ends typically don’t break out prior to turning 25 years old.

Young tight ends Evan Engram, Hunter Henry, and O.J. Howard will enter the magical age 25 season. Kelce, Ertz, Kittle, and Ebron all broke out in their age 25 season.

With Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined, Engram scored over four more fantasy points per game – he could lead the Giants in targets with Odell in a Browns uniform.

Hunter Henry has been extremely impressive since entering the NFL – finishing 3rd in tight end efficiency in 2016-17. Henry also has Philip Rivers’ highest adjusted yards per attempt of any of his career pass catchers. With a potential injury discount, Henry will be an excellent selection in 2019 fantasy drafts.

O.J. Howard was again impressive in his second season and was on pace to hit the 170 PPR point threshold before an ankle injury landed him on injured reserve. Howard will be another good selection if you miss out on the top tight ends.

Greg Olsen (will turn 34), Delanie Walker (35), and Jason Witten (37) are getting old and each has already seen a decrease in production. At this stage in their careers, it’s concerning to rely on a player who is likely to soon see a significant decline.