In the days of dynasty leagues’ immense popularity, knowing when to part with an asset is extremely important. The most important variable when it comes to predicting production is age.

While not all players are the same, the vast majority of players at a specific position follow similar career timelines. By knowing when most tight ends see a significant drop-off in productivity, we’ll be able to predict when future tight ends are likely to decline.

We have already updated our peak age articles for wide receivers and running backs. We update these studies each offseason with the current trends of active players.

Defining A Peak Tight End 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 six tight ends scored more than 170 PPR fantasy points. Generally, scoring 170 PPR fantasy points is a very good tight end season (a top six TE1). We’ll use that threshold for our peak season.

Our peak seasons will include all tight end seasons that finished with at least 170 PPR fantasy points since 2000. This gives us a sample size of 125 players. The list below includes all individual tight end seasons to meet the criteria and was generated by the RotoViz Screener.

PLAYERYearAgeRecsTGTsreYDsreTDSPPR
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 Kittle2018258813513775258.7
Travis Kelce2019309713612295256.3
Rob Gronkowski20152672120117611255.6
Antonio Gates2004248111496413255.4
Jason Witten2007259614111457252.5
Vernon Davis2009257812996513252.5
Jason Witten2010289412810029250.2
Jordan Reed2015258711495211248.2
Tony Gonzalez2007319915411725246.2
Delanie Walker2015319413310886244.4
Antonio Gates2009297911411578242.7
Gary Barnidge2015307912510439237.3
Jimmy Graham201226851359829237.2
Tony Gonzalez201236931249308234
Jimmy Graham2014288512488910233.9
Travis Kelce2017288312210388233.5
Jason Witten20123011014910393231.9
Greg Olsen2015307712411047229.4
Antonio Gates200727751179849227.4
Rob Gronkowski2017286910510838227.3
Kellen Winslow2007248214811065224.6
Eric Ebron2018256611075013224.2
Antonio Gates201434699882112223.1
Darren Waller2019279011711463223.1
Jason Witten200422871229806223
Travis Kelce2016278511711254223
Tony Gonzalez2003277110691610222.6
George Kittle2019268510710535222.5
Martellus Bennett201427901289166221.6
Brent Celek200924761129718221.1
Greg Olsen2014298412310096220.9
Tony Gonzalez201337831218598218.9
Zach Ertz201929881349166217.6
Antonio Gates200626711209249217.4
Aaron Hernandez201122791139107216.5
Julius Thomas201325659078812215.8
Vernon Davis201329528485013215
Jordan Cameron201325801189177213.7
Tony Gonzalez201135801168757209.5
Mark Andrews201924649885210209.2
Jason Witten2009279412410302209
Kyle Rudolph201627831328407209
Greg Olsen2016318012910733207.3
Jason Witten201331731118518206.1
Tony Gonzalez200933831358676205.7
Tony Gonzalez200125731189176205.6
Zach Ertz201727741108248204.4
Jason Witten201129791179425203.2
Heath Miller201230711018168202.6
Todd Heap200525751148547202.4
Jason Witten200826811219524202.3
Rob Gronkowski201223558079011200
Jeremy Shockey200525651218917198.1
Dallas Clark200829771078486197.8
Kellen Winslow200926771268875196.4
Tony Gonzalez200630731049005195
Chris Cooley200725661107868194.6
Kellen Winslow200623891208753194.5
Jared Cook201831681018966193.6
Travis Kelce201526721038755193.5
Todd Heap200222681228366193.4
Jimmy Graham20163065959236193.3
Benjamin Watson201535741108256192.5
Austin Hooper20192575977876191.7
Tyler Eifert201525527461513191.5
Vernon Davis20102656939147191.4
Heath Miller20092776987896190.9
Brandon Pettigrew201126831267775190.7
Greg Olsen201328731118166190.6
Chris Cooley200523711037747190.4
Dallas Clark2007285810161611188.5
Charles Clay201324691027596188.4
Antonio Gates201030506578210188.2
Antonio Gates201333771138724188.2
Marcedes Lewis201026588970010188
Delanie Walker201632651028007187.3
Shannon Sharpe20033562947708187
Todd Heap200626731167656185.5
Alge Crumpler200528651188775184.7
Antonio Gates20113164887787183.8
Brandon Myers201227791058064183.6
Zach Ertz201626781068164183.6
Greg Olsen201227691048435183.3
Travis Kelce20142567878625183.2
Tony Gonzalez20022663997737182.3
Chris Cooley201028771268513182.1
Alge Crumpler200629561037808182
Vernon Davis20112767957926181.7
Tony Gonzalez200529781169052180.5
Jermichael Finley20112455927678179.7
Visanthe Shiancoe200929567956611178.6
Delanie Walker201733741118073178.5
Antonio Gates20082860927048178.4
Randy McMichael200425731187914178.1
Shannon Sharpe200032671058105178
Jason Witten20052366897576177.7
Freddie Jones200026711307665177.6
Eric Johnson200425821178252176.5
Dustin Keller201127651158155176.5
Coby Fleener20142651927748176.4
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
Jimmy Graham201731579552010171
Martellus Bennett20132665947595170.9
Dennis Pitta201631861217292170.9
Jordan Reed20162666896866170.6
Jeremy Shockey200626661156237170.3

The average age of the peak season is 27.44 years old, which is incredibly the same exact number as last year. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the tight end seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


The peak is from 25 to 27 years old, as 44.8 percent of the seasons fall within that range. We can expand that peak from 25 to 30 years old as 69.6 percent of the seasons fall within that range.

As you can see from the distribution graph, tight ends generally take a few years to develop. While just 17 total peak seasons took place before a tight end turns 25, 25-year-old tight ends accounted for 21 of the peak seasons.

In addition, more tight ends have achieved a peak season at 31 years old than at 24 years old. We can speculate the reasoning for that but clearly it takes some time for tight ends to develop in the NFL.

There’s a gradual decline but that takes place after 30 but the big drop-off is after the age 31 season. 89.6 percent of the peak seasons take place prior to the age-32 season. The career age timeline of a tight end is similar to a wide receiver.

What does this mean for the 2020 season?

In 2019, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews, and Austin Hooper made the list.

Andrews was the youngest to do so and should be a dynasty monster for years to come. While he plays on a team that threw the fewest times in the NFL last season, he remains Lamar Jackson’s favorite target.

Travis Kelce was the oldest tight end to hit 170 PPR points. While his age isn’t an immediate concern this season, Kelce will be 32 in 2021. Historically tight ends have struggled after turning 32 years old.

Ertz will turn 30 in 2020 and remains one of the top tight ends in the game. Ertz led all tight ends and the Eagles in targets per game at 8.9. Ertz looks likely to remain productive for another couple of seasons.

At 27 and 28 years old, George Kittle and Darren Waller remain in the prime of the careers, respectively. Both are excellent TE1 selections.

Noah Fant will be 23 years old next season and looks likely to have a TE1 season in his future. Next season could be early for him but Fant is in outstanding company after a superb rookie season.

Evan Engram finished 7th in PPR points per game but played just eight games. He enters 2020 at 26 years old as potentially the favorite to lead the Giants in targets.

Hunter Henry was on a 200-point PPR pace but missed four games. His NFL resume remains extremely impressive and it’s likely that his breakout is coming.